Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sunrise in Angkor

Alright, here we go!! We finally made it to Angkor. We figured it was a special occasion so we dragged ourselves out of bed around 4:15 in order to meet our tuk-tuk driver for the day, Sieu. We had to make it an early start because we wanted to make it to Angkor Wat for sunrise. Here's our view from the back of the tuk-tuk . . .

We made it there with plenty of time and set ourselves up at the classic viewing spot by the little pond. We waited with bated breath until we could finally make out the silhouette . . . here's the progression:

Well, as you can see, the sun was out in full force so we decided to head in to check out Angkor Wat.

It was really unbelievable to actually be there. There was hardly anyone inside at this point so we had some really nice viewing time to ourselves . . . the hoardes of people would be here soon.

We toured around the inside and outside of the entire grounds. As you can see - we were pretty much left alone to soak it all in (it got much more difficult to take pics without people in them as the day progressed).

Here's a view of the rear . .

Inside, the bas-relief friezes were amazing. The walls were completely carved out, from top to bottom, depicting Hindu epics, "The Ramayana" and "The Mahabharata."

Well, we had a lot of Wat to see - so we went on our way - sad to leave but excited to see what was coming up next (still before breakfast time).

Our next stop was Angkor Thom, the last capital city of the Khmer Empire. The first temple within Angkor Thom we went to was called, Bayon. It's unique because it has 216 huge faces carved in the towers.

Many scholars believe that the faces depict King Jayavarman VII himself . . . a handsome fellow.

We stopped for some water outside of the next temple, Baphuon. We were super hot - unimaginably hot - near death - luckily the enterprising Cambodians have set up shop at every stop along the way.

Here, we are standing on The Terrace of The Leper King.

Where's Waldo? . . . I mean Shawna . . . see if you can find her.

Shawna was offered some postcards and handicrafts from the children. "Lady? One dollar?" "Please, you buy from me?" "Please?" "Lady?" "Please?" All day long - the children close to the more famous temples were really aggressive. They knew what they were doing and had their technique down pat. They were speaking 7 languages - offering special discounts just for us - some of them even put on the waterworks! The children at some of the smaller temples were really playful and cute - just wanted to hang out with the foreigners. We bought a few things off of them . . . "Mr. Jon from Canada - remember me - you buy from me -you promise." OK!

Here is Ta Keo - 14 meters to the top - I climbed up and Shawna opted to be the one taking the pictures this time.

Here I go . . .

It was really steep but getting up wasn't the problem - it was getting down . . .
Another Where's Waldo ? . . I mean . . . Where's Jon? photo.

It started to rain just in time for the mystical, Ta Prohm. An ancient Buddhist monastery that, in its heyday, housed 12 000 people while another 80 000 worked there. Wow!

It's famous because it has been swallowed by the surrounding jungle and its enormous Kapok trees. (It's also where they shot Tomb Raider!)

We were geared up for the rain so we weren't bothered . . . plus it gave us more time with very few people around.

A couple more stops before we called it a day - Banteay Kdei - similar to Ta Prohm but with less trees and more Apsara dancer carvings. It was in use from the 1100's all the way until the 1960's.

Prasat Kravan was our final stop - there was not much left of it because it's really old. You can tell its old because there is nothing Buddha-related here - only Hindu.

Well, we had a marvelous day, but tomb raiding from 4:30AM-4:30PM took its toll on us. Not that we didn't go downtown later that evening. More temples to visit tomorrow!!

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