Since I only got to see one temple on my first day (although, it IS the world's largest religious structure), I decided that I wanted to see more on my second day - some in the morning and some in the afternoon. I learned my lesson from Day 1 so I put two full 1.5 liter bottles of water in my backpack and asked my driver, Saren, to take me to Bayon, inside the ancient city of Angkor Thom.
I found out later that Bayon is actually the newest temple in Siem Reap - it was built a mere 950 years ago. It makes me shake my head in amusement to think that we Americans from the east coast proudly like to show off our old houses and buildings, structures that were put up 200 or 300 years ago. If any Cambodian people were to go to Old Salem and join a tour, I'm sure they'd probably like what they see but would also think to themselves about how young the buildings are!
Anyway, I thought I'd be seeing just Bayon, which is in the center of Angkor Thom, but Saren dropped me off there and told me he'd pick me up in two hours at the Terrace of the Leper King. I wasn't sure I was at the Terrace of the Leper King when I got there (there were no signs), but I just started walking through the tuk-tuk parking lot in that area and found Saren with no difficulty.
I think it's time for some pictures...
Food stall on wheels, just outside of Angkor Wat on the way to Angkor Thom
Getting ready to go through the entrance gate at Angkor Thom
There are two rows of carvings lining the way into Angkor Thom. On the left are the gods, on the right are the demons. This is one of the gods. He looks newer compared to the others, but with a big chunk taken out of his cheek
This is one of the demons - apparently they don't get dental as part of their benefits
I was shocked and excited to see at least a dozen monkeys just inside Angkor Thom's gate. I paid $1 for a bag of small bananas and tried to distribute them fairly. While I was leaning over to get a picture of these guys, another monkey ran across my back. Later on the other side of the road, another one grabbed onto my skirt so I'd give him a banana. This was an awesome experience that was totally unexpected!
A couple of girls selling lotus root for the monkeys
The monkey welcoming crew - they take their job very seriously
This is one experience I didn't get to try, but really wish I had - riding an elephant. I was worried that I'd weigh too much for them, but seeing as they carried many of the stones used in the temples from 60km away, I think they'd be okay carrying me for a few minutes
Bayon Temple - it looks like a haphazard stack of rocks from here, but there're actually several Buddha heads that become easier to see when you get closer
Apsara dancer details on some columns
At least 2 Buddha heads are visible here - can you see them?
More details from the temple
Bet you can see the Buddha heads with no problem now, right?
Everywhere you look, you see such incredible detail, even hundreds of years after the temples were constructed
Another Apsara dancer next to a window
When you see holes in the stones, that usually means that those stones were brought here by elephant. If the stones have no holes, that means they were transported on the river. There are holes here, but they're smaller than the normal holes you see. I'm not sure where these holes came from
The walkway to Baphuon temple. My Lonely Planet guide book says this structure is also known as the world's largest jigsaw puzzle. During renovation, the temple was taken apart piece by piece. During the fighting and troubles in Cambodia in the last 50 years, though, all of the documents detailing where each piece goes were destroyed. That means the group working on this temple had to decide where each of the 300,000 pieces belongs!
The aptly named "Elephant Terrace"
The "Terrace of the Leper King." I'll show you some better pictures from here when I upload pictures from Day 6
One thing I learned in Cambodia that I had never fully appreciated is just how cool shade is! Previously, I would think, "well, it's a little cooler, but it's still outside, therefore it's hot." I don't think I was right. I wanted to go to Baphuon when I was walking by but when I saw that long, unshaded walkway, I couldn't help but remember my experience the day before at Angkor Wat so I decided I would just get a picture from where I was. Then, walking past the Elephant Terrace to the Terrace of the Leper King, I was also unprotected from the bright rays of the sun, so when I saw a tree offering some shade, I took a seat on some discarded stones to rest. Let me tell you, the shade offered there was AMAZING!!! It was so much more comfortable than the alternative. I still had some time before I needed to meet Saren, so I pulled out my book and my second bottle of water (I had already finished one in less than two hours!) and enjoyed the cooler temperatures under the tree.
I had rested on some stones next to these and didn't realize they also had carvings on them until I stood up
In the afternoon, I decided that going to smaller temples would be better. I could see most or all of the temple, plus I had the cooler temperatures of late afternoon to enjoy them in. I looked at my guide book and the one in my hotel room and decided to go to two temples that are just across the road from each other: "Chau Say Thevoda" and "Thommanon." According to what I read, Thommanon is in better shape than Chau Say Thevoda, but other than that, they were supposed to be very similar to each other. I walked around the two temples in about an hour, then Saren took me a little farther down the road to Ta Keo, which is being restored with help from China. (Most temples would have a sign telling what group or organization or country is helping in its restoration and I saw the Chinese flag a couple of times, India's, Germany's and others, but I didn't see any that America is helping with. I don't know if that means we aren't helping on any of the temples or I just didn't see the ones that we're responsible for.)
Rubbings from some carvings from various temples
One of Cambodia's smaller temples - "Chau Say Tevoda"
It looks like a beautiful door, but obviously it's not
Half of the walkway to this door was completely gone! It was kind of cool though, because even under the walkway, the stones were intricately carved
Thommanon, across the road from Chau Say Tevoda
A detail from Thommanon in the afternoon light
The vertigo-inducing walk to the top of Ta Keo. Needless to say, I took a picture of someone climbing to the top but didn't join in myself
This was just the first of many times I saw stacks of rocks placed around the temples. I suspect someone arranged them like that just for interesting picture opportunities
Since April is the hottest month in Cambodia and at the end of their dry season, it almost looks like the tree leaves are in fall colors
That's it for day two - day three will be following shortly!