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Published: November 4th 2007
Inigmatic Ta Prohm, the jungle temple
The temple and it's battle with the 300 year old trees. Site of the movie "Tomb Raider"
If it wasn't to be Bagan, than it had to be Angkor Wat the arqueological site I will explore. And that's how I began to shape up this part of my journey.
After a short flight from BKK on great BKK airways, I arrived at the neat and traditional looking Siem Reap airport which offers a very efficient visa service on the spot, for $20. Impressive! Than I made a huge mistake, changing dollars for Riels: first, dollars can be used everywhere here, and than I ended up with a BUNCH of thousands worthless money to carry around. One dollar is 4,000 Riels, 100$ is 400,000 Riels..... and with the very low cost here the Riel goes a very long way.
The driver was waiting for me, and instead of a car, took me to a tuk-tuk. It was actually very nice ride and on the the way to town I passed by an incredible crowd of school kids and workers riding bikes. So many, from all directions, and often 4 or 5 people per bike, creating an intense, yet fascinating chaos of tuk-tuks bikes and motorcycles.
The Villa at Siem Reap was just a jewel of a
This old man who was cleaning the temple took me to see this face framed by the roots of the giant tree.
place. At $16/night, an impecable room, with fresh orchid and all, and TOILET PAPER, thank God and Buddha.
The provincial town of SIEM REAP shows the confused paradox of a third world town experiencing an incredible boom without infrastructure for it: luxurious new hotels on poorly paved roads; rich Japanese and european tourists side by side with very poor Cambodians. The setting is still quite rural but Gucci and Channel has arrived to town, just down the road from the local market. At the end, I find the town lovely and somehow charming.
Khmer Food in 3 words: Gastronomic delight and Cheap. ($1 to 3 per meal, except for lobster/$5).
Massage in 3 words: Heavenly, cheap ($6/hour) and everywhere.
EXPLORING THE TEMPLES OF ANGKOR: AMAZING LEGACY OF THE PAST
The Khmer empire created breathtaking temples and here in the countryside of Siem Reap are the most exquisite ones.
I bought the 3-day pass and a "krama" (scarf) as the locals, hired a tuk-tuk, and ready I was to temple hop. Up and down, climbing stairs, getting lost on the maze of collapsed ruins, taking shortcuts to avoid crowds and finding peace under the architectural wonder
of the Hindu-Buddhist temples, I had a "cultural blast" and a workout as well.
The more run down by the time and taken over by the jungle, the more fascinating the ruins. The carvings are amazing!!! I enjoyed going back to the temples which captivated me the most to explore and wonder once more.
Finding solitude under an arch, a window frame, a 300 year old tree was so rewarding and peaceful.
It was easy to forget the annoying plea of vendors at the entrance of the temples once I entered the ruins or encountered locals praying and making offering on a images of the Buddha inside them.
Ther are so many temples, each with an identity, probably reflecting the king who built it. The grand Angkor Wat makes a great impression but my favorites are the inigmatic jungle temple of TA PROHM, the mystical BAYON with it's magnificant faces, and the women's temple deep in the countryside with it's intricated details. Nagas (sacred snakes guardian of water supply), bas-relief of beautiful Asparas, Shinhas (guardian lions), all become appreciated with a certain familiarity after seing them over and over. Reading about Cambodia, observing monks or watching a sunset on
Represents the Angkor ideal of female beauty. Lived in heaven, wore fine jewelry. There are many on the temples, but many more are missing since they are stolen due to imense value onthe black market.
top of a ruin brought in an amazing and peaceful feeling.
I took 1000 pictures and it was hard to stop clicking, as Angkor is an incredibly photogenic place. A true photographers dream. I hope you enjoy a taste of this amazing culture.
Til next, 'LEAR HAOWEE" (Bye)
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