Angor What? Temples a go-go

8 Jan
Welcome to the Ancient Kingdom of Angkor

Welcome to the Ancient Kingdom of Angkor

So after almost 3 days of relaxing at the pool, I thought it would be time for doing the deed – seeing what one should see: the world famous temples of Angkor Wat. (actually Angkor Wat is only one of the many Angkor temples around that area). I didn’t really feel like it, but missing this part of world heritage would be unforgivable. But instead of doing what thousands others do (getting a tuk-tuk driver for the day to buzz you around the place, and pay far too much for it = 15 US$ – too much in Cambodia is pretty relative, probably a bargain for us wild westerners),

I did it in an alternative way and rented a bike to go around the place. It did not only allow me to go around the sites at my own pace, but it was good exercise at the same time – after one and a half weeks without sports (I start missing it-so I went jogging around Siem Reap one of the mornings – but jogging at 35° and sun, that was not such a clever idea – and getting up at 6am is not yet part of my repertoire). And only 1,5 US$ – a bargain. It was such a feeling of freedom to be able to go where and when you want… without being confined to tuk-tuks or moto-dubs – and actually knowing where you want to go…

Riding my bike around history...

Riding my bike around history...

Just the same as jogging, it would probably not be a clever idea to be cycling in the heat of the day, so doing the Angkor temples did involve (unfortunately) at the crack of dawn = 5 am, having breakfast at 6am and I was on the road by 6h30 and arrived at my first temple in the sun rise at 7am (how’s that for holidays!).

And to add to the (exceptional) early morning action, during breakfast, munching away on my muesli, all of a sudden I feel something hard in my milk. And when I run my tongue across my teeth, I feel that a part of a tooth is missing!!! Shiiiiit!!! I got two of my teeth de-vitalised (taken the nerves out) before coming, and they only put some shallow temporary filling in – so now I not only have a hole/crater in my tooth, but also half of the tooth, that was holding the hole, is gone now… Just my luck.

As for the temples, it’s difficult to explain how impressive they were, so I’d refer you to watch the pictures below in stead. Of course I do have my favourites. I actually did not like Angkor Wat (the most famous one) so much: there were too many tourists, less impressive than the post cards, but still wow. My favourite was Angkor Thom, which was actually a whole complex of different temples, walk ways, constructions etc. The main central temple is called Bayon, and has lots of roofs with Buddha faces looking into the 4 directions. And then a series of 12 mini-temples nicely lined up – lovely. In general I loved the smaller temples more, because they were off the beaten track, less crowded, more authentic. And the top of the bill was Ta Prom, the temple that is overgrown by big trees… incredible but tree.

My guardian angel fell to pieces at Angkor Wat... Drama

My guardian angel fell to pieces at Angkor Wat... Drama

A piece of drama happened at Angkor Wat. I was taking some pictures with my worry angel that is traveling with me (see the Angel page), and in the whole process my little glass Angel dropped down and broke… How sad… So who do I have to confess my worries to now, who will watch over me??? Luckily Ülly is burning a candle regularly for my Buddha at home, so I should be safe ;-)

It was funny to see all the signs and flags of the different countries that invested in re-construction and preservation works of the different temples. It was as if all the countries were competing to get a share of fame to restore the different temples, to de-mine the forests around it etc.

Sun is getting hot around 11am

Sun is getting hot around 11am

A few hours and many temples later, the sun became scorching hot, but I came prepared. I was wearing my hat, covered myself in sun cream, with soon a second layer of dust, long clothes, sun glasses and a sarong wrapped around my head. A touareg must have looked scarcely protected compared to me…

In the afternoon a friend of mine took me to see the Bantea Srei temple – the so-called woman’s temple, because of all the carvings of female dancers (the apsarai) – in pink stone. This temple was further out, smaller, but the detailed stone carvings were surely best preserved of all temples I’ve seen. But after 5 temples, I started to know what a temple would look like- so I fully understand the verb ‘being templed out’ that is frequently used around Siem Reap… It is a bit like seeing churches, after a few you probably get a quite good impression of what the next church would look like…

I've had enough of temples...

I've had enough of temples...

Add to this all the children at each temple that do their Spiel for the 1001 time: “Sir, you wanna buy X (replace with book, water, flute,…) – one dollar, I will wait for you” (as probably the most frequent reply they’ll get is that the tourist will see when he gets back after visit) and then they invariably are insulted when you don’t buy when you pass them again – ‘because you promised to buy’. And they even add things like ‘you are a bad man, a liar etc’ – emotional blackmail that’s called…

And in the temples, around the various Buddha statues, there are women (sometimes nuns) with incense, and they beckon you closer and force some incense into your hands – and then as a surprise uncover the donation box (which was covered and unrecognizable) – so there we go again, forking out money… Same with the musicians at every temple which are nicely and physically ‘labelled’ as ‘mine-victim’ or ‘disabled’ or some other non-PC term… Money must go round…

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One Response to “Angor What? Temples a go-go”

  1. Uso de los Adverbios 29 August 2014 at 15:50 #

    I know the entry is old, but I wanted to congratulate you on your writing. I liked the blog, I happened to see what new entries in it. Luck and not to give up, because the blog is a luxury. A kiss !!

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