After a quick, distracted, lunch, we headed across the street and walked, albeit slowly, in the heat(temp in triple digits, and almost equal humidity) to the causeway leading to Angkor Wat. The benefit to visiting Angkor Wat during high noon is the lack of tourists. As Narin explained to me later, "after lunch, during the hottest time of the day, all the Japanese and Korean tourist head back to the hotel for a rest. The European tourist are visiting the other temples, and will return later in the afternoon, and stay for the sunset." And he was right, the only other folks we saw were Cambodian and Thai.
Angkor Wat was built by Suryavarman II and is dedicated to Vishnu, the Hindu God who is the preserver and protector of creation. One of the texts I read, mentioned that during the time of Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat was known as Vrah Vishnuloka, "the sacred home of Vishnu." Suryavarman II identified himself so closely to Vishnu, that when he died he was given the name Paramavishnuloka - "he who has entered the supreme paradise of Vishnu". Almost a thousand years later, Angkor Wat is so ingrained into Cambodia's National Identity, that all you need to do is to look the Cambodian flag:
Angkor Wat is famous for the spectacular Bas-reliefs that line the walls of the first terrace.
These "galleries" if you will, document great historical events, and significant Hindu legends. The galleries are meant to be viewed in a counter-clockwise direction, and we started from the Southwest corner. There's so much here, that I won't delve into them much. I think you'll enjoy the photos. Click on any of the photos to enlarge.
Panel 1 - Depicts the story of the Mahabharata.
Panel 2 - Suryavarman II and his army.
This is a well known bas-relief of Suryavarman II shaded by 15 parasols:
Panel 3 - The Heaven and Hell Gallery is broken into two; the top shows heaven where people live the leisurely life.
On the bottom terrible punishments are inflicted in hell. People chopped in half, eaten by animals, and forced to watch Jerry Springer Show reruns.
Panel 4 - Is probably the most famous Bas-relief, the Churning the Sea of Milk, the Hindu creation myth. Unfortunately, part of the gallery was undergoing restoration.
The most famous portion, that of Vishnu in the middle of the 92 Gods and 88 Demons in a tug of war for the elixir of immortality was in full display.
Panel 5 - Vishnu conquering the demons.
Panel 6 - Battle between Krishna and Bana.
Panel 7 - The 21 Gods fighting the demons.
Panel 8 - The Battle of Lanka
I'm sure by now you're relieved that I'm done with the bas-reliefs, no? Near the end of our little "tour", the Missus saw a flash of orange...it was a Monk, enjoying the bas-reliefs. Intrigued, She insisted we follow Him. I had my reservations, "There's something just wrong about stalking a Monk. This is bad, we may get punished by being sent to one of the 32 hells....the one where we have to watch all of the episodes of Golden Girls." "Hurry up, he's turning the corner, let's go!"
Though the bas-reliefs are the main draw of Angkor Wat, there were a few other things we enjoyed. Among them was the Hall of Echoes in the first terrace. If you lean back against the wall of this small room, and thump your chest, you'll hear and feel the vibration echo throughout the room. Who needs Disneyland?
There's much to see, much more than I could ever hope to capture in a single post. Here are a few more photos:
After visiting the other terraces, we were amazed...it was already 230! As we left the temple, a wave of tourists started pouring into Angkor Wat.
As we left Angkor Wat, Narin met us with fresh cut pineapple, iced towelettes, and iced water. We'd been out since 520 am. As we drove away, Narin, who'd started to get to know us, asked us if we'd like to visit Tonle Sap Lake. Having read in various guides to Cambodia that Tonle Sap was a bit of a tourist trap, we weren't quite sure. But Narin said, "I think you would like it." He also told us not to worry, we'll take care of the entrance and boat, and he wouldn't charge us extra for time and mileage. Because of all the questions we asked, he really wanted us to see Tonle Sap Lake.
And because this is a food blog.......
While I was in the tour office purchasing entrance to Tonle Sap, the Missus caught a whiff of something that put Her on high alert:
The Missus couldn't help Herself, and bought a couple. The Missus devoured one, and She gave one to Narin, and saved one for later. Per the Missus, these were moist, roasted perfectly, sweet, and were the best She's had since childhood. Sweet potato - sweet memories......
Coming up - Tonle Sap Lake.