Well, one of the 7 wonders of the Ancient world is just a couple of short plane rides away from Chiang Mai. Some friends came to visit us from the States so we all hopped a plane to Cambodia to check out Angkor Wat.
Built in the 12th Century, the Angkor temples (there are lots and lots of them), were originally built as Hindu temples. Then a couple hundred years later, the main religion of this region changed to Buddhism and the temples were repurposed as Buddhist temples. And amazingly, in it’s heyday, the site was home to over 1 million people. Anyway, you can google that shit if you want to know more. I’ll try to keep the history lessons here to a minimum.
The entire historical site and various temples are spread out over a pretty large area (almost 400 km). I’m not sure how far that is in miles but it’s big. Being frugal/cheap/poor/what have you, we decided to rent bicycles to get around the temples instead of take cabs to and from. The best part about that was that the bikes were built in the same year as the temples, and the seats were made of the same material – sandstone, if I’m not mistaken. And it was only about 97F so that worked out great. I’m mostly joking, riding the bikes through the parks and temples was pretty great. Even though most of the bikes suffered a flat tire at one point or another and we were always hours away from the bike shop.
Ok, but enough whining.
Angkor Wat is just one of many temples/cities within the Angkor historical site. Here’s a map to show you how things are situated.
The first day we decided to hit one of the larger cities/temple complexes in the park. Called Angkor Thom, this large walled city that contains some very large and amazing temples.
Once you’re inside the main walls, it’s a few more km to get to Bayon, one of the most iconic sites aside from Angkor Wat itself. The city is comprised of dozens of buildings and temples connected by tunnels, walkways, steep stairs. Many of the buildings have enormous faces carved into the rock. Unfortunately many of the towers are in various states of repair and maintenance so some sections are off limits and there are lots of signs, scaffolding and other eyesores to spoil beautiful photographs.
I’m currently in the early planning stages of developing an iPhone app that will automatically scrub your photos of this type of thing.
Anyway, past Bayon there are tons of other shrines, buildings and other temples within Angkor Thom- my favorite being Terrace of the Leper King.
Ok so this is the Big Kahuna. The national treasure. This building is literally on the Cambodian flag. We’re not messing around here people. We had heard/read that the best way to see Angkor Wat was to get up extra early and come watch it at sunrise. The city is oriented facing west so when you are looking at it, you’re facing east and the sun rises right behind it. Of course thousands of other people had the same idea so in the 300 identical pictures I took, I have alibies for thousands of people in case any murders took place while I was there. Anyway, here are a few of the best ones.
Inside the first curtain wall, there are several other layers of wall wrapping up the main inside structures. Again, many are under maintenance so you can’t go currently inside. However the “walls” are all interior walkways and vaulted tunnels. There are Buddhist and Hindu carvings and statues all throughout the buildings. Thousands of them. The sad thing is that over the centuries, people from all over the world have come and taken pieces – especially heads – of many of the statues. Now it’s a pretty huge crime to deface anything in the park but in the 15th century, things weren’t regulated so tightly.
My favorite of all the cities was Ta Prohm. Most of the other sites in the historical park have been relatively well maintained over the years. That is to say they have been protected from being overrun by the surrounding forests. Ta Prohm seems like it was abandoned for hundreds of years and allowed nature to reclaim the area. Enormous, centuries-old trees have overgrown the entire city. It’s unbelievable to look at these buildings and see the complete disregard nature has for all our hard work. Tree trunks 10 feet thick erupt up through huge stone tiles and vines climb up the walls all around you.
It kind of gives me hope for the Earth- that is after we use up all the resources and end up killing each other/ourselves, I think nature will be able to bounce back before too long. Anyway, that’s enough of that. Here are some more amazing pictures of this city.
Of course, there are hundreds of other sites to see and talk about, but this post is getting long enough already. Here are a few more random pictures from the park. As usual, there are about a billion more photos or equal or lesser quality so if anyone is interested in seeing a long, boring slide-show, just let me know.