Saturday, September 17, 2005

West side, Angkor Wuuut?!

Somewhere in Northern Thailand

I left Chiang Mai by train three hours ago, and I'm heading south towards Chumpon. I'll be there in about twenty hours. Once I arrive, I'll need to find a ferry to get my ass to Ko Tao, probably overnight, where I'll meet up with Mike. We should be starting our SCUBA training on the 20th.

Jarah, Ben and I landed in Cambodia in the afternoon of September 11 and took a taxi to Siem Reap proper, where we found our lodging and got a little rest. That night, we caught a buffet dinner and a show featuring apsara dancers. It is an interesting traditional Cambodian dance style that's been around for at least a thousand years. The next morning, we arranged a driver and a guide for forty bucks, and took off for the ruins.
The jungles around Siem Reap is full of old temples. We spent an entire day driving around with our guide, and we only saw a small portion of what the ancient capitol of the Khmer Kingdom had to offer. Of the sites that we saw, there were only three that we spent large amounts of time at: Bayon, Angkor Wat, and Ta Prohm.

Our first stop was Bayon, an old, crumbling temple inside the walls of Angkor Thom. It looked almost exactly like what I imagined ancient ruins would look like. It had the cracked, fallen columns and the sun-faded stone and the irregularly-shaped weather-stains all over. Our guide toured us around the broken temple, giving us little history lessons as we walked. We clambered over broken masonry while the Cambodian sky drenched us with short, unpredictable bursts of rain. The rocks were slippery, and the lighting was horrible. It was perfect.
Angkor Wat was pretty cool, too, but it lacked character. The sheer scale of the temple was definitely impressive, and the attention to detail was amazing in places, but it was just too "nice". Everything seemed well-organized and packaged for tourists. There were no piles of collapsed rock and no huge, crumbling cracks in the stonework. Everything was clean, and there had obviously been a lot of restoration done. As an example of ancient Khmer architecture, it was a masterpiece, but it didn't feel like ruins. It felt more like a big budget movie: lots of cool visuals, extremely polished, but not a lot of substance.
Our last stop was Ta Prohm, and it was the real winner. Like most of the temples in the Angkor area, Ta Prohm had been lost for a few centuries after the area was no longer being used as Cambodia's capitol. When it was re-discovered, the jungle had completely absorbed it. Trees had grown into the structures of the temple, their roots digging deeply into the stonework. Unlike most of the other temples, Ta Prohm could not be restored to it's unfettered state without destroying it. So, the temple was left mostly as it was found, with the jungle literally bursting out of its walls. Truckloads of atmosphere.

Our last night in Cambodia was spent eating chicken curry out of a coconut and watching a shadow puppet show.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOOOOOOOVE the photos. I'm gonna take some for my website. Living vicariously through friends is what I'm all aboet.

9/18/2005 8:07 PM gmt

Blogger jason said...

> Did you guys take 20 search
> everything? Did you find any
> magic items?

Funnily enough, while we were crawling around Bayon, I couldn't help but think about D&D. If only we had found the entrance to the dungeon.

> LOOOOOOOVE the photos. I'm gonna
> take some for my website. Living
> vicariously through friends is
> what I'm all aboet.

Sweet. But I think it's pronounced "about".

9/19/2005 7:04 AM gmt


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