We finished our second and last day visiting the temples of Siem Reap today and were awestruck. What an experience! Yesterday, we slept in, followed the guide book and did the “Grand Tour” that includes half a dozen lesser temples.
That was amazing enough, but this morning we went to Angkor Wat for sunrise and were (pick one: stunningly impressed, gob-smacked, blown away). Thinking about this temple and what we had seen in Phnom Penh, Geoff commented on the capacity of man to accomplish both marvelous and hideous deeds. (Ed. note: “It is amazing that the same species which can create something like this can also perform incredibly horrendous acts of violence. We clearly have the capacity to do extraordinary things when we set our minds to it.” A self-evident truth strikes Geoff at 7:10 am.)
Angkor Wat was built almost a thousand years ago and it is stunning to think it could be done with man-power alone. Huge stones make up the foundation, galleries, walls and towers. They are made from a rock that is easily cut and which is full of holes so it is quite light in comparison to sandstone; but all those stones were then covered with more decorative sandstone and carved into fabulous bas reliefs and adornments. I was entranced by the stone spindles, which were about 5′ long and carved, just like a wooden spindle–could the stone have been carved on a lathe of some sort? Intricate carvings of flowers and shapes decorated each of the cuts on each spindle. Amazing!
Scientists have speculated on how the stones got to the sites and it appears that they were floated from quarries many miles away along rivers and canal systems built for the purpose. When you fly in to Siem Reap you see that the area is mostly wet lands, often flooded and almost always soggy. Not a good location to build heavy rock temples, one wouldn’t think, but the structures were ingenious. A huge man-made moat surrounds Angkor Wat. The soil removed for it was placed on the temple site. The moat never dries as it is fed by underground springs, so the water exerts a steady pressure against its walls, which keeps the sand foundation in place. Many of the other temples have crumbled over time but Angkor Wat is largely intact because of this engineering marvel, used almost 1000 years ago.
Angkor Thom was a city of 1 million people at the time when London had 50,000. It is just north of Angkor Wat and contains a serious of temples and terraces, including the Bayon, the terrace of the Leper King and of Elephants. The whole area of temples, including Angkor Wat and Thom, is vast, covering some 400 square kilometers or 160 sq. miles. Some hearty folks might make it a point to see every structure but not us. We were back at the hotel after 4 and a half hours, ready for a nap, a swim and (perhaps) a massage. A glass of wine might be in the works, too! Our guide tried to sell us on the idea of a floating village on a lake that ‘is very special” but we’re not buying it.
Last night we had a great meal at a Cambodian BBQ place, then ended up in a massage parlour. Geoff asked for a body massage while I had a foot massage. Definitely not the best place. You know you’re in trouble when you don’t start with a nice foot soak in a hot tub of water and instead, the masseuse wipes your feet off with a cloth. The fact that he was about 12 was another clue. Geoff, meanwhile, was in another room. He started with one woman and was eventually joined by 2 more. Hmmmmm. They aggressively pursued getting him to buy the “happy ending” but he didn’t go for it. I don’t know why it would take three women but anyway. (Ed. note: “6 hands very good, sir.”) All part of the Asian experience, although we haven’t found this in China. Our guide seemed to think it only for foreigners as he hadn’t heard of it before. I bet. Anyway, all’s well that end’s well. Wait! I didn’t mean….oh, to heck with it!
The Shoe Blog
A bit of a deviation for you. The first is a combination of a couple of women – one Korean and the other Chinese, who “dressed for the occasion.”
These two ladies, also Korean, had “matching hats”. Must be Easter – somewhere.