Me and Chairman Mao
6.03.2005
  Angkor what?
Angkor Wat! I know, funny, funny stuff. Like Sinbad-level funny, and we all know how funny Sinbad is as a comedian. (See also: Gallagher.) And if you don't, you can probably guess just how funny I think he is based on those last few sentences. And if you can't guess, I'm sorry. Really, I am. No, never mind for what. Just keep reading, or at least trying to ...

Whatever. At long last, I have finished sorting through the many, many pictures I took in Siem Reap (I filled up my camera's memory card), and have some to post. Thirty-five to be exact, which may seem like a lot, but not when you consider that even after deleting the pictures that were pointless, blurry, or just plain bad, I still have 225 left. I know, that's a lot of pictures. Slideshow, anyone? I thought not.

Before moving on to the main event, however, I feel like I should say a few words about Angkor, in case anyone cares. (Those of you with short attention spans can just skip to the pictures below. They're pretty.) (Yes, that was an insult. Although if you have read this far, it probably doesn't apply to you, so no worries.) The temples of Angkor, which was the name of the town back in those days (Siem Reap is now the closest town to the temples), are a huge collection of monuments built by various Khmer kings from roughly the 9th century to the 14th century. The temples that are now the most famous --pictures to follow, natch--including Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom--were built during the height of the Khmer Empire, during the 12th century and early 13th century. After Angkor was sacked by the Thais--and to think, they all seemed so pleasant--in 1431 (the second time they'd done that in eighty years), the entire place was pretty much abandoned and left to the elements until it was "discovered" by French explorer Henri Mouhot in the 1860s. (At the time of "discovery," Angkor Wat had over a thousand people living there; it had also been "discovered" by both the Japanese in the 1600s and the Portuguese in the 1500s. And actually it had been "discovered" by a different Frenchman ten years before Mouhot, but he didn't put pretty pictures in his book so no one paid attention.) (So yes, people were dumb back then, too.)

At any rate, here endeth the lesson. Now it's time to move on to the new longest post ever, the ...

Angkor Phog*

The first place we hit on our first morning was Angkor Thom (Great Angkor, or Great City). This is the south gate. It's a small picture, but you can see that the gate has four faces on top pointing in each of the cardinal directions. Sort of a theme at Angkor Thom, actually ...



These statues line the road to the south gate of Angkor Thom. There's 54 on each side--gods on one side, demons on the other--and they are holding a seven-headed snake, a naga, which is part of some Hindu myth that I never quite got. I know that it has something to do with an ocean of milk, although, sadly, no chocolate chip cookies were involved, as far as I could tell.



This is the Bayon, a temple in Angkor Thom. From a distance, it looks like a big pile of rubble. Mostly because it is, I guess. Weird.



A closer shot of the Bayon. In this one, you can start to see that it's actually MORE than just the aforementioned big rubble pile. (Hint: look for faces.)



The faces of the Bayon. There's 216 of them--four on each of the temple's 54 towers. All smiling like they know something you don't. Arrogant bastards.




This is supposedly the face with the biggest smile, although no one knows why. I did ask him "What are you smiling at?" but he didn’t answer. Jerk.



Part of the Elephant Terrace. Basically, it's a terrace with a lot of elephants on it, like this three-headed one. Go figure.



The entrance of Angkor Wat, which you can see in the distance. Besides being surrounded by a wall, it also has a moat: it makes a giant rectangle that's over 600 feet wide, and is almost a mile long on each side. That, my friends, is a pretty serious moat.



Angkor Wat, even closer. Yes, it's that big.



Angkor Wat yet again. I know, the picture looks cool ... until you realize it was taken from the designated "stop here to take a picture of Angkor Wat reflected in this pool" spot, and there were about 200 people taking that exact same picture with me. Go tourists, go!



Inside Angkor Wat. The steps are really steep--10 inches high at least and no wider than your foot. As you might imagine, coming down is even more fun. All fours, anyone?



Another view from inside Angkor Wat. In the far left corner, you can a set of stairs. Like I said, steep



One of the many tiny temples that dot the Angkor area. Sort of like a medieval pox in that way, except for cool, not gross and deadly.



This is the entrance to Ta Prohm, now forever--sadly--known as "The Tomb Raider Temple." Yes, for those of you who actually got that far into the Tomb Raider movie, this was where they filmed the ancient temple part of it. It was actually a good choice, because it was one of the coolest temples--all crumbly and tree-covered, which is the way you expect a thousand year old jungle temple to look. Or at least the way that I expect it to ...



More from Ta Prohm. The guard looks excited to see us, doesn't he? (He's on the left side of the picture--he sort of blends into the background with his eerie chameleon powers. Or something.)



So up above when I said "tree-covered," I was being literal: the trees, silk cotton trees from what I've been told, literally cover the temple. Now this, my friends, is what I call a jungle temple. Very Jonny Quest, don't you think? The other amazing thing is how big the trees are. I know this picture makes the tree look small, but it was really gigantic, as you shall see ...



The same tree, but with us in front of it. I told you it was big. (For those of who you don't have the great pleasure of knowing me personally, I'm six feet tall, so that should give you some perspective.)



More twisty trees. This is actually a smaller tree growing over a dying or just plain dead bigger tree. Such is the cruel way of the wild.



Hey, I'm a tree hugger.



Of course, one of the problems with your millennium old temples is that they usually need some fixing up. In the background, however, is a building that has managed to survive the centuries.



Unlike, say, this building, which was right next to the one pictured above. Small, old, and falling apart--or, as a real-estate agent might say, a "charming fixer-upper."



Cool picture, huh? I thought you'd think so. We all know that what goes up must come down, but apparently the reverse is true as well. Of course, it's a bit more complicated when the thing coming down is a 1,000 year old stone temple. Hence the numbering of every single stone on the ground, I'd guess. Fun job, I'm sure.



Another problem is that even if they can put things back together, they might not be able to find all the pieces. Oops.



Those of you who have ever been to a tourist site of any kind will not be surprised to learn that there were people trying to sell us stuff everywhere we went. And not just people, but little kids. They would say things like, "Hello, mister. You want postcard?" Then I would say, "No, I already bought postcards." "But not from me." "But I don't need any." "Okay, maybe later." "Maybe--but probably not." "Okay, I remember you mister and you buy from me."

Repeat this to yourself roughly 7,000 times over the next 48 hours, and you'll know what it was like.



One of the many sellers coming up to see me. Trust me, she was a lot less cute after the fiftieth time she asked me if I wanted to buy bracelets from her.



One of the ubiquitous naga (seven-headed snakes) at Preah Khan, the "Sacred Sword." (Sword not pictured.) This is actually one of the better preserved ones--you can even see the hands wrapped around the bottom. (Almost everything is made of sandstone, so the detail isn't holding up so well.)



Gods holding the naga. Or at least statues of gods. And the naga. Which is good, because it would have been a lot freakier with a seven-headed snake cruising around the place.



Preah Khan was very cool because it was big, hardly anyone was there, and you could climb around almost everywhere. Like here, for example.



Like any self-respecting ancient jungle temple, Preah Khan also had trees everywhere.



This tree, though, needed a little extra help to stay up. (It's the same tree in the picture above.)



More trees and temples. And Holly in the corner. Although she's actually just resting, not praying. It was hot. Really hot. Lots of resting was required.



More resting at Preah Khan. Seriously, it was hot. Did I mention that already?



Some dork at Preah Khan. Sit up straighter, Pointdexter ...

* phog = photo blog. Learn it, love it, live it, people.

 
Comments:
do you have to keep saying "whatever" and the tone of your blog is really negative which surprises me because you are obviously intelligent...could you stop being so so sarcastic...maybe it's an American thing...
oh by the way...you have some great pictures..
 
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