22 October 2008

More temples

Right after Bayon, our driver Borat (another name we made up for none of us could decipher the actual pronunciation of his name) took us through the east gate of Angkor Thom and then left us to take the path on foot to Ta Phrom.
Our only knowledge of Ta Phrom sums up to Massive Trees and the Tomb Raider set. Honestly, i dont know what to expect, but at the same time my hopes of being swept off my feet was backed by Jasmain's verbal expressions of its awesomeness. Yes, i was amazed, but not by the temple, but by the power and force of the jungle. Ta Phrom is very much in the process of being engulfed by nature. The poem that attaches itself to this ruin is "with humans first conquering nature to rapidly create, and nature once again conquering humans to slowly destroy."
.This temple was built from 1186 and was a Buddhist temple dedicated to Jayavarman VII's mother.

It was quite annoying that many a path were closed off due to restoration works, and some corridors were clogged with piles of stone blocks crumbled by roots of giant trees. However, the aftermath beauty of this strangulation process has ironically created an atmospheric affair. Where walls are displaced, the tree roots form an archway, where buildings are tilting on the verge of collapse, the strangler vines are holding them together.

Most of the walls of this temple and stones are heavily carpeted in lichen and moss, so becareful if you're thinking of attempting any kind of stunts.

. (Above) That famous Tomb Raider tree.

.(L): Crocodile Dundee wannabes.

Overall, it was good that we came, we saw the temple, we saw the tree and that was that. Although amazing for withstanding the enormity and weight of merciless trees seeking to retrieve its territory, it did not cast any long lasting effect on me.
On the way out, Tim Chin was approached by a little boy who wanted to sell him a "Gu-Zheng", a traditional Chinese stringed instrument. We egged him on because he has been crazy over these instruments every where we go. The starting price was an outrageous "twenty-fai dollaaa" USD. While he was haggling, a soft little voice was following Uncle Teo. Whilst flipping her postcards, she counted "ee, er, sa, si, wu, liu" (numbers in Mandarin), "mai-la.. ni mai la, ee kwai" (buy, will you buy, one dollar). This girl, barely 7 i think, has the most pitiful, hair-raising voice. When we bought 2 and was about to close the doors of our van, she tiptoed outside the window, handing Timmy a wristband and me a postcard.. "For you" she said. We learned that the Gu-Zheng went down to $4 dollaaa, crazy huh! He regrets not buying it now.

Bakheng Mountain

After filling our stomach and a short rest back at our hotel, we returned to catch sunset at the Bakheng Mountain. And guess what!??! Look at me shoes... First the back, now the front. Huuhuu.On arrival, we saw elephants! For $10 USD, you can let an elephant take you up the mountain to Phnom Bakheng. We wanted to! but the queue was just too long, so trekked we did. The climb up was rather steep, pretty much like climbing Shahbandar. I couldnt believe my stamina, i broke out in heavy sweat and was huffing for dear life a few minutes into the hike. Boon's dad, in total opposite, was calm and collected. I should be so ashamed. The picture below is a corroded stairway leading up to the mountains, almost entirely covered with grass and creeping plants. It was cordoned off for the obvious risk. And ofcourse it is not purplish in colour, but a splash of my imagination. =)20mins later, we reached the summit of the mountain. The temple was shaped like a pyramid, mounted in terraces. The steps leading to the top was crazily narrow and steep. So narrow that it fits only half the size of my feet. See how the guy below is using his hands to aid his climb, and the dude above him has one baby in hand. My heart pounded so bad just watching him descend. A couple of us tried climbing up sideways, holding on to the side walls and realised it proved too steep and dangerous for Uncle Teo. Boon decided against letting his dad up so he waited for us on ground. It was pretty crowded by the time we arrived and we thought we were early! It seems like every tourist in Siem Reap watches sunset here. Most people have marked their spots with a tripod and picked out the best seat. This really is a popular destination for sunset undoubtedly because of its enviable position with 360 degrees view of the landscape. It's breathtaking and a good place to sit and reflect.

.Built on the hill where the 1st city of Angkor was established, this is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Work started at the end of the 9th century.

Chee Ting and Eric went about taking photos, and us too, except I was taking shots for a vain poser... "here here", "ooh, here nice too", waitaminute i meant to say natural poser ;)
When the rays of sunset began breaking through, it was disappointing to see lots of clouds. Ugh...We also did not stay for the entire length of sunset 'cos we have one elderly waiting for us =P

As we descend, my legs caved to a trembling mess. It's a scary feat and one wrong step can send you free falling. I'm only a size 5, what about people who are size 8, size 11? I read that in the olden days, Angkor people do not climb the stairs with their whole foot and instead they tiptoed barefooted. They must have some kind of elixir for lactic acid. Here's one horrendous picture of me drenched in cold sweat and breathing relief when i reach the bottom.

.Dont ever wear skirts to temples, I almost tripped and cracked my head several times.

As it turns out, when we heading downhill close to 6pm, the real crowd has only begun their trip. We passed hundreds and hundreds of people, most of which were the Japanese and Chinese . What was funny was a group of Chinese screaming "It's getting late" and made a turn up the restricted stairways. Running, in fact! And what does the sign say? Trumping that was a lady in a black dress supported by a pair of black stilettos running along. Stilettos!
Did you happen to realise someone was missing in our Phnom Bakheng photos? Mr.TimChin! He surrendered and went on his Siem Reap massage parlours expedition.

Achievements for the day: 13km or kilomeet (in Cambodian slang)

One full day of temple visit really knocked us out, so we decided to take a break and tour Siem Reap town the next day.

14 October 2008

Bayon, the first of our temple fest

In the beginning, we have this misconception that the temples are situated far away from town. I guess distances varies depending on which of the countless temples do you wish to see. Savong actually helped us draw up a plan on the must-see temples and from there we started our 2-day temple mission.
Our 1st temple on our 2nd day in Siem Reap is the Bayon Temple, the spiritual centre of Angkor Thom, which is roughly 20-30mins away from the city centre. We entered through the south gate of Angkor Thom (known as the Great City). I absolutely love this entrance (yellow star on map). As we reach the causeway towards this gate, we saw giant faces standing to the left and to the right of the causeway. It's a "wow" sight passing them as they stand tall with that cold smile and that picturesque moat as a background. I love love love the simplicity and the surreal emptiness about it. I couldnt get a decent shot in a moving car and soon gave up thinking i will exit through this gate, but we did not so no pics =\ I also conveniently left Jasmain's lonely planet guidebook in Brunei so i didnt know what they signify at that time. There are actually 54 statues on each side of the causeway, 54 gods to the left and 54 demons to the right taken from a story illustrated in the Angkor Wat.

.At the visitor's entrance.

.(R): I love TimChin's pose.

As we enter this temple, i have this overwhelming feeling of being on an archeological exploration. I wonder how the boys felt that instance especially with those hats on. This temple holds ground to 54 towers, each with 4 faces of the Avalokiteshavra, gazing in 4 cardinal directions and smiling down at you. You will feel like you're surrounded by a supreme being of power, of peace, and of great compassion. Avalokiteshvara is the Buddha of Compassion, better known as Quan Yin to the Chinese. But there's also another theory that the faces are made to resemble the King himself, Jayavarman VII, which is also said to be credible because he was a devoted Buddhist that shares similiarity with the Buddha in the depth of his compassion for his subjects.

My favourites here are no doubts the faces, the apsara carvings, the doorways and towers for stunning pictures. Ultimately what is amazing about this temple and the others we've seen are the crazy stackings, shapings and carvings of gigantic stones one on top of another making up every single bit of the temple. Just how on earth did they manage that in the 12th century?

By mid noon, we were nearly fried crispy. It was HOT HOT HOT, and i cannot be any more grateful for purchasing a mini-fan despite Boon2's mocking. That battery-powered wind and the purring of its plastic flaps is like magic,... however you can always settle for dettol wipes... give it a wipe on your face, on your neck, and perhaps under your shirt too, to cool down.

.(C) Boon2 lugging our tripod around which helps if you want group photos without bothering others, though setting it up can be quite a pain. And Steven, i am still upset my WA and Zoom lens didnt arrive on time~! ='(. (R) Insanely steep stairs that we had to buttcrawl down.
If you have the time and interest, you can let a lonely planet guide take you through the stories of the 1.2 km bas-reliefs found around the temple. To me instead, the beauty of Bayon lies on the mystical smile of the Buddha's face.

.Group photo usually involves me setting up the timer and running to the scene, but it was physically impossible for me to run and climb that stairs in 10 secs! Huuhuuhuu. What we thought was a cool tree house turned out to be platform for you to get onto an elephant. Duuhh.
.The Bayon is currently being restored by a Japanese team.
.One of my favourite shot of Bayon Temple.

Our next stop, Ta Phrom, in search for that Tomb Raider tree.

13 October 2008

The Adventures of Tim Chin

One night, the 5 siemreapers congregated at my hotel room's living area... sipping Angkor beer, crunching honey mustard chips, and watching European league reruns... and suddenly I burst out in laughter, slapping my thighs and continued laughing hysterically.

I told the guys we have our own version of TinTin! i.e. Tim Chin from Brunei, and we started recounting all the various 'adventures' of Tim in this short span of time in Cambodia. Eventhough TinTin's adventures are usually harrowing and ends with him escaping danger with a piece of endearing story, which our Tim Chin will hardly match but i think our Tim Chin had one helluva odd jobs experience in Cambodia.

"TimChin in Cambodia"
1. This was actually his 1st job in Kuala Lumpur before Cambodia. We found an unsuspecting TimChin ironing work clothes.

2. Bouncer to Waiter - Not only did he had a Heart Of Darkness' uniform on, he had a name tag and order slips. Service: Very good.
3. Drinks vendor - After a couple of hours under the scorching sun in the Silver Pagoda, you'd crave for a fizzy can of coke even if it cost 1USD, and this is the only stall you will find. Smart bloke.
4. Laundry Service - We found him topless in a rooftop restaurant putting out the table linens and napkins to dry.
5. Indiana Jones - Wonder what treasure is he after...6. Library inspector - Why no fan? Why no proper shelving?6. Mentor - Promise me you will go to school!?6. Musician - This piece of instrument is his obsession. There seems to be one in every other place we go and he makes good random music.
And last but not least....
7. Tuk-tuk driver - TimChin's favourite line, "Lady, you want a tuk-tuk? I bring you go see temple."
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