Friday, September 13, 2013

Siem Reap

Our Tuk tuk driver picking us up at the airport, named Sinat.  He drove us to all the temples, sometimes in the rain. 
Siem Reap used to be the capital of Cambodia and once was home to millions of people, which is why there are a plethora of temples and palaces in the farmlands.  We spent two days taking in the sights of all the magnificent old buildings. The temples were originally Hindu temples and dedicated to the Gods Vishnu and Shiva.  Later, Buddhism became more popular in Cambodia and the temples were converted into Buddhist temples but you can still see the Hindu architecture and carvings.
 We saw eight different building on the first day.  First we visited Angkor Thom, which is a 9 km2 complex enclosed by large stone walls and had a palace and many temples inside the walls.  We went to three different buildings inside the walls. Angkor Thom was built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII.

We left the walls of Angkor Thom and went to Preah Khan which was built in the 1191. The next temple we visited was called Neak Pean.  It was built on an artificial island that King Jayavarman built in the 12th century. We went to the Ta Som next, once again built in the 12th century in the Jayavarman era.  It was the first temple that we saw the famous trees, called Tetrameles nudiflora, that have grown around the stones of the buildings.  This type of tree doesn't have a base root, instead it has many large roots that spread wide to stabilize the trunk.

We then headed to East Mebon which was built under the reign of King Rajendravarman and was built in the 10th century.  Next on our building sightseeing trip was a temple called Pre Rup. It was also built in the Rajendravarman era during the 10th century.  What a day!  Here are the photos that I took throughout the day.
At every gate, North, South, East and West, these guys stood "holding" the bridge over the moat.  They are holding a snake, from a creation story in Cambodian tradition.

The amazing carvings 

The stairs were very steep

A close up on a bridge dude
This nun really liked me
"Light one candle" 
The single holes on the left hand side were for transportation of the stone the other holes were for diamonds, rubies and other decorations. 
One of the famous trees
This was a 2nd wife of one of the Kings.  She studied Sanskrit and was a professor!  She is revered and there are schools named after her.
The man-made lake creating the island for the temple 

Amazing how precise they were with the doorways 
Walking into the tree door way

Me being my weird self

On the second day we went to the furthest temple from Siem Reap, called Banteay Srei.  On this day we hired a guide, named Toum (pronounced Tom) and he showed us around and told us information about the temples.  Banteay Srei was built in 967 by Yajnavaraha.  At this temple we saw different carvings.

After we visited Banteay Srei we headed toward Ta Prohm. This temple is very famous because it is one of the filming locations of Lara Croft Tomb Raider.   It was one of the most popular temples in the Angkor area, but we seemed to be visiting during a slow time because there weren't many people.  This temple is also famous for all the trees that have grown on and around the stones of the temple walls.  We enjoyed this temple because the Cambodians have restored this temple a great deal because of its popularity from the movie.  They are still working on the restoration today. 

Working on the restoration

One of the Famous trees from the movie

Our guide Toum showing us how to swing on a vine
Carrie swinging from a vine

Before restoration
After restoration
After restoration
After restoration
You can see the hands together which is a Buddhist symbol but you can also see the arms going down which is the Hindu symbol.  It was changed several hundred years ago when the country was becoming more Buddhist.

Find the face (easy)
Find the face (medium)
Find the face (hard)

Toum thought this was a funny place to pose, I didn't know until I saw the picture.
The water system of the temple (on the restored side)

After this great temple we had lunch at a local restaurant, and then we headed to the largest and most famous temple in the Angkor area, ANGKOR WAT!! WOW!!! This building was built in the 12th century under the Suryavarman II reign.  This temple is the largest temple in the area and is surrounded by a moat.  It is incredible that this enormous temple is still standing from the 12th century.  Enjoy the pictures.  

Amazing carvings around Angkor Wat

Toum explained that these women are Apsara dancers.  They were sacred dancers for the king and were only allowed to dance for him.  They were seen as connected to the divine.  Toum also said that they were allowed to marry and have children; they even carved the stretch marks so you could see which one had a baby!

The main tower

The view from the top!

This piece of wood is near 1000 years old!!!
The kings entrance (it is less steep)
Baths for ceremonies.  There were four of them near the entrance, one for each of the four sacred rivers in India.  They also represented the four directions and the four elements.
That is my photo not a post card!!!!!!
Another of my photos

Attempting to give Angkor Wat a little kiss

What an amazing place.  Off to our last country before home, Vietnam!