Friday, February 14, 2014

Angkor Wat - the City of Temples

I totally forgot my promise…it was almost year and half ago, after my post about the bizarre street food in Cambodia. I promised to share my first visit to this sacred place, my impressions about the unbelievable site, the architecture, the passage of nearly 1000 year old temples.

To describe the Angkor I need to borrow the words from very first Western traveller to this place, back in 16th century - Antonio Da Madalena: " of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of…"

Living in Saigon, I, of course, heard about the Angkor Wat long time ago, but for certain reasons I turned down several chances to visit this place in the past, until I first came here, to witness the great site I completely shocked about the scale of this complex - surely the largest religious monument in the world.

I've been to the Great Wall in China, to the Terracotta site of Qin Shi Huang mausoleum in Xian, I missed my only chance to visit the Taj Mahal (that I still regret now)…I think these great monuments could evoke very special feeling - not only about their glorious past, the human super-artistic abilities, but also about the stream of time that no one can resist.

Cambodia is our neighbour, we can fly, we can even travel by bus just for few hours in route, so I keep thinking I can go there anytime, but then I realised I visited the Angkor Wat, one of the greatest monuments that I have ever seen - only once. I wish to spend more time here. I also was informed there is another religious monument, similar to the Angkor, surely smaller in scale but quite impressive still in the jungle (!?) if I want to go there, Tour agency can arrange…

Look at these giant roots, everywhere around the site, extremely hard to imagine how these architectures tried to survive in the jungle over nearly thousand years... 

I still wonder if the management team of the site could organise the evening show here or some night visit to some mysterious places like the corridor behind this entrance, it would attract a lot of people who love the strong feeling, the ghostly atmosphere...

On the other hand, it would be very difficult, or simply impossible to keep the image like this, how to maintain the temple remains along with the nature without damages. To me, it looks like the nature already became an unseparated part of the temple's life, to prove their strength, their terminating power…but together with the temple remains they create the extreme striking sceneries.

When I was kid, I loved all fairy tales, myths, I used to read everything I got from my father, and while seeing the Angkor Wat temples, I was surprised because those statues in reliefs, the temple's architecture are similar to the Hindu myths, it reminds me of very difficult-to-remember names of those characters from my childhood tales. It's totally different from what I used to see in the Buddha's temples in  Vietnam.  

It's very crowded but as the site is huge so not difficult to find some quiet places, some visitors got a week ticket so they can come back here every day within a week to study the history, to witness the abandoned culture, the tracks of time...            

             Here used to be a pond or as we say these days - a pool, these small stairs were leading to it. 

            This sculpture - the apsaras in reliefs would be new one, after restoration. 

but this one and the other two in below are original? I don't know but judging from the style, the details of their hair, headdresses, garments, stance, jewelry and decorative flowers, …I really admire the skill of the artist in the past or the restoration masters of these days.  

We see many sculptures of the multi-face Gods, I really can't remember what the tour guide explained to me…each face of God representing either the past, the present, the future, the creator, the destroyer…but let's have a good look at the details, I was amazed at how talented the Khmer masters, the construction workers were. And it was nearly thousand years ago!

I don't know why I loved to take photos of these empty corridors, through the arches - one after another, there are some other places - nicer but packed of visitors, it's very quiet here, together with the light at the end, the cold-from-the-stone atmosphere, the feeling of being alone…it likes I walk though the past, the history...

I should mention about this stairs leading to some other temples, I was told it's a nice place to see the sunset and the sunrise…but this stairs are newly constructed as the original, near by, are very narrow, each step is very small, it required the courage to climb up...

                                     The newly constructed stairs for tourists...
Here the original stairs, very upward and each step is so narrow, only 5 or 6 cm in width, I guess.

             The Royal Palace in the capital - Phnom Penh 

I've been to Cambodia few times, mostly for business, sometime one day trip, fly-in in the morning, out in the late afternoon, I didn't have time to discover the city, my trip to The Angkor site was the first time, I was ashamed as I couldn't make it earlier…but if the Angkor amazed me deeply, the show about the sacred place is quite a contrast, I was so upset after the Angkor show in the evening at the Siem Reap hall, I heard it has been managed by some Chinese agency (!?) It was poor, in terms of everything!

             The hotel I stayed near to the borders with Vietnam - famous for their casinos. 

           Don't blame me if I couldn't share anything about the street food in Siem Reap... 

           The peaceful scenery in the country side of Cambodia…on my way back to Saigon. 

I did enjoy my short trip to Siem Reap where the Angkor Wat located, it's not very far but as I travelled by bus so it took me half day from Saigon to Phnom Penh, and then two hours ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. It's a bit pity that we don't have any monument created by human with the thousand-year old like The Angkor, so I could post here but hopefully I would have a chance to share with you about my planned trip to the largest cave in the world - probably sometime in April of this year.

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