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Wonders of the World (1)

by Véronique and Mike

4 November 2014 • Early wake up because a busy day ahead. From a big bus we transfer to small vans as the big tour coaches are not allowed inside the Angkor temples. Nice to see the stream of tuctucs entering the grounds. It looks like we were not the only ones who got up early. 

We start with a visit of the pyramidal structure of the Bapuon temple (1060) located at Angkor Thom. Builder King Jayavarman VII, we learn form our guide, is considered to have been a great king. He was not a tyrannical ruler and has been responsible for many important building works such as 102 hospitals, rest houses for the workers, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. 

This temple can be climbed what we gladly did. You have a nice view on the different shades of green and the causeway below you. Although some of the stairs were steep, many passengers came along. I admire the eagerness of certain passengers despite their age or physical condition to discover as much as possible. 

Between the visits our guide Manyl gives information about the health benefits of fruit we encounter, talks about the insects we see and more. Incredible the knowledge he can share. 

Although I have seen many of the temples before, once again I’m amazed about how much has survived the ravages of time.  

While we are walking to the next temple it starts to rain heavily, luckily some buddhist monks and nuns don't mind that we look for shelter near them under the shrine. Some other tourists offer them some money for which they receive in return a yellow and a red bracelet for good luck. 

The Bayon (late 12th to late 13th centuries), located at the centre of the capital of Jayavarman VII Angkor Thom is known for its many enormous smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara. First it was a temple for buddhist worship but later it has been used as a Hindu temple. Manyl is there to show the photographers amongst us where the best angles are to shoot pictures. 

Khmer warship going to battle the ChamDancing apsaras (female spirits of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology)Devata (Hindu for deity)

Today we also visit Ta Prohm (late 12th to 13th centuries), my favourite, where nature overtakes the monument. This is another temple of Jayavarman VII, as said before, he was a busy man. Here was decided to leave the temple in its natural state as an example how Angkor looked on its discovery in the 19th century. Only part of the vegetation was cleared. The centuries-old trees (silk-cotton trees and strangler figs) embrace the walls of this atmospheric temple. The trees grow in a way that eventually they become a support for the building as long as they are alive. Which means that unfortunately they are responsible over time of the destruction of parts of the temple complex.

Silk cotton treeStrangler figSome tourists are more interested in photographing each other

Needless to say that this temple is one of the most popular photographed ones of the complex. 

Devata

Lunch is served in restaurant Champey in Siem Reap. I am double lucky as I get a beautiful veggie menu all for myself while the others don’t look unhappy with their beautiful assortment of Khmer specialties. The waiters in the restaurant look astonished as many people of the group complain about the cold airco in the restaurant. They must be used to American tourists who love the freshness while they eat. That said Cambodians will do their uttermost to please their guests and the temperature is adapted in only minutes. And the food is just delicious. 

My veggie appetizer @ restaurant ChampeyPhotographing the main courseVeggie main courseAlways busy Siem Reap. Imagine being a tour bus driver trying to make your way through this

Text: Véronique

Photos: Mike & Véronique

Note: if you want to learn more about the Angkor temples, a comprehensive guide is "Ancient Angkor" by Michael Freeman & Claude Jacques

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