Looks like it’s Angkor Week here at Stowaway! The temples were so amazing that I took at least 1,000 photos, so I suppose it’s not too surprising that I’m using four days to show them off. Enjoy!
The most interesting part of Ta Keo was the fact that it was undergoing renovations when I was there, so all the workings of the structure were laid out, labeled, and slowly put back together. Different nations sponsor renovations on different parts of the park at Angkor; Japan, the US, Australia, and India are among the countries that have contributed to restoring the temples to some of their former glory. Part of Ta Keo was covered in scaffolding, and the peace of the morning was broken by the sound of a large crane moving stones into place, a modern update to the never completed temple of the 11th century.
Ta Prohm brings to mind Indiana Jones movies, but it’s actually the site of filming for several scenes from Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, so all the touts and drivers I encountered called it the Tomb Raider temple. The French Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient, which decided what to do with the Angkor temples when France had control of Cambodia, decided to leave Ta Prohm as it was, to show how most of Angkor looked when Westerners stumbled upon it in the 19th century. So the jungle has crept over the bridge and wriggled through the walls, and the result is a beautiful blend of nature and architecture.
If I visit Angkor again, I’ll go to Sra Srang during sunrise; going during the middle of the day revealed that it was a large man-made lake (or baray, to use the term from my guidebook) that may or may not have once had a temple in the middle of it, but currently has nothing else. It was apparently a bathing pool for just about anyone to use (despite its current name meaning “royal baths”), which is a nice touch for an ancient kingdom.
On my last day in the park, I walked up the hill to Phnom Bakheng to see the sunset from there. As I mentioned in a post last week, I almost didn’t get to go in at all. I’m still annoyed that there are no signs or warnings at the base of the hill, and that you walk all the way to the top, and then stand in line, before someone says, “You can’t go in because you’re not dressed right.” Apparently, the scarf around my shoulders wasn’t enough. I wasn’t about to give up, so I looked around for someone who, in this heat, was wearing a shoulder-covering shirt and a shirt over that. I found someone! I turned to a woman waiting with her tour group, and asked if I could borrow the thin raincoat she was wearing. We had to overcome some language barriers for her to realize I wanted to borrow, not steal, her coat, and then she smiled and handed it over. The Clothing Police waved me in, and I ascended the stairs of the temple.
The view was lovely–forests and barays and temples as far as the eye could see, in all directions. The sunset wasn’t very dramatic, as there was too much haze, but it was cool to look down at Angkor Wat from this height. I also liked the walk up and down the hill, when I got a glimpse of the small Baksei Chamkrong in the distance.