The sunset seen from Otres 1 Beach near Sihanoukville, Cambodia, gives 15 minutes of radiant color before muted shadows fall. Some beach goers admire the sinking sun from comfortable lounging chairs set back from the water’s edge, some (like us) move along the sand to frame the changing scene, while still others play in the water or sip drinks oblivious to the evolving beauty.
The Bayeux Tapestry tells the story of the Norman Conquest in 1066 in cloth. The walls of Angkor Wat tell similar stories, except they cover an area hundreds of times larger and are carved in stone. It is impossible for a short-time visitor to comprehend so many carvings. However, understanding a few helps one understand the whole. Consider the following section from the carvings.
This panel shows a war boat, which was the ancient equivalent of a stealth bomber. The rows of heads represent the sailors heading for battle. The Khmer were devastated by their enemy’s use of this technology until their king, Jayavarman VII, a few years after the Norman Conquest, taught them naval warfare. This was so significant that there are boat races each year to commemorate their subsequent victory over their enemy.
Here is another detail from the carvings: a broken-down cart. The men on the left are trying to upright the cart, the men beneath them are repairing the cart, and the woman on the ground is blowing into an oven to start a fire (we saw a boy starting a cooking fire in an iron oven just like this last week).
Finally, there are thouands of carvings of dancers, called Apsara, spread throughout the temple. They came to symbolize our visit to the Ankor complex so much that we bought a “genuine fake” carving of an Apsara from Angkor Artisans (we passed up the chance to buy a “fake genuine” carving at a nearby “antique” store).
The Ta Prohm Temple in the Angkor complex in Cambodia is famous because gigantic trees grow from the stone temple. It was the backdrop for the film “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and is what most people imagine when they think of an ancient temple hidden in the jungle. The following photo show a human-sized Buddha head almost consumed by tree roots.
To provide context, the next shot show how the trees and tourists are expanding to engulf the temple.
We passed through a rural village as we walked between sites in the Angkor complex. After passing the largest pig we had ever seen in its wallow (and we’ve seen quite a few pigs recently), we came upon a hut where the village monk was receiving some kind of medical treatment. He was happy to have his picture taken and asked our guide if he would be on Facebook.
We were back at Angkor Wat (literally “city temple”) today for our cultural tour (yesterday we went for photography). It was hot again but not quite so humid.
One of the highlights of a visit is a climb to the top level, representing heaven. A thunderstorm erupted as we mounted the extremely long and steep staircase leading to the top. We began to wonder if this staircase to heaven might be more literal than symbolic.
The top has a walkway around a pool that has been dry for hundreds of years and various niches containing Buddha and Shiva statues. The following photo is a small one that caught our eye. It is a Buddha statue (as indicated by folded hands rather than crossed arms for Hinduism) that was probably damaged in centuries-old religious conflict or more recently during the Khmer Rouge era.