Thursday, 12 January 2017

Wednesday 27th July 2016 (Cambodia Day 2 - Angkor Wat)

I think today was possibly my favourite day of the whole holiday. It started off with breakfast in the restaurant hut. There's a buffet, with an egg stand, where someone makes your eggs however you like... today I chose scrambled with veg.

Lucy, Jack and Harry at another table.

Having a laugh with the boys. The vegetation in the grounds is just gorgeous.

We then went by tuk-tuk a few miles to the ticket office for Angkor Wat and nearby ancient sites.

Family transport, Cambodian style.

The ticket office is quite a grand building. We hadn't bought passports with us, so Harry couldn't get the reduced rate for under 12 year olds. It cost about £20 each for access to the Angkor sites.

We then went the 7km or so from Siem Reap to the edge of the Angkor Thom site.
Kids younger than Harry on their way to school!

Not a road sign you see every day!

Out tuk-tuk drivers dropped us near the gateway to Angkor Thom, which was a capital city of the Khmer empire, built in the 1100's. They set us off in the right direction, and said they'd meet us later. I guess they knew roughly what route we'd take and where we'd end up!

Before we could cross the bridge to the gateway, the boys disappeared, and we found them stalking monkeys by the river!

A few monkeys kept us company as we crossed the bridge.

The monkeys left us to scamper up the gateway - it was like being in the Jungle Book!

Other side of the gateway - spot the monkeys!

It was a short walk to the Bayon of Angkor Thom.

The boys adding to the construction...

The boys and I climbed the rather steep steps of a tower next to the main complex. It had a great view, but wasn't easy to get down from again!

We were able to just wander round the site. Most of the ruins are covered with carvings of various gods, goddesses and other creatures from mythological stories and epic poems of ancient Hinduism, modified by centuries of Buddhism. Real animals are represented too, as well as elongated dragon-like creatures from Chinese art.

Peering through a section of corridor - somehow it reminded me of the architecture of British stately homes with the doorways all lined up.

Scott walking North from the Bayon.

I'd seen a few of these 'tractors' around and was happy to be able to snap a picture of one!

Walking towards the Baphuon. This was a temple built in the 1000's, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It's missing it's central tower which would have made it 50m tall. It was converted to a Buddhist temple in the 1400's.

Climbing as high as we could go.

I adored the view from the top, and the whole atmosphere of the place, in spite of it feeling like a million degrees, and being revoltingly sweaty!

When the Baphuon was converted to a Buddhist temple, a 9m x 70m long statue of a reclining Buddha was built on the back of it (west side). We didn't know this at the time, and while we were stopping for a breather, I said something like 'oh, that looks like a head!'

Next we walked to the Phimeanakas, a three tiered pyramid Hindu temple built in the 900's. We didn't have a map or anything with us like the one above - we just kind of wandered along, and the next ancient ruin would appear! It turns out this is within the walled enclosure of the Royal Palace, but it felt like it was just in a rambly forest! Most of the original palace structure was made of organic material and has long since disappeared.

We carried on walking a short way, and then came out onto the Terrace of the Elephants.

It felt rather like being at Wollaton Hall, or some other stately home, only a lot hotter, and with a load of serpent/dragon (sausage dog) statues and elephants carvings.
The 350m long terrace was used as a giant viewing stand for public ceremonies, and served as a base for the King's grand audience hall.

We then wandered over to a car park area and found our tuk-tuk drivers there. We drove away from Angkor Thom through wood lined roads, and passing this place, stopped off to look around. I don't even know where or what it is.

Lucy and I went under this walkway, and it felt a bit Indiana Jonesy - I kept an eye out for giant spiders/snakes etc!

Scott, Jack and Tom had stayed chatting with our tuk-tuk drivers. Scott said how interesting it was to hear their perspective on things like Pol Pot, the Cambodian dictator whose policies were responsible for the death of about a quarter of the Cambodian population from 1975-1979. Surprisingly, they were not particularly anti Pol Pot. 

Around the car park areas, quite a few people would come and ask us if we wanted to buy things - water, books, ice lollies etc. I had to get used to saying no thank you, and just walking firmly away. 
We carried on (sometimes slightly precariously!) in the tuk-tuks, to Ta Prohm - the place I was most excited to go.

Walking to Ta Prohm.

This is the back entrance to Ta Prohm, a Buddhist monastery and university built in the late 1100's/early 1200's. This site hasn't been done up like most the other Angkor temple sites. I love this passage from Wikipedia:

''When the effort to conserve and restore the temples of Angkor began in the early 21st century, the École Française d'Extrême-Orient decided that Ta Prohm would be left largely as it had been found, as a "concession to the general taste for the picturesque." According to pioneering Angkor scholar Maurice Glaize, Ta Prohm was singled out because it was "one of the most imposing [temples] and the one which had best merged with the jungle.'' 

and also:

''The trees growing out of the ruins are perhaps the most distinctive feature of Ta Prohm, and "have prompted more writers to descriptive excess than any other feature of Angkor." ''

I'll try not to go into descriptive excess, but I absolutely loved it here! I did love the trees, and how the jungle felt so close - the whole place was just so atmospheric!

There is disagreement on what the trees at Ta Prohm actually are, but here's Harry standing in the buttressed roots of one.

The place was crazy!

I remember walking along here on my own, feeling completely happy!

The tree I most wanted to see (thanks to Pinterest!)

And which I insisted on being in a picture with!

No idea what they were doing!

This looks like some kind of giant spider leg...

The woman who had her picture taken in this spot before us had done the splits for her photo - Scott tried replicating it in our's! We were all cracking up!

Leaving Ta Prohm.

Then we met up with our tuk-tuk drivers again, and went to the back entrance of Angkor Wat. We didn't know at the time that's where we were, and I'm grateful to our drivers for dropping us here rather than at the busy front entrance. There was hardly anyone around, and we just walked along this path (past a monkey who had eyed up Tom's crisps rather worryingly, so I'd told Tom to leave them on the floor rather than be attacked!), and gradually what we realised was Angkor Wat came into site!

It was pretty cool! As we approached, it started to rain gently, and thunder started rumbling. It all added to the rather Gothic feel of the place!

Angkor Wat (meaning Capital Temple) is the largest religious monument in the world (402 acres) and has remained a significant religious centre since its foundation in the early 1100's. It was built as a Hindu temple to Vishnu, but gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple by the late 1100's. The temple has become a symbol of Cambodia, and is on its flag.

We had no idea we'd crossed over a moat! It just looked like a lake to one side. I really should read stuff before I go places! We came in on the right hand side of the picture below.

It was virtually deserted at the back of Angkor Wat, but got busier as we progressed towards the front.

A midget Jack!

Harry in a thunder storm in Angkor Wat, wearing his new sunglasses, trainers, underpants and football strip, accessorised with an umbrella borrowed from his tuk-tuk driver!

One minute there were a few spots of rain...

...and the next, total deluge!

Safe to say, our kids were only ones out playing in the rain...

Drowned rats!

It wasn't till we came out the other side that we realised we were at the front!

We then walked over the other side of the moat in the rain (still warm of course!), and to a large car park/restaurant area. We wandered round for a bit, not quite sure what to do, but then found our tuk-tuk drivers!

We went back to Siem Reap for a meal. The rain stopped, but as we got closer, all the streets were flooded! It was quite an exciting journey! Everyone just seemed to be getting on as usual.

We had another yum meal (spring rolls and curry for me).

Back at Navutu Dreams, we all went in the pool. This is the one in front of the restaurant hut. There were frangipani flowers floating in it from the overhanging trees, which Lucy and I put in our hair. I was super excited to see a mango tree too, with actual mangoes!

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