Friday, February 1, 2008

Saving the best until last - Angkor Temples

We flew into Siem Reap (Cambodia) on Christmas eve, the airport is brand new and easily the nicest we came across. Works of art, carvings based on the temples and lovely fountains (as well as exceptionally friendly customs staff).
Christmas days was our first day (of three) at the temples - starting with small ones. even they were amazing. Lots of very steep steps and the kids were hot and tired by lunch time. So we went swimming and geoff kept exploring.
On the second day we managed to get a guide, made a great difference to our understanding, of the roles of the Hindu religion and then the Buddist 'take over' of Cambodian religion. The kids were rapt as we started the morning off with an elephant ride, very unsteady but good fun. There are fabulously intact carvings (all these temples date to around 1000 years old) which managed to escape the destruction of Pol Pot. Nations from around the world, especially those that had looted these sites are currently restoring many of the temples. The large heads are called Banyon heads and face in each direction.
The highlight for us was the temples where Tomb Raider was filmed, a place called Ta Prohm. Not because they filmed there but the temples were covered in these enormous cottonwood trees, very shady, very peaceful and not too many tourists there, (unfortunatly also very destructive and are slowly being removed).
We saved the largest and best known Temple, Angkor Wat, until our final afternoon. We had seen many photos, but the size was a shock to us. It covers such a large area, and the central towers (which were closed to visitors) are enormous. Around the central building is carved an intricate bas relief scene that covers many myths as well as some historic scenes. We only saw less than a quarter of this, too much to take in one sitting.
Henry loved the temples as there was plently of room to run and jump, the other kids were suitably impressed with other aspects (no so much with the myriad of people selling stuff outside the temples).
If you get a chance to go there, grab it (although not in summer, I can't even begin to imagine the heat and humidity then). A wonderful place.

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