Me and Chairman Mao
4.03.2007
  Siem Reap: the Angkor Temples.
After resting for a few days to recover from the murderous hill climb (described in more detail in the previous post), we flew off to Cambodia to see the Angkor temples, mostly because we loved marching through the hot, sweaty jungle so much in Ang Thong Marine Park that we decided we should probably just do that for three or four more days. And, rather than do it for free, we should pay money--not just for admission into the jungle, but also for someone to drive us around to different places in the jungle where we could walk around and, if we were lucky, climb some hills. Oh, and there was also some stuff about some temples or something--I forget exactly what. I'd been there before (photographic proof!) but our friends hadn't, so they wanted to check them out, so we decided to go to Cambodia where we could walk around the jungle for three or for days ... I think you know the rest.

Whatever. The point is that, from Samui, we flew to Siem Reap. Again. (Thank you, Bangkok Airways, which is actually a nice airline, for any of you who might be planning trips and wondering just how sketchy it might be.) Which I was totally fine with, because the Angkor temples are pretty amazing, and seeing them twice is not really what I would call a hardship. It was also interesting to see how different things were. Last time, we'd gone in May, during the hot season--also, not coincidentally--the low season for tourists, and arrived to find a scuzzy little airport and a completely dead town, by which I mean that we would often be the only people in whatever restaurant we chose to eat at, and the cleverly named bars--Temple Bar, Angkor What?, etc.--were all completely empty. This time, things were totally different. It was July, the airport was brand-spanking-new, school was out everywhere, and the place was completely packed, to the point where sometimes it was hard to find a seat in places. And when you got up from said places to leave, you would be swarmed by motorcycle drivers trying to take you home. And when I say swarmed, I mean swarmed. Sadly, I don't have any pictures of said swarming, but think Jesus and the lepers and you'll have some idea. But, you know, without all the religious stuff. And the leprosy. So more just the being surrounded and being grabbed at as they tried to earn the right to take you home for a single US dollar. Really, if it wasn't so depressing, it would be funny. Although, now that I think about it, it was still a little funny, but maybe that was just the beer talking.

Anyway, despite July being high season (apparently) it was still, as far as I could tell, incredibly hot, so I'm not sure "hot season" really has any meaning in Cambodia. But it did rain more this time--much, much more--which meant you didn't notice the heat so much. Not that it was actually any cooler, so far as I could tell, but you didn't notice the heat because you were too busy doing things like trying to figure out how to walk around gigantic mud puddles that were deep enough to qualify as ponds, or possibly even lakes, in some parts of the world, and wondering how much rain your digital camera can take before it stops working. (Quite a bit, as it turns out.)

But enough of this pointless talking about ... pointless stuff. Like last time, the main thing to get out of this is that, if you ever have the chance to go to Siem Reap, you should. And when you do, this is not only a place you'll see, but a place you'll probably go--for a drink, if nothing else. Because hey, if the Red Piano is good enough for Angelina Jolie, it's good enough for you. Although now that I think about it, the food wasn't that good and the menu was pretty limited, if I recall correctly, but it's still a nice place to sit and have a beer. Or four. Your choice:



Don't be fooled. He's not really sleeping. The second you walk by, he'll spring to live and start following you around, asking if you need a ride:



Downtown Siem Reap. The streets are a little on the muddy side after it rains, what with being dirt and all, so definitely bring shoes that you don't mind getting dirty. Shoes that can be washed off in the sink and/or shower are a plus ....



Besides being swarmed by taxi drivers, you may also be surrounded by small children trying to sell you something. This foolish couple made the mistake of stopping to look at something a kid was selling--most likely postcards are bracelets (whatever it is, everything's a dollar!)--and were immediately surround by kids trying to sell the same thing at the same price. Have fun choosing:



And here we are at the temples themselves. To be more specific, the bridge at the entrance to Angkor Thom. To be even more specific, the left side of the bridge--the one with the "Gods." I think I might have posted almost this exact same picture last time, but I'm too lazy to go look. But if you aren't too lazy, feel free to check. Just don't tell me about it, because I don't care. Thanks!



The right side of the bridge. These are the demons:



The Bayon--the temple with all the faces on it. From afar, it looks like a pile of rubble. But when you get close, it looks like a pile of rubble, but with faces! Somehow, I managed to get a picture with no one in it, which was more difficult than you could possibly imagine:



Faces! This is supposedly the only place where you can get a shot of three faces in row like this. Of course, being the overachiever I am, I got four:



More faces:





An apsara--some sort of mystical nymph/dancer hybrid, as far as I can tell. There are tons of them carved into the stone in pretty much every temple you'll see at Angkor:





Including, apparently, evil vampire apsaras:



Along with a bunch of other stuff, mostly about old battles between the Khmer (the temple builders) and the Cham (from Vietnam--the ones who made My Son):



Angkor Wat, the big 'un. At least, as far as temples go. I think those skies could accurately be described as "threatening":



Can you tell from this picture it was raining? Ha-ha. This also illustrates the primary reason the temples were so crowded: Japanese, South Korean, and (increasingly!) Chinese tour groups. Obviously, one reason there are so many tourists from those countries is because they are all fairly close (compared to the US and Europe, at least). The problem is that they tend to move in very large groups, which can get frustrating when you are trying to get somewhere or take a picture. One time, I thought I had a cool, clear shot of a temple when, just as I was about to pull the trigger, a Korean tourist (I could tell by the writing on his shirt) popped into the frame. Five minutes and 60 or so picture-taking tourists later, I gave up:



Smoking is illegal at the temples. Unless, apparently, you are a monk. Although I guess it's hard to tell from this picture, so you'll just have to trust me:



The steps at Angkor. They are steep. And fun in the rain:



How steep? THIS steep!



I couldn't help but wonder if this neatly folded orange monk's robe meant a naked monk was running around somewhere in the temple complex. Thankfully, I never found out:



The moat around Angkor Wat:



The rain makes going to the temples lots of fun, especially for people with tennis shoes. Luckily, I had rubber sandals on. Unluckily, they really stunk because of all the walking around and sweating I did for a year or so while wearing them. Luckily, this water washed them off. Unluckily, the smell came back as soon as they were dry ...



Preah Khan--the Sacred Sword--temple. In the rain:





This was the Women's temple. Or the Citadel of Women, or something. Why was it for women? As far as I could tell, because the stone was pink-tinged, and--as well all know--chicks dig pink. Also, I think the brain of this temple was slightly smaller and more feeble than those of the bigger, more masculine temples. Ha-ha. I keed, I keed:



A women ... at the Citadel of Women. The irony is, of course, palpable:



One thing the Women's Temple did have going for it was loads of cool carvings. Which, now that I think about it, were more interesting than the actual temple itself, in my opinion:







This kid was yelling for us to tell Angeline Jolie to adopt him. I told him I'd try to get in touch with her. So far, no luck though, sadly:



Speaking of Angelina Jolie, this is Ta Prohm, better known as the "Tomb Raider Temple" (they filmed it there), and even better known as "the temple with all those crazy trees growing all over its shit":











Naturally, it also has some apsara dancers. Because, you know, when I said they all had apsara dancers, I wasn't lying about it:



Normally, I might say something about how it even has this apsara dancer, and if you weren't looking very, very carefully, you might miss her, followed by some pithy comment about my remarkable, Sherlock-Holmes-like powers of observation. But I won't. Mostly because, as with everything like this at the Angkor temples (like the place at the Bayon above where you can snap three faces at once), everyone knows about this and our guide naturally pointed it out as we passed so that we could all take pictures. Oh well:



There is, of course, more from Angkor. But not much more, at least not in proportion to the number of photos I took. For this, I am sure, you are grateful:

Previously, on my vacation:
- Ang Thong Marine Park: the Video.
- Ang Thong Marine Park.
- Koh Samui.
- Tay Ninh: The Cao Dai Temple.
- The Cu Chi Tunnels.
- The Mekong Delta.
- Saigon: the Random.
-
Saigon: Reunification Hall.
- Saigon: the War Museum.
- Saigon: the Streets.
- Hoi An: The River.
- Hoi An: My Son.
- Hoi An: the People.
- Hoi An: the Streets.
- Hue: Zoom, Zoom.
- Hue: the River.
- Hue: the Imperial Tombs.
-
Hue: the Imperial Palace.
- Hue: the Streets.
- Halong Bay: the Videos.
- Halong Bay.
- Hanoi: the Random.
- Hanoi: Water Puppets.
- Hanoi: the "Hilton."
- Hanoi: the People.
- Hanoi: Zoom, Zoom.
- Hanoi: the Streets.
 
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Ang Thong Marine Park: the Video.
Ang Thong Marine Park
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The Cu Chi Tunnels.
The Mekong Delta.
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Saigon: Reunification Hall
Saigon: the War Museum.
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