Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ancient Ruins

Cambodia continues to get better and better. We arrived in Siem Reap and after a very long hotel hunt we nestled into our hotel, arranged for a tuk tuk for the temples and went to sleep after another delicious meal. The next day we arouse early, as usual, and set off to Angkor. It was a chilly morning and we were not entirely prepared for it but we made it and when we pulled up outside of Angkor Wat, it was all worth it. It was absolutely ridiculously phenomonally awesome. The ancient kingdom angkor was huge with hundreds, maybe thousands of temples all over Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The best are all in a relatively small area of northern Cambodia. I have never experienced anything quite like it, partly i think because they are so close together and partly because they are still in very good condition considering they are only about 800 yrs old.

The overall appearance of the temples of course is astounding, but the sheer detail that is in every little piece of stone is the most impressive thing i think. Everywhere there are slabs of rock still attached or not with some design, person or story engraved into them. My favourite would have to be the Apsaras, a female deity who appears to be dancing all the time. In all we spent two days exploring the temples; the first from 9 am to sunset and the second from sunrise to 3pm. but i could have without a doubt have easily spent a week or even a month examining all the intricate little details. The only problem which you can never get away from is all the people, my god it is amazing that the temples are not more warn out with millions of people stomping all over them. In fact partly because of this my favourite temples were the small that were not as busy. Probably the best time spent in the temples was at sunrise on the second day.

We went to Angkor Wat as everyone does, but instead of waiting outside and taking the customary photo of the sun rising over the spires of Angkor we went inside. We journeyed through the dark corridors and climbed up the steps to come to the far side of the inner sanctum of Angkor. There we made ourselves comfy on the ledges hang out of the windows and we sat and watched the sunrise with not a soul in sight. It was remarkable and so peaceful. I could see and feel what life would have been like when people lived there. Monks and scholars, kings and queens, small children, soldiers and workers all talking, working and playing in this grand place. it would have been an incredible place to live i am sure.

As for the town Siem Reap was the usual tourist town with a centre full of Western restaurants charging 4-10x the normal price, guest houses all around ranging from cheap run down old buildings with decks covered in mattresses and mosquito nights you can have for a $1 to magnificient hotels and resorts running along a beautiful little river bank. A strange and surreal world in comparison to the life of the locals and that of Angkor.

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