In February this year, we visited the Angkor complex near Siem Reap , Cambodia. A highlight of any visit is to climb the three levels of Angkor Wat, finally arriving above the third level at the central tower (the Bakan Sanctuary) topped by a symbolic lotus bud. The original stone steps to the top are steep and disintegrating. A wooden staircase with metal handrails is laid on top of the stone steps. While the wooden stairs are safer to climb, they are just as steep.
Because a thunderstorm was brewing during our visit to Angkor Wat, the usual long line to climb the stairs to the very top was short. We waited only a few minutes before two descending visitors brought with them the badges we needed for entry. (There is a quota for the number of visitors who can be in the Bakan Sanctuary at a given time.) Our climb and visit is described at Angkor Wet.
After walking around the Sanctuary, staying out of the rain in the covered outer periphery, we decided to risk the wet staircase down so that other people waiting below could have their turn.
The water-soaked steps were now a slick dark brown. The railings that were so shiny silver on the way up were now slippery with rust, but we, like everyone else, clung to them for support. With rusty water streaming from each hand, we descended cautiously. At the bottom, the attendants carefully removed the lanyards with permits from our necks, trying to keep the permits clean. Our guide met us and emptied his drinking water bottle on our hands to remove most of the stain. Only a visit to a nearby restroom with soap and water finally returned our hands to a normal color.
Jayavarman VII, who is generally regarded as the most powerful of the Khmer kings of Cambodia, was a Mahayana Buddhist. The Buddha figures in the Bayon Temple in Angkor Thom are modeled after him.
Jayavarman VII (1125–1218) was a king of the Kymer Empire in what is now Cambodia, ruling from 1181 to 1218, approximately. During his reign, he built temples in the Angkor complex near present-day Siem Reap. Three of his temples that are most familiar to tourists are these:
Ta Prohm, built to honor his mother
Preah Khan, built to honor his father
Bayon, built to honor himself, and the Angkor Thom city surrounding it
Angkor Wat, built in the early 12th century, already existed when Jayavarman VII built his temples.
This photo was taken in a small roadside shop near Huế, Vietnam. These incense sticks are hand-rolled by the shop owner from ground-up agarwood. The color (mixed with agarwood) is hand-applied to a few inches at the end; each color contains a pleasant natural scent.
Incense is burned as an offering to ancestors and gods; this practice is called thurification. The smoke is a form of communication and spiritual food. Multiple sand-filled pots are placed near temples, shrines, and other sacred places for holding the incense sticks upright as they burn.
This is our entry in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Spring – Wood . This photo was taken in a self-sustaining village in Bagan, Myanmar. Villagers make whatever wooden objects they need, including wooden wheels for carts.
Here is a completed cart, with a neck yoke for oxen.
This post highlights our second photo shoot in Bagan, Myanmar, with the international award-winning photographer Maung Maung Bagan. (The first photo shoot is described at Bagan Photo Shoot 1: I need a map.)
As we exited the car at our first location, young monk in tow, Maung Maung collected another model: an 80-year-old firewood salesman. As we were told several times, people in Myanmar want to remain active and useful for as long as they can and modeling jobs are quite welcome.
Our model was willing to walk and model as directed by Maung Maung. We couldn’t figure out whether he was a regular model for Maung Maung or just a quick study. A very cheerful fellow, it wasn’t easy to capture his image without his smile.
However, when we paid him at the end of his gig, he could not contain his happiness. (That’s Maung Maung Bagan in the left side of the picture.)
For less than one hour’s work, we paid him 5000 Myanmar Kyat, which equals about $3.67 in US dollars (USD). For comparison, a journeyman lacquerware maker (who is a highly-skilled worker) in Myanmar earns about $4 USD a day.