Sunday, January 25, 2015

Visiting Temples

This area has many monumental temples. One website I looked at listed the ten major ones you should see. However, we visited the three most famous, as we have a somewhat limited tolerance for endless sight-seeing. The hotel arranged for a tuk-tuk to take us around for as long as we wanted for $15. The tourist economy here is completely dollar-based; even the ATMs give US dollars.

We left the hotel about 8:00 and arrived at the ticket booths around 8:30. There were mobs of people, but we realized we were on the side for 3- and 7-day passes. The one-day pass side had many fewer people lined up.

The first temple is the one you've heard of, Angkor Wat. It is the largest religious structure in the world  and was built in the early 12th century. Originally it was a Hindu temple and changed to Buddhist in the late 13th century. Many of the decorations were familiar to us from sites we've visited in India. The wall bas-reliefs depict the story of the Ramayana. The temple is surrounded by a very wide moat and a significant grassy area.

At the entrance under the cobra head - railings represented long snakes
We hired a guide at the entrance. He was working independently, as he couldn't afford the $3500 to become an official guide. His English was excellent and he was very knowledgable.

This reflecting pool is well inside the compound and it gives you some idea of the size -- the moat encloses about 500 acres.

View of five towers of main temple
Windows have seven pillars
Some bas-relief

A piece of the Ramayana showing color -- the carvings covered the surrounding interior walls

Hallway -- love the sign "Possibility of Visit"

Looking up to the ceiling

One of many libraries inside the grounds

A buddha showing modern worship

The upper story -- Dan went up, I waited
From there we still had two temples to visit, so we went back to the parking lot, a sea of tuk-tuks, to find Mr. We, our driver. I'll make another post later with more photos of the next temples.

This visit has made me think about my parents' trip around the world in 1969 when they came to India to meet their first grandchild. One of the stops they made was here in Cambodia to see the temples. It was before the terrible war, during which tourism suffered along with many people. I wish I knew more about what it was like to be here then, before the many tourist amenities (and shopping opportunities, don't forget!) were modernized. I never thought to ask about the details.

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