Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Cambodia, Siem Reap: Temple Run

No, that's a different sort of temple run.

This sort of temple run:
That's a lot of temples.
Siem Reap is known for many delights and from a USD perspective they’re all cheap; massages, food (I’m not a fan, more on this later) and if you fancy taking a 34% chance of catching HIV, sex.

For me and my travel buddy, Cambodia was one long temple run. They all look magnificent, they all inspire awe, and four temples later, they all. look. the. same. Law of diminishing returns applies here – every additional temple/child/dessert/indulgence is increasingly less satisfying than the last.

Still, memorable moments aplenty.

Angkor Wat is immense, gargantuan, and every superlatively sized noun you can think of.  According to this site,
The outside perimeter of Angkor Wat measures 5,500m. Dimensions are gigantic forming a rectangle of about 1500m by 1300m with 200m wide moats.
For purpose of scale, the tallest buildings in Singapore are restricted to 280m tall. In other words, the dimensions of Angkor Wat are somewhat larger than a field of five by four UOB Plaza Ones, all at the golden era of 1125. 

We walked down the stone path leading to the outer gardens of Angkor Wat. Groups of monks loiter around. In truth, they weren’t steeped in prayer, and looked slightly out of place, like JC students doing community service. It didn’t stop at least one tourist from taking a really awkward looking photo with the monks.
What exactly did the tourist on the top left think he was doing?
Ta Prohm is ancient Khmer for ‘Tomb Raider Temple’. And if you believe that, then here’s the link to nominate me for (online) sainthood (Call me Saint Nick, ho ho ho). Ta Prohm is entirely overrun by nature. Tree roots forced their way into the crevices of the walls, grew into the mortar, and fused tree with temple. Because tree roots make lousy mortar, some areas are structurally unsafe as a result and are held up by metal support beams and wooden planks. We only found this out after wandering into the aforementioned structurally unsafe areas, taking pictures of metal support beams, directly underneath several hundred kilograms of stone and tree. Who knew.

I swear, we had no idea how we stumbled into the restricted area.
 Rounding off the temple run (for me at any case) were Bayon and Bantey Srey. Bayon is famous for its 196 faces of Buddha, which archeologists seem to agree is Jayavarman VII, a Mahayan Buddhist. As for why he felt the urge to have 196 images of himself in a temple, one can only guess. Bantey Srey is easily the most modest of the four and the prettiest. Carved out of red sandstone, it’s a welcome change from the grey stone walls that make up other temples. Trivia: Bantey Srey means ‘Citidal of Women/Beauty’. Guess modest women were prettier back then.

Smaller = less walking = much appreciated.
And then I got struck by food poisoning. I don’t know what caused it, although the fried noodles are Al's guess. There are few things more paralyzing than feeling a gurgle in your stomach move rapidly south towards your sphincter, and you stumble weakly to the bathroom. I’m just glad they didn’t have images of Jayavarman staring at me in the toilet.
That's me under the blanket. I might not have been wearing pants.
Thus endeth the holiday.

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