Friday, December 30, 2011

Dec 22- Ancient Angkor

We had a 0415 wake up today and got on our tuk-tuk at 0500 to head out to Angkor Wat. This was our first look at the world's largest archaeological site and world's largest religious monument:

It was spectacular! As the sun moved and the faces of the towers were illuminated it got even more impressive. We made our way to the inner sanctuaries and viewed the incredible architecture and bas-reliefs.

These are some of the devatas of Angkor Wat.

It's incredible how free you are to walk among these ruins.  Nothing is off limits. No places are roped off.

This is the Ryan Buddha

I was just stunned to be walking right into my art history books.
Every inch of these miles of temples is covered in beautiful carvings, masterful stonework, and carefully placed statues. These bas-reliefs- telling stories of war, giving glory to the kings, and sharing mythology- were my personal favorites.

 When you're walking around these ancient monuments, it's easy to forget that they are still living, holy places for many people, including these monks.

Paying respects to Vishnu. These temples are rooted in Hindu tradition, but were modified to fit Buddhist beliefs. Most people in Cambodia practice a unique form of  Buddhism with Hindu elements and hints of animism.

Our next destination of the day was Angkor Thom. At the center of Angkor Thom (and symbolically the Universe) lies the enchanting Bayon- an incredible jumble of multi-faced temples.

This is Bross, our tuk-tuk driver entering the gate to Angkor Thom. You can hire a personal driver for about $8/day to take you anywhere you want to go, drop you off, wait for you, then take you wherever else you want to go.

   The towers of the Bayon.
This was Ryan's favorite temple.
One of the many multi-faced towers.
Ryan, Corinna, and our good
friend Jayavarman XIII.

Our last stops for the day were the Elephant Terrace and the Leper King Terrace. These were ceremonial platforms for cremations of nobility and such.
Elephants of the appropriately named Elephant Terrace

Wonderful carvings. Many of these were discovered in a 'secret' hall discovered very recently.

Ryan paying his respects to the mysterious Leper King.

Ryan paying his respects to the local monkeys.

They look all sweet and cuddly but they are mean! This one thanked Ryan for the banana by hissing and swatting.

After a long day of temple-hopping, we retreated to our room for showers, stopped in at the blind masseuse' for $5 hour-long massages, enjoyed some cocktails and dinner and plan to retire early so we can do it all over again tomorrow!

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