Sunday, March 22, 2015

Playing Lara Croft at Siem Reap

...along with a million tourists. Siem Reap, also knows as the largest temple complex in the world, has grown absolutely rabid over the tourism game in the last few years and while some of the temples are truly unique and awe-inspiring, having to navigate around packs of cameras takes away from the feeling of the place. I do have to give props to the impeccably dressed Asian lady who climbed up and down the steep and ancient steps of the temples in heels. Your dedication is truly inspiring.

Playing with filters again to try and imagine what this looked like before the hoards.

Once again, I woke up before dawn to see the sunrise along with everyone else over Angkor Wat, one of the main temples with a bit of a waterlily pond in front. The early birds staked out good spots on a ledge while young children with theatrically sad faces walked around selling key chains, post cards, coffee and beer. Yep, the sun may not have come up yet, but that's no reason not to enjoy a nice cold Angkor Beer.  

After a while more and more people filtered in, and practically flooded the swamp in an attempt to be first in line for the show. Our prime front row seats all of the sudden became first balcony at best and I kind of gave up on the sunrise thing and convinced my guide to start the tour while the rest of the people were waiting on the sun. 

I still got some shots of it, just from different spots as we went along. 

Within the temple complexes were still functioning temples, cared for and maintained by monks, who will happily offer colorful string "bracelets" and prayers of good luck and long life for a small donation.

And if you really wanna get touristy or just lazy, for a hefty fee you can hire 
an elephant to take you from the parking lot and over a bridge to one of
the temples in the complex. The bridge itself is interesting as it depicts 
gods on one side and monsters on the other, all carrying the great 
Snake Spirit of Water. You can see where some restoration is being done.

Tour guide: "Do you know what those rock piles mean?"
Me: "What?"
Tour guide: "No, I'm asking you. Tourists seem to do this and we don't know why"
Me: "I think it's a hiking thing, like a trail marker. Or maybe they're sad 
they missed out on construction day?"

After the fall of Buddhism in the area, the following empire worked really hard to erase as many images of Buddha as they could. Taking down the big statues and burying them in pits, chiseling out small images out of walls, and converting some images like the one above from Buddhist to Hindu with a few additions.

Come over to the dark side! There's no cookies, but we have shade!

The ceilings were rather low in the corridors within.

This pompous tree decided that it was too good for soil and needed a pedestal.

You can't really tell how incredibly narrow and steep the steps are, 
but you can see how carefully everyone is navigating them.

Ah...the infamous Angelina Jolie temple, or the Tomb Raider temple, or the Lara Croft temple. Basically, everyone calls it any one of these names except Ta Prohm, which is it's original name. Aside from the hype, it really is a unique site among the rest as it looks like here nature is waging a very slow and deliberate war to grind the stones back into the soil they came from. People say things like "this is the perfect blend of religion and nature", but if you look carefully, you'll see that nature is kicking ass and the walls are crumbling beneath the intricate roots of the massive trees. It won't be soon, but there will come a time when all memory of construction will have disappeared and a tree will emit a low satisfying burp.

I have no idea what kind of flower this is, but a tree nearby was shedding a ton
of them and while they didn't have a scent, they looked really fun.

The girl didn't seem as enamored with the chicken and it's fuzzy chicks as we were.

Fun souvenirs on the path to the river temple. The path was also teeming with
thousands of dragonflies, but those are harder to capture in a photo.

One long pathway led through a wide and expansive swamp to a temple surrounded
by water on all sides. I would imagine people had to wade to it on little boats,
but now you can only watch it from the shore.

Someone left a baby as an offering! I'm kidding. Or am I?

A lot of the temple ruins are...well...ruined, but all over the complex 
there are many signs of restoration being done to preserve 
and maintain this cashcow historic monument.

I have many many many more pictures of all the different temples I spent two days exploring, but at a certain point I'm sure you'll agree...things start looking all similar and templey. In the next post I'll share with you a few other stops in Cambodia that focus on a much more recent, though quite more horrific history.

1 comment:

  1. Hey! I'm learning a lot if history here! Didn't know Buddhism and Hinduism were rivaling! Also, your pics are gorgeous! And! I can't believe you're making it to so many sunrises :)