Ritual purification in religion can involve bathing in a river to maintain purity prior to an important act. The bathers seen in the Menik Ganga in the following photo are preparing to enter the Kataragama Temple near Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka, a sacred site for Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Vedda people. Although the water didn’t seem clean to us, physical impurities don’t diminish the ritual purity such bathing brings to the believers.
This photo was taken on February 14, 2018. Specs are:
Wat Saket is a popular Buddhist temple in Bangkok, Thailand. Also called Golden Mount or Phu Khao Thong, because of the gold chedi on top, it is an easy visit, with 300 well-paved shallow steps winding to the top. The steps in the photo are marked with an up arrow; there are similar “down” steps.
We took a couple pictures of a car in a garage. The garage prevented good composition and the lighting was awful. However, we find these pictures to be moving.
If you are wondering why we are awed by such ordinary pictures, it is because the car in our pictures is also the car in the following picture, by Malcolm Browne, of Quang Duc’s 1963 self-immolation in Saigon. He was driven to this site in the car in our pictures.
For us, it is one of the four most significant photos from the US-Vietnam era. The other three photos are the nine-year-old napalm girl, the Saigon police chief executing a Vietcong solder, and the helicopter evacuation of the US embassy in Saigon.
We have been planning future trips and one place we want to revisit is Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Angkor Wat is the largest temple complex in the world, built at about the same time as the great cathedrals were being constructed in Europe. The temples are a blend of Hindu and Buddhist sanctuaries.
We visited before in March 2013 and found it fascinating but VERY hot. We have learned more about photography since then and hope to have some interesting shots when the weather is a little nicer.
Our guide on the last visit was a former Buddhist monk and our driver (who spoke no English) turned out to be a moonlighting medical doctor who would drive us during the day and work at the clinic in the evenings. After seeing various signs telling us to follow the marked paths because there might be landmines in other places, we followed our guide closely. Our earlier visit to Angkor Wat is described in a blog post at this link.
The Angkor Wat complex is enormous and beautiful. When we were there in 2013, it was crowded with tourists and (did I mention?) HOT. The following photo is a polar panorama of one face of the main temple complex.
One highlight of most visits is seeing the temples during sunrise and sunset. We arranged to see both views with our guide. One evening, we and our guide trekked up a steep slope to see sunset. Unfortunately, the sky was cloudy. As our guide put it “Too bad it is cloudy; sometimes this is very nice.” (Sometimes tourism is less exciting.) The next morning, we got up very early to see sunrise, shown in the following photo.
The temples are made of sandstone blocks set in place without mortar. After the blocks were placed, their blank faces were ornately carved by skilled craftsmen.
The scale of the complex is amazing. The follow photo shows a small part of an inner courtyard.
The individual buildings are covered on the outside with aging but elaborate carvings.
The walls on the interior of the buildings are also covered with ornate relief carvings such as the dancing girls in the following photo. These are the Apsaras of Hindu mythology.
There has been an active Buddhist religious presence in the complex. This was true even after the temples were “lost” and before they were “discovered” by the French in the 1800’s. The following photo shows one of the giant Buddha heads that adorn the exterior of the Banyan Wat.
Here is one of several active Buddhist shrines within the complex.
By being early and quick, we managed to get photos without too many people. Angkor Wat is so popular that such photos are deceiving. The next photo is more representative of our visit. Our guide is one of the tiny figures below at ground level.