A Maze-ing

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Siem Reap, Cambodia

We had another reasonably slow start and enough time to take some extra bread rolls from breakfast to make some Vegemite sandwiches for a snack at the temples.

Our tuk tuk driver today was a more careful driver so we weren't thrown around quite so much on our way to Angkor Thom. We had read that you could walk part way round the walls of this ancient city so we asked the driver to droop us at the south gate, with its enormous representation of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk. As we climbed the wall we watched the streams of buses, tuk tuks, motorbikes and bicycles entering through the south gate.

It was extremely peaceful walking along the walls and the track was wide enough for cyclists. We had views over the vast moat and spent some time admiring Prasat Chrung on the southwest corner of the walls, one of four temples marking the corners of the city.

We walked on to enter through the west gate and the faces that adorned it before turning to walk into the city.

As we approached Bayon temple we could see masses of people, but kept going around to Baphuon, known as the 'world's largest jigsaw puzzle'. The Baphuon was being restored when civil war broke out and worked stopped on it. It was taken as part piece by piece but all the records were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge and the experts working on it were killed. The 300,000 stones of the temple were put back together using drawings made by the French together with the few lowly workers who had not been killed by the Khmer Rouge. The temple was a pyramidal representation of mythical Mt Meru built round the late 12th century.

On the western side of Baphuon the retaining wall of the second level was fashioned into a reclining Buddha about 60m long. It easy built using the stone from the central tower. It was hard to make out its face, but you could see its features if you looked hard.

We wandered on through the Royal Enclosure and Phimeanakas which once housed the royal palace. It was in disrepair but we climbed up to see the view from the top.

Back on the main road, we wandered past the Terrace of Elephants, a 350 metre long terrace used as a viewing stand for public ceremonies looking out across Central Square.

A little further on was the Terrace of the Leper King which was decorated with multiple levels of asparas and kings. The inner part was in excelleng condition as it had been covered up for centuries. It is possible that this terrace housed the royal crematorium.

After enjoying some fresh pineapple, we headed back to the Bayon. As it was now lunchtime, most of the crowds had left. Built in the late 12th to 13th century, it was the state temple of Cambodia's greatest king, Jaravarman VII. It had many corridors and steep stairs and 54 towers decorated with 216 enormous faces of Avalokiteshvara that resembled the king. It felt like as maze as we clambered our way through it with these eerie faces looking down on us from every direction.

Angkor Thom had kept us busy for over 4 hours so we decided to keep Banteay Kdei to explore tomorrow and headed back into town to visit Artisans D'Angkor with its crafts and workshops. We watched people making different products and browsed the shop for that special souvenir to take home.