The monks clothing contrasts nicely with the aged temple.
The glut of remarkable temples close to Siem Reap is undoubtedly Cambodia’s biggest tourist attraction. Or is it the glut of nearby places at which one can enjoy a complimentary beer while fish nibble your feet?
If the fad in this area 1000 years ago was building massive ornate temples, fusing Buddhist and Hindu icons and imagery, now it’s opening small copy-cat ventures called Dr Fish, on every street corner. And serving incredibly cheap (about 20p) glasses of beer.
The temples aren’t going anywhere in a hurry, we thought, but the beer might. So we had a relaxing day seeing all Siem Reap has to offer, besides its historical monuments. Which, other than some interesting craft workshops, and the aforementioned fish and beer, is not a great deal. There is also the added amusement of being offered a tuk-tuk ride every few seconds, usually immediately after rejecting the previous offer. The amusement lasts as long as a 20p beer on a hot day.
So much has already been written about Angkor Wat and the other ruined cities and temples in north-west Cambodia, that it seems unnecessary to repeat it here. Suffice to say that in terms of scale,
Detail of painting
At Artisans d'Angkor
variety and sheer number of intricately carved buildings, it’s unsurpassed by anything we’ve seen on our travels.
At roughly the same time as the construction was taking place, hundreds of miles to the west, in modern-day Myanmar (Burma), the temples and cities of Bagan were also created. Here though, the monumental carvings and size of Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom leave an even greater impression.
Of course, we weren’t the only ones marvelling in their magnificence. Hoards of tourists clamber over and around the temples every day. It's difficult to take a deep breath and reflect upon what one is seeing while being jostled for the best view. There are so many temples though, that it’s not difficult to find a little more peace and quiet, albeit by substituting the big names for lesser lights.
Alas, some of our views and pictures of Angkor Wat were spoiled by scaffolding and netting, part of a huge program of restoration and renovation. The whole area was abandoned to nature for hundreds of years. Nature took full toll, with huge trees devouring seemingly impregnable stone walls, to spectacular effect. At some sites, trees remain where they grew, arguably creating an
impression to match that of the architecture.
NB. Ben hopes you like the punning title of this blog entry. Sadly though, it makes less sense when one realises that Siem Reap actually means ‘Siam (Thailand) defeated’. Oh well.
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