Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Asia Trip - Day 23 - Siem Reap, Cambodia

Tue 3
Siem Reap • Optional Banteay Srei tour
Visit a floating village on Tonle Sap Lake
This morning, you can enjoy free time to explore the charming shops and cafes of Siem Reap, or choose to join our optional tour to visit Banteay Srei, one of the oldest and most beautifully preserved temple sites in Cambodia. Built in AD 967, Banteay Srei means “Citadel of Women,” and is recognized as a tribute to female beauty. This tour
includes lunch and also offers a glimpse into the daily life of rural Cambodia, as we stop to visit basket weavers, palm sugar farmers, and a Khmer noodle maker.
In the afternoon, we'll all gather for a cruise on Tonle Sap Lake, which translates to "Great Fresh Water Lake," and arrive at an agricultural village. Here, we'll speak with a farmer in his home and take a ride in his water buffalo cart to learn more about his way of life.
We'll have dinner together at a local restaurant this evening.
2 of 3 nights SOKHA ROTH HOTEL

Oh oh, ignore today's itinerary because today and tomorrow are being swapped. OAT guides are great that way. They want you to have the best experience possible. There is some kind of holiday tomorrow and they think that not only will Angkor Wat be overrun but the top level is going to be closed. Since that is one of the highlights the reason for the change.
Bad news and good news: I started the day with a bad case of the stomach problem but the good news is that I made it through the day o.k. (hindsight). Didn't have to miss anything. But enough of that.

Today we are going to see Angkor Wat!   (and below is the schedule for that)
Wake-up call 5:30 and departure at 7 am.

Siem Reap • Explore Angkor Wat temples
Today we'll venture into the heart of ancient Angkor, a holy city that took centuries to build and whose scale is still breathtaking today—it sprawls across an area of roughly 96 square miles. The Khmer Empire aristocrats who built the temples and monuments here between AD 800-1200 were motivated by their Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. We'll begin at Angkor Wat, a masterpiece of Khmer architecture. Angkor Wat is a large pyramid temple, built between 1113 and 1150, surrounded by a great moat 570 feet wide. Note the bas-relief carvings throughout the temple, and take a moment to stand in the courtyard of this temple whose towers represent Mount Meru, the center of all physical and spiritual universes and the home to many gods in Hindu and Buddhist mythologies.
After we enjoy a taste of local hospitality during a Home-Hosted Lunch, we'll return to the hotel to rest for a bit. In the afternoon, we pass through the South Gate of Angkor Thom, the capital city of Khmer rulers. We'll see the Bayon, and make brief stops at Baphuon and the Elephants Terrace, where amazing bas-reliefs depict the huge beasts almost life-sized. At the nearby Terrace of the Leper King, equally intricate wall carvings depict rank after rank of court attendants and mystical rulers. We conclude our explorations of Angkor's most notable features with a visit to Ta Prohm. Unlike Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm has been left the way it was found, covered by a dense jungle of trees and roots and allowing you to discover this archaeological treasure just as it was found by the French in the mid-1800s.
Dinner is on your own this evening.

Angkor Wat has 4 gates: north, south, east and west. The west gate is the main entrance but our guides bring us to the east gate. There are not many people here, mainly workers. And the sun is right for our first photos.

There are some children with the workers and they are playing in hammocks.

When you look closely there are not one stone in this whole thing which is not carved. This was built in the 11-hundreds - without the tools we have today. Totally amazing.

Our local guide Vuthy also talks about the restorations which have already bin done and are ongoing. Now it is determined that concrete is not a good thing because with time it "eats" on the old stones. Then something else was used which also was not a success. Now they have found something else. Sorry, way too technical for me. It just shows that restoration is not that easy.

On to the next of 4 levels.

Sonyeon says good thing he is being carried.

One level higher and you can see the jungle beyond.

This is the highest level you can go. There is so much to see. It must have been magnificent when it was new and intact. Possible even with gold. The imagination runs wild.

The four sunken areas on the top where water catchers. How splendid would that be?

If you go up you have to go down too. Does this picture show how steep it is?

Our guides were right. When it got later there were many more people around.

Leaving through the entrance.

In the bus later Vuthy tells us why he got upset about the red wrist bands on the Buddha. Climbing up to put them on could break the statues arms off and it is a national treasurer. The guard should know better.

We bought this postcard because it gave such a good overview.

Then we visit another temple. Ta Prohm was built 1186 AD and cleared 1920 but giant tree roots are allowed to continue to grow and give us an idea how nature can take over.

A before and after picture of this section. Some reconstruction has been done.

The bus takes us to home-hosted lunch. Today we are 15 and divided into three groups.

The meal was excellent with the typical dishes. And this is the dessert. We are shown how it is made.

Our hostess and her mother. The daughter spoke very good English and we had a lively conversation. Mother is 64 and has 8 children. The daughter is the youngest and 24. She finished high school two years ago but can't go to university because her mom doesn't have the money. She would like to be a tourist guide.

The others were done at the same time of course and we made our way back to the bus.

Yes, another temple. And no, one is not like the other.
The bus actually drives through the gate into Angkor Thom, which used to be the capital city of Khmer rulers.

Bayon dated 1181-1218 AD was very interesting too.

The towers with the four faces on four sides are very special. They symbolize compassion, charity, empathy and ... (can't think of the last)
We could just wander around and marvel.

The last stop is at Angkor Wat again so we can see the entrance in all its glory in the right light.

Ole wasn't kidding when he had talk earlier about a toast at sundown. We found a nice place for each on the wall at the moat and got each a plastic glass. Vuthy poured each a little liquor.

And then our guides came with some nibbles. Frog legs ...

... and water snake jerky (yes, I tried it).

It was lovely but now back to the hotel.
Dinner on your own. As usual James and I are not hungry and stay in the hotel. We have a beer, a tomato cream soup and share a veggie pizza.

Couldn't even eat the last piece.

Trying to digest what we have seen and experienced today.

1 comment:

  1. With Angkor Wat, I knew what to expect and it was still stunning. I cannot imagine what it must be like to actually be there. Thank you for all of the lovely pictures.