Cambodia 26th January
Our guide ,Sophananna Muon ,picked us up at eight to take us to the Temples.He is very amusing and tells us he speaks several languages, Cambodian English, Australian English.........
He also teold us the Asians call us 'pointy nose' or it might translate to 'big nose'!!I didn' think that was our most defining feature,how about 'pale skin' or 'blonde hair' or blue eyes"??
Often, when you have waited years to visit a place, it can be an anti climax, the Taj Mahal was not, and nor where these Temples, they were magnificent!
The Khmer period started in the 8th century and over the next few hundred years changed from Buddhist, to Hindu, back to Buddhist again, so has a mixture of styles..
The temple’s ground plan replicates the position of the stars in the Draco constellation. Could this be where their gods came from??
Our guide said that eventually it became to difficult to defend from invaders, so the Khmer reallocated and the Temples fell into disrepair. The French rediscovered it, and are working on repairing them.
Unfortunately it has been looted, heads and statues taken away, or broken,
But this did not spoil the experience.
A few less tourists would have been good, but our guide did his best to keep us to the less known areas.
These temples were built by successive kings for their family’s personal use, and not open to the public. In spite of the tourists milling around, there is a wonderful feeling of peace here, and we found a quiet corner where the three of us sat and meditated together.
The buildings were clad in sandstone, which is comparatively easy to carve into intricate designs. The roofs are stone, and very heavy, so many of the windows and doors are ‘blind’, fake, needed to support the great weight, but more interesting to look at than a wall.
Some windows have spiral supports that are attractive, and let the cooling breeze blow through.
Inside the temples are cool, like a cave they keep out the heat.
There are beautiful vistas from the windows, and down corridors, some fashioned to make you feel you are looking at a reflection in a mirror
Ta Prohm, the Tomb Raider Temple, was the first stop, and this was my favourite.it was smaller than the others, and had more shade. The trees growing through the masonry give an added dimension, the jungle trying to take over again.
The walls are carved with so many different things, animals, plants, divinities, geometrical patterns, and beautiful Apsara dancing girls.
These dancers go back to about the 8th centaury; their training is long and ardours. One of the kings, Javajarman vii was said to have over three thousand dancers at his court. The girls are trained at a very young age so they can obtain the flexibility in their hands for the intricate movements.
Parts of the broken building are on the ground, some deeply embedded that we were actually walking on.
The stones fitted together with male and female ends to bond them securely.
We enter the next temple, Thom Pen, through a huge gate with a four headed Buddha at the top, facing in each direction.
In front of the temple is the Elephant Terrace, a wall with elephants carved in it, and elephants either side of the steps leading up to the next level.
This is where the palace once stood, also houses for the kings wives, concubines, courtiers and soldiers.
There are two swimming pools, one for the king, a larger one for his many ladies.
There was a moat around the area, which has since dried up.
Ankor Wat is the iconic temple in all the photos. We approached it across a long causeway with lakes, and it is huge.
There are many rooms, colonnades, and dried up pools inside , one room leading on to another and another.
The walls are covered with carvings depicting various legends in the most amazing detail-down to hundreds of different hairstyles for the men, for example!
Our guide gives us the short version of Shiva and Rama’s love story, and the monkey army, and points he battle scenes out to us on the wall.
He said that Indians were brought in to clean and restore the walls, but they were jealous , and destroyed as much as they could with acid.
There are a few saffron garbed monks looking around, one only five years old, and they made a wonderful colour contrast against they grey stone when they obligingly pose for photos.
There was an entrance-way that had a great echo so I chanted Om there. It did not sound like my voice, at all, it was so very deep, I couldn’t believe it came out of my mouth! I also had the most amazing resonance in my third eye area, it was all very strange indeed.
We bought a three day pass, so went back again early in the morning, while most of the tourists were taking photos of the sunrise, we had the temples almost to ourselves for a couple of hours.
Angkor Wat is one of the wonders of the world, it is up there with the Pyramids and the Taj Mahal, go and see it! Coupled with the gentleness and humour of the so poorly treated Cambodian people, t is an experience you will never forget.