Friday, February 27, 2015

Angkor Wat

Chinese New Year break allowed your intrepid travelers to jet off to Siem Reap, Cambodia, a fairly short jaunt northward about 1500 km/900 miles.  The trip was partly inspired by a planned rendez-vous with two old friends from Washington.

Our first glimpse of Angkor Wat was startling in that the silhouette is so familiar, from the Cambodian flag.  It was also from behind some of the many, many tour groups visiting the site, busy always but especially so for Chinese New Year.
We were surprised to learn that there are actually numerous ancient sites spread over a wide area.  In the immediate vicinity of Angkor Wat are several large sites. The best known after Angkor Wat is the tree-tangled Ta Prohm where Lara Croft/Angelina Jolie were famously filmed.  Farther afield we were able to visit the Rouluos temples, Banteay Srei, Bang Melea and the Koh Ker site, which itself covers 81 sq. km/31 sq. miles. Definitely a happening part of the world in the 10th-12th century.

At Angkor, here is detail of one of the many, meters-long carved stone reliefs:

Tom at Angkor
And another ancient treasure, above.

These figures (some new) line a bridge across a moat,  guarding an entry gate.

More, in Angkor (um, or possibly Bayon).

T and I traveled by tuktuk and did the "petit circuit" the first day before our friends arrived. 
A word about local tuktuks:  they are of a different design than we've seen in other countries. Rather than three-wheeled one piece two-stroke putt-putt motors, these are actually motorcycles with a two-wheeled trailer, easily removed. Smart design!  And a quieter ride too.
Tom alighting
These are at T Prohm:

In two or three of the larger sites we were serenaded by musicians, many of them landmine victims, hoping for donations.  Lovely music.

Exploring is hot work. Time for a Cambodian coke or perhaps a local beer?

Our traveling companions arrived and we began our joint explorations in the outer circuit, traveling by car for two days. Here is Debbie with some new friends.
And Tom with Peter
At Banteay Srei (I think):

window detail
watch out K!

Bathroom break.  It's important to know the rules:
Tom, having been inspired:

Debbie and Peter in good form

Templed out...  Figures lining the walkway are "churning the sea of milk" which is a common theme in these parts, from Hindu mythology, symbolizing a process leading to eternal life.

Back in town, we passed on visiting the Hard Rock Siem Reap.
and on buying a croc, or parts thereof.

Next day we were off again, this time to Bang Malea and Koh Ker, 125 km/75 miles from Siem Reap.  We stopped along the way for some yummy coconut rice cooked in bamboo. There were many vendors all in a row, selling the same thing.

At  Prasat Neang Khmau (pretty sure)
All the sites had signs like this one, saying the area had been cleared of mines. Apparently a large area remains inaccessible to tourists (and everyone else) in need of demining.

At Koh Ker, which looks very different than other sites--Mayan-esque!
Our driver and Tom, at the top
Back to Siem Reap and our last evening.  Dinner at a cafe staffed by former street kids. Best meal we had, and great service.

Tom's meal was voted most wonderful. He'd ordered the national dish, "amok," We had tried it several times but this was far and away the tastiest and best presented.

Evening tuktuk ride