Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Here we go - the very last set of photos from my holiday in South East Asia. ("Thank goodness!" you may well be saying.) Today's are all about the Temples of Angkor, in Cambodia, which deserve a post to themselves. We start, above, with dawn at Angkor Wat. It's the most famous of the temple complexes but far from the only one - there are supposedly over 900 monuments in a 300 km square area! We only had 2 days to see some of the highlights.
And ... sshhh! ... I'm going to let you in to a secret: Ankgor Wat itself was my least favourite. Yes, it's huge and impressive. But it's so open and so well-restored that I felt it was sort of sterile. I liked the other temples better, in their different ways.
Ta Prohm, for example. That's the famous "jungle temple" where they've left some of the encroaching trees in stitu so there's an atmosphere of ruination and loss. Forgive me - I took a lot of tree photos. I'm a bit obsessed. This one above's a kapok.
This is the famous "Tomb Raider" tree - it's a strangler fig I believe - from between whose roots Angelina Jolie emerged in the first Lara Croft film. She'd be lucky to fight her way out, these days, through the queues of tourists taking snaps...
Another tentacular kapok. They're just awesome. Okay: enough with the trees, Janine.
Okay, maybe just one more. This photo was acutally taken in the monastery/university complex of Preah Khan, which we spent a couple of hours crawling over - it is a sprawling place of tiny passages and fallen masonry and interlocking rooms. You can really let your explorer fantasies loose there!
Some history - the monuments of the Angkor area were built between the 9th and the 13th centuries by the kings of the Khmer Empire. The earliest temples are Hindu, the later ones Buddhist, though this is a country where the two have fused to a great extent, since.
This picture of me was taken at the Bayon, which is just stunning - it's a temple built in the shape of a mountain, with 54 peaks each with four facets, and on each is carved the beautiful smiling face of the Buddha of Compassion.
Here in contrast is some Hindu carving from Banteay Srei, which is small and pink and pretty and covered in elaborate carvings. I picked this picture because it looks like there's something naughty going on in the middle there.
One final piece of carving - and a puzzle for you. Click on the photo above to enlarge it - There, in the second decal down: see that? Is that or is it not a stegosaurus? Proof that the medieval Cambodians knew what dinosaurs looked like....