Saturday, June 29, 2013

Siem Reap, Cambodia

The Temples of Angkor 
Where to begin? We arrived in Cambodia, the temple capital of Asia, a little pooped from the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. But like Lara Croft of Tomb Raider, we had a mission: temple-hopping!

We visited the big three: Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Angkor Thom/Bayon. When London was a wee little town of 50,000, Angkor was a buzzing hive of activity with a population of 1 million. The first Western visitor, a Portugese monk said it all when he described the temples of Angkor by saying, "...they are of such extraordinary construction that is not possible to describe with a pen." He's right. Perhaps these pictures can help a bit, but they still fall short of capturing the splendor.

Angkor Wat

The picturesque genious of the Khemers culminates in Angkor Wat, an engineering marvel built in the 12th cenury that took a mere 37 years to build. Red and orange lava rock at the core support five million tons of sandstone. Modern day engineers estimate it would take 300 years to build Angkor Wat today. Dang. We don't believe in little green aliens, but this makes us wonder!

Making Monk Friends
Peter's beard was quite the celebrity in SE Asia! Everywhere we went, kids giggled, pointed, and then asked to take a picture with him. Now I know how Mrs. Clause felt. This was a group of rowdy monks that were especially fascinated with the beard.

Taking Time to Be

In the Details
Virtually every surface is carved in exquisite detail like this. Some of the images document wars while others depict everyday life at the time. One of the walls in the main gallery depicts heaven and hell in great detail. Imagine a stone version of the Sistine Chapel It is amazing to know other cultures literally worlds away were depicting those same images of heaven and hell. The consistency makes you wonder.

Considered the eighth wonder of the world, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and Cambodia's national symbol. A sacred skeleton of the vast political, religious, and social reach of the ancient Khemer empire, its mystical magic and splendor is still felt to this very day.

Ta Prohm
Indiana Jones would feel right at home in Ta Prohm! Green carpet moss covers the sacred structures that live in the shadowy embrace of muscular centuries-old trees. Spectacular beyond belief! Lara Croft Tom Raider was filmed here. Pretty groovy.

The Last Great City: Angkor Thom 
It is hard to imagine anything rivaling the magnificence of Angkor Wat, but the sum of Angkor Thom's parts adds up to a greater whole.  This was the last capital city of Angkor.

The Faces of Bayon
Bayon is found at the heart of Angkor Thom. 54 gothic towers decorated with 216 smiling faces watch the kingdom's every move.

Last Week of Honeymooning
We're off to Thailand next, for our last week of honeymooning. Minji, we miss you like crazy!