A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: feiheli

Day Six

Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom

sunny 77 °F

I don't think I'd be going out on a limb to say that most people who visit Siem Reap go to Angkor Wat at least once to catch the sunrise. My own experience in watching the sunrise is almost exclusively confined to one particular day. My home church (and many others in the area) has a sunrise service on Easter morning. Other than that, I have to admit that most days I'd rather sleep in. Sunrise is indeed a beautiful time, but unfortunately it's scheduled too early for me.

However, I've found that it's a bit easier to get up early and go to bed at a decent hour when I'm on vacation. When travelling internationally, I'm aware that I may never have the chance to be in that place again, so I'm more willing to do things I won't normally do and follow a different schedule. When I received the itinerary for the photo tour, I saw that sunrise at Angkor Wat was on the second day so I made plans to go to bed as early as possible the night before. I didn't want to oversleep and miss an experience at the top of everyone's "To Do" list in Siem Reap.

Nathan told me that we'd be leaving his hotel at 4:30 in the morning and to make sure I wasn't late since I had to come from my hotel. He also warned that my driver may say it's too early, but not to listen to him. I asked Saren if he could meet me at 4:15 and sure enough, he said I didn't need to be there that early. I insisted that I needed to leave then so he told me it was no problem. I actually got to the hotel about 4:20 and we all got in the van and were gone before 4:30.

I have to say, it was a surreal experience walking through the temple before it was even light out. I hadn't thought to bring one, but fortunately we had two flashlights in our group, so we kind of bunched together and made our way to the pool that still has water inside the outermost wall of Angkor Wat. Nathan advised us to get as close together as we could because many more people would be coming and if others placed themselves in the middle of our group, it would be more difficult for him to move among us and help. We all set up our tripods and cameras in the dark (I should probably practice doing that again -it was difficult to do without being able to see much) and then started taking pictures.

It's funny that even though you can't see much with the naked eye that early, if you set your camera on a 30-second exposure, a lot of light actually gets into the camera and you end up with a picture that looks nothing like what you can (not) see. I'm including a few pictures of sunrise (I took 64, so I narrowed down a lot for you!) here.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat.  This picture was taken at 5:18am on a 30-second exposure

Sunrise at Angkor Wat. This picture was taken at 5:18am on a 30-second exposure

(5:40am)

(5:40am)

(6:08am)

(6:08am)

(6:23am) What a difference 65 minutes can make!  Note the trash and how low the water is in this pond during the dry season.  Incidentally, the pond on the other side of the walkway is completely dry

(6:23am) What a difference 65 minutes can make! Note the trash and how low the water is in this pond during the dry season. Incidentally, the pond on the other side of the walkway is completely dry

After sunrise, most of the visitors to the temple start streaming into the inner halls, so Nathan planned for us to have breakfast and wait until there were fewer people inside. Most people take pictures of the sunrise, try to see the inside of the temple in the cooler morning temperatures and then go back to their hotels for breakfast. I'd say by 8:00, there are actually very few tourists there.

After breakfast, we went to the newer monastery on the grounds of Angkor Wat and picked up a local monk whom Nathan has gotten to know, then went into the temple proper for some pictures. Several of the few people who were left on the grounds also wanted to take pictures of the monk and Nathan allowed it for a time, but eventually told these interlopers that we were paying for this experience and everyone seemed to understand and put their cameras away.

Before leaving the monastery, we spotted a local kid who thought it was fun to jump over a pile of burning trash and leaves.  I wish I had changed the settings on the camera to get him frozen in the air, rather than as a blur.  Either way, it's obvious that he's jumping

Before leaving the monastery, we spotted a local kid who thought it was fun to jump over a pile of burning trash and leaves. I wish I had changed the settings on the camera to get him frozen in the air, rather than as a blur. Either way, it's obvious that he's jumping

"Our" monk walking through the outer corridor of Angkor Wat's inner structure.  The next group of pictures all feature him

"Our" monk walking through the outer corridor of Angkor Wat's inner structure. The next group of pictures all feature him

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A younger monk who was kind enough to pause and pose

A younger monk who was kind enough to pause and pose

This carving is part of a story - the carvings wrap around all four sides of the structures and start from right to left.  When they've been polished to this sheen, it's because someone's touched it.  If you need a better back, you rub the back of a figure; if you have knee problems, you rub the knee; if you want bigger boobs...well, you get the picture.  Apparently some people wanted a healthy horse and healthy legs.  These carvings have been roped off now - they don't want people touching them anymore.  At some point, they'd be rubbed away completely so they're trying to save what's still there

This carving is part of a story - the carvings wrap around all four sides of the structures and start from right to left. When they've been polished to this sheen, it's because someone's touched it. If you need a better back, you rub the back of a figure; if you have knee problems, you rub the knee; if you want bigger boobs...well, you get the picture. Apparently some people wanted a healthy horse and healthy legs. These carvings have been roped off now - they don't want people touching them anymore. At some point, they'd be rubbed away completely so they're trying to save what's still there

Bullet holes scar a column - these are here from when the Khmer Rouge was hiding out in Angkor Wat.  It also seems that someone tried his hand at some grafitti

Bullet holes scar a column - these are here from when the Khmer Rouge was hiding out in Angkor Wat. It also seems that someone tried his hand at some grafitti

After leaving Angkor Wat, we all returned to our hotels for a well-deserved break. We had to meet up again around 2:30 to go to our afternoon destination, Angkor Thom.

I had already been to Angkor Thom on Day 2 (monkeys, elephants, Buddhas), but since I liked it, I didn't mind going back. In fact, by going with a couple of guides who've been there countless times before, they showed me some of the secret spots that I hadn't known about the first time.

Back to Angkor Thom - this is outside the north gate

Back to Angkor Thom - this is outside the north gate

For example, when I first visited the Terrace of the Leper King, I was kind of wiped out from the heat and just wanted to rest. I saw a few walls that had tons of carvings on them, took one or two half-hearted pictures and then put my camera away. But on Day 6, Nathan showed us the carvings behind the carvings. The Terrace was expanded at some point and the original carvings were covered over and protected from the elements - now you walk through a passageway that's about 3-4 feet wide behind the outermost wall to see these carvings.

This and the following few pictures are from the Terrace of the Leper King - most of these figures are in better shape than the ones I showed you previously

This and the following few pictures are from the Terrace of the Leper King - most of these figures are in better shape than the ones I showed you previously


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On top of the Terrace of the Leper King

On top of the Terrace of the Leper King

The same statue from the front

The same statue from the front

Phimeanakas Temple

Phimeanakas Temple

Baphuon - believe it or not, the sky was actually blue that day (see previous picture)

Baphuon - believe it or not, the sky was actually blue that day (see previous picture)

The base at Baphuon

The base at Baphuon

Back at Bayon

Back at Bayon

A nun sitting watch in Bayon

A nun sitting watch in Bayon

It's the Buddha heads again

It's the Buddha heads again

Others may not enjoy this picture as much as I do, but I love it - I think it's my favorite picture from the entire trip!  I took it from inside a tower while waiting out the rain - I especially like the body language of the girl as she too waits out the rain

Others may not enjoy this picture as much as I do, but I love it - I think it's my favorite picture from the entire trip! I took it from inside a tower while waiting out the rain - I especially like the body language of the girl as she too waits out the rain

This girl decided to brave the rain to look at the details on the outside of the tower. I like the contrast of her red skirt and bag against the stones

This girl decided to brave the rain to look at the details on the outside of the tower. I like the contrast of her red skirt and bag against the stones

Buddha heads (last time, I promise)

Buddha heads (last time, I promise)

My hotel by night

My hotel by night

I can't believe I've been back in Shanghai for three weeks, which means it's taken me much too long to get these blogs finished!!! Some people told me after reading my blogs from Vietnam that they wanted to travel there, just based on my experiences. I hope that I've piqued your interest in Cambodia as well. I hate to say this since I planned so long for Vietnam and really enjoyed it there...but I think I have to say that I preferred Cambodia. If you want natural beauty, Vietnam is definitely the place to visit (especially Halong Bay!), but if you want history, culture, fabulous ancient architecture, an easy time finding English speakers and an inexpensive location, go to Cambodia! I've said this in one of my previous blogs, but let me say it again - just don't go in April if you can't take the heat.

Well, I think that's it from Cambodia. I really enjoy reading your comments, even though I'm not always so good at replying to them. That's why I enjoy blogging - I can let many people know about what I'm up to without writing tons of individual e-mails. Therefore, if you have anything you want to tell me or ask me, I'd appreciate hearing from you. I've heard that now you have to register with Travellerspoint to leave a comment on the blog, so if you don't want to do that you can always reply to the e-mail I send to let you know there's a new blog entry. I hope to hear from you soon!

Posted by feiheli 23:47 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day Five

Ta Prohm

rain 66 °F

If I had the money and the God-given talent, I would quit my job tomorrow (well, in one month since my contract says I have to give one month's notice) and go back to school to study photography. Since that's really not an option, I've taken to looking for photo tours while traveling. They're great because it's a small commitment to make to improve my skills but also a way to get some really nice pictures at the same time.

I started the planning for my Cambodia trip about two months before I took the trip. For Vietnam, I planned for a full year before I began travelling. In February, when I started thinking about vacations for this year, I knew that several of my friends and colleagues had been to Cambodia and all of them had enjoyed it so I did some research on Cambodia and found out that the rainy season is from May to November. Since a friend and I were already planning a trip in September, I decided that sooner would be better than later.

When it came to booking things, the first reservation I made was for a photo tour, second was the hotel and third was my flights - this should tell you just how much I enjoy taking pictures. I had $250 left over from my trip to Vietnam so I had earmarked that money for a photo tour if I could find an affordable one. I went online (how did people ever plan trips before the internet?) and found a tour led by a professional photographer named Nathan Horton. You can check out his website and samples of his work at www.nathanhortonphotography.com.

His work is incredible and his prices are just right. And when I say "just right," I mean "just right!" The prices have just increased, but when I took his tour it was $150 a day or $250 for two days. (It's still $150 a day, but now $275 for two days.) He actually leads a four day tour, but gives participants the option to decide how many days they want to attend. I decided to only attend the first two days: one, since I had a $250 budget, I wanted to stay within that amount. Two, since the third day of the tour was my last day in Cambodia, I didn't want to be too tired or feel rushed, especially since he led a sunrise excursion that morning and check-out at my hotel was 12 noon. Obviously, the fourth day wasn't even an option since I wasn't in Cambodia by that time.

Nathan gave me some great tips and with his help, I took some pictures that I'm really proud of. They don't approach the level of "wow!" that his do, but they're so much better than I could do on my own. Plus, I got the chance to meet some really nice people who also have a passion for photography (unfortunately, I didn't catch all of their names). It was a pretty international group when I attended (apparently there was a "replacement" for me on the third day, but I don't know if any other new people joined after I left) - Nathan is from the UK but living in Cambodia; there was an Australian woman who's living in America; an Australian man now living in Hong Kong; a Canadian living in Vancouver; a Filipino woman living in the Philippines and a man who answers the "where are you from" question with "I hold a German passport." He currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but apparently has spent the last 20 years living in many places outside of Germany. From his stories, it seems that he's spent time in Madrid, London and even Shanghai! When he found out that's where I'm living, he told me that he'd lived there for two years before going to KL.

The first day of the tour we met for a couple of workshops in the hotel where Nathan (and everyone else except the Filipino woman and I) was staying. First, he went over the "nuts and bolts" of the cameras, a Technical Workshop. After lunch was an Aesthetic Workshop, then later we went to one of the temples, Ta Prohm (also known as the "Lara Croft Temple"). I definitely felt like the kid in the Technical Workshop, but not because I was younger than the others (the woman from the Philippines and I are around the same age, actually). I have previously kiddingly called my camera the "baby DSLR," which turned out to be a very apt term on this trip. Most of the others attending the tour had cameras, lenses, bags and tripods that easily added up to $3000 or $4000 worth of equipment, probably more. When I bought mine last year, the camera body, two lenses, tripod, bag and other assorted items totaled less than $1000. It definitely felt like a situation of the kid playing with the big boys. Fortunately, no one seemed to care what make or model camera other people have - we were all just focused on trying to get great pictures.

I think I'd mentioned earlier that my driver Saren had tried to get me to visit Ta Prohm earlier in the week, but I held off because I knew I would be going on Friday. I have to say, Ta Prohm was definitely my favorite temple so I wouldn't have minded getting to go there twice. I guess I'll have to plan another trip to Cambodia one of these days... The reason Ta Prohm is my favorite is because the other temples show you the talent of the people who built and carved them. They show their incredible attention to detail and planning. Ta Prohm, however, shows the talent, attention to detail and planning of God. And His work is far more impressive than the work of the most talented human being!

It's always seemed interesting to say that this person or that person "discovered" a temple hundreds of years after it was built, so I asked the local guide who accompanied our tour, "how could this temple have been lost?" After all, it's not that far from many of the other temples and the ancient city of Angkor Thom. He told me that it was never truly lost, it was just that Ta Prohm was used by people who practiced one type of Buddhism. When another type became more popular, Ta Prohm was abandoned in favor of other temples. It was stunning and much cooler than the other temples I'd visited. Those late afternoon hours truly are better for photographers, especially when carrying around a lot of gear in a hot climate!

I think it's time for some pictures, don't you?

An Apsara dancer nearly hidden by trees at the north gate of Ta Prohm

An Apsara dancer nearly hidden by trees at the north gate of Ta Prohm

More Buddha heads - there are four faces on each of these towers, representing the four faces of Buddha: compassion, mercy, happiness and kindness

More Buddha heads - there are four faces on each of these towers, representing the four faces of Buddha: compassion, mercy, happiness and kindness

A rare sight at this temple - there are no trees growing in, on or through it

A rare sight at this temple - there are no trees growing in, on or through it

I like the peek of pink in the doorway

I like the peek of pink in the doorway

I also like the posture of this tourist peering inside the temple

I also like the posture of this tourist peering inside the temple

One last shot before we get to Ta Prohm's main attraction

One last shot before we get to Ta Prohm's main attraction

One of the main attractions in all of Cambodia (Ta Prohm's trees, not me)

One of the main attractions in all of Cambodia (Ta Prohm's trees, not me)

Part of an inner courtyard

Part of an inner courtyard

Trees

Trees

Probably Ta Prohm's most recognizable tree with Julieanne, one of the women from my tour group getting a shot

Probably Ta Prohm's most recognizable tree with Julieanne, one of the women from my tour group getting a shot

A vertical shot of the same tree

A vertical shot of the same tree

Have you noticed the theme of trees at Ta Prohm?

Have you noticed the theme of trees at Ta Prohm?

They're actually two trees here

They're actually two trees here

This was one of my favorite trees at Ta Prohm

This was one of my favorite trees at Ta Prohm

More trees

More trees

And yet more trees

And yet more trees

I still have my last day to publish - maybe tomorrow. It's late and I want to get off the computer for awhile.

By the way, Happy Mother's Day to my mom and all of the other wonderful mothers reading this!

Posted by feiheli 21:36 Archived in China Comments (1)

Day Four

Banteay Srei, Eastern Mebon

sunny 72 °F

After lunch on day four (I spent most mornings trying to upload pictures to the website - look how well that turned out! I've been back home for a week now and I'm still working on day four), Saren took me to Banteay Srei. I knew it was supposed to be pretty far out, but I had no idea that I'd be riding in a tuk tuk for about an hour and a half! By the time we got to Banteay Srei, the back of my skirt was soaked through. Fortunately, it dried pretty quickly. Banteay Srei is a bit unique among Cambodia's temples because it was the only major temple not built by a monarch. It was also mostly built of sandstone, so it was a good choice of material to showcase such intricate carvings.

Upon getting to the site, the first place I hit was the bathroom (I was still drinking tons of water each day, after having learned my lesson on day one) and then the temple. Even though it's the only thing to see there, it was a bit confusing figuring out which pathway to take to the temple. Normally I wouldn't have worried so much about that since I had plenty of time, but because the pathway was long and mostly unshaded, I didn't want to spend too much time directly under the sun. Fortunately, I found that I had headed in the right direction, so it only took a few minutes to get to the temple site itself.

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei

I've appreciated the detailed carvings on the temples in Cambodia, but the carvings here are even more intricate than the others.  People guess that only women's delicate hands could produce such beauty, so this temple is known as "Citadel of the Women"

I've appreciated the detailed carvings on the temples in Cambodia, but the carvings here are even more intricate than the others. People guess that only women's delicate hands could produce such beauty, so this temple is known as "Citadel of the Women"

More incredible details above a doorway

More incredible details above a doorway

Just beautiful!  There were signs everywhere reminding people not to touch the carvings here.  I'm not sure what the sign on the left is for

Just beautiful! There were signs everywhere reminding people not to touch the carvings here. I'm not sure what the sign on the left is for

Four local kids who ran up to me asking for candy - sadly, I had none to give them

Four local kids who ran up to me asking for candy - sadly, I had none to give them

A partially filled moat

A partially filled moat

Still in great shape for a 1045 year-old temple

Still in great shape for a 1045 year-old temple

Although many of the walls of the temple are gone (as well as the head of the animal in the foreground), what's left is still breathtaking

Although many of the walls of the temple are gone (as well as the head of the animal in the foreground), what's left is still breathtaking

I like all the different colors here

I like all the different colors here

Like at Chau Say Thevoda, here's another door that's not a door

Like at Chau Say Thevoda, here's another door that's not a door

Finally, a picture showing the beautiful sky

Finally, a picture showing the beautiful sky

Guardians at the central "door"

Guardians at the central "door"

A last look at Banteay Srei

A last look at Banteay Srei

I probably stayed at the temple for about an hour, then headed back to Saren's tuk tuk and went to Eastern Mebon, which we had passed on the way to Banteay Srei. I wasn't incredibly impressed with Eastern Mebon, but I suppose most of the temples would be a letdown after seeing the beauty of Banteay Srei.

Eastern Mebon

Eastern Mebon

Another tower I did not climb.  Interestingly, at the base of these steps, a policeman tried to sell me his badge as a souvenir.  One of my colleagues said the same thing happened to him when he visited Cambodia years ago.  I wonder how many people actually take them up on their offer?  Maybe I should have gotten it after all, it could have been a cool gift for my dad

Another tower I did not climb. Interestingly, at the base of these steps, a policeman tried to sell me his badge as a souvenir. One of my colleagues said the same thing happened to him when he visited Cambodia years ago. I wonder how many people actually take them up on their offer? Maybe I should have gotten it after all, it could have been a cool gift for my dad

It was pretty much the same scenery here, no matter which way you looked

It was pretty much the same scenery here, no matter which way you looked

Protectors at the highest point.  The temples in Cambodia mostly consist of three levels.  The bottom level signifies hell, the middle is earth and the top is heaven.  I think I only made it to heaven in one of the temples I visited (Bayon)

Protectors at the highest point. The temples in Cambodia mostly consist of three levels. The bottom level signifies hell, the middle is earth and the top is heaven. I think I only made it to heaven in one of the temples I visited (Bayon)

This was one of the towers on the first (or second?) level

This was one of the towers on the first (or second?) level

There were quite a few of these wildflowers here

There were quite a few of these wildflowers here

After dinner at a Mexican place in town, I headed straight for the swimming pool at the hotel. I love to swim and only got to take advantage of the pool once. I probably would have tried to swim again on Day 5, but for reasons which will become obvious later, (day six) I didn't. Stay tuned for day five!

Posted by feiheli 08:02 Archived in China Comments (0)

Day Three

Srah Srang, Banteay Kdei, Prasat Kravan

sunny 73 °F

After lunch of the third day, I had asked my driver Saren to let me get some souvenir shopping done, then I wanted to go to Banteay Srei in the afternoon. He had misunderstood that I wanted to go there on Day three and since Banteay Srei is so much further away than the other temples, Saren thought it would be better to go there on Day four and visit some closer temples after shopping instead. I gave him carte blanche to pick the temples I'd see and he initially suggested Ta Prohm. Since I was already going to take part in a photo tour on Days 5 and 6 and knew that we'd go to Ta Prohm, he took me to three nearby sights that are all close together: Srah Srang, Banteay Kdei and Prasat Kravan.

The pool at my hotel, the Frangipani Villa.  Originally, I was going to stay at another hotel (the one the photographer suggested for his tour participants) but I could never get excited about it.  At the last minute, I booked the Frangipani Villa instead and never once regretted it.  I loved the location and the architecture and design of the hotel.  Plus, the staff there were very friendly and that's where I met Saren.  It looks like tuk tuk drivers are pretty loyal to the same hotels - in addition to Saren, I saw several other drivers there on multiple occasions

The pool at my hotel, the Frangipani Villa. Originally, I was going to stay at another hotel (the one the photographer suggested for his tour participants) but I could never get excited about it. At the last minute, I booked the Frangipani Villa instead and never once regretted it. I loved the location and the architecture and design of the hotel. Plus, the staff there were very friendly and that's where I met Saren. It looks like tuk tuk drivers are pretty loyal to the same hotels - in addition to Saren, I saw several other drivers there on multiple occasions

Poolside plumeria flowers - the word frangipani literally means "a perfume prepared from or imitating the odor of the flower of a tropical American tree or shrub, Plumeria rubra" (www.dictionary.com).  Now we know why the place is called the Frangipani

Poolside plumeria flowers - the word frangipani literally means "a perfume prepared from or imitating the odor of the flower of a tropical American tree or shrub, Plumeria rubra" (www.dictionary.com). Now we know why the place is called the Frangipani

Srah Srang - this was the bathing pool of the king.  There used to be a small wooden tower in the middle of the pool - if you look closely on the right, you can see some birds resting on the few remnants of the tower.  During the rainy season, these remnants are under water

Srah Srang - this was the bathing pool of the king. There used to be a small wooden tower in the middle of the pool - if you look closely on the right, you can see some birds resting on the few remnants of the tower. During the rainy season, these remnants are under water

Borramey, whom I met just inside the gate of Banteay Kdei. Her name means "full moon," which her family chose since she was born on a full moon.  She currently lives near Banteay Kdei with her grandparents.  Apparently, she's the only grandchild living with them since there are 11 children in her family (she's #7. She said #1 is a boy and all of the others are girls).  Her grandma picked her specifically since a "borramey" is supposed to be lucky

Borramey, whom I met just inside the gate of Banteay Kdei. Her name means "full moon," which her family chose since she was born on a full moon. She currently lives near Banteay Kdei with her grandparents. Apparently, she's the only grandchild living with them since there are 11 children in her family (she's #7. She said #1 is a boy and all of the others are girls). Her grandma picked her specifically since a "borramey" is supposed to be lucky

"Jenga" column - I'm not sure what the red color is from, maybe paint?

"Jenga" column - I'm not sure what the red color is from, maybe paint?

The main structure of Banteay Kdei

The main structure of Banteay Kdei

A now dry pond - it seems the ancient Khmers were fond of symmetrical ponds at their temples, one for men and the other for women.  Most of the ones I saw are long dried out

A now dry pond - it seems the ancient Khmers were fond of symmetrical ponds at their temples, one for men and the other for women. Most of the ones I saw are long dried out

Going back out of Banteay Kdei - looking across the road to Srah Srang

Going back out of Banteay Kdei - looking across the road to Srah Srang

An adorable little girl outside the shopping stalls at Prasat Kravan

An adorable little girl outside the shopping stalls at Prasat Kravan

Sunset's light on Prasat Kravan's western face

Sunset's light on Prasat Kravan's western face

A beautiful tree shades an old foundation

A beautiful tree shades an old foundation

Stay tuned for Day Four!

Posted by feiheli 06:57 Archived in China Comments (1)

Day Two

Angkor Thom, Chau Say Thevoda, Thommanon, Ta Keo

sunny 84 °F

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

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

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

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

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!

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

A couple of girls selling lotus root for the monkeys

The monkey welcoming crew - they take their job very seriously

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

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

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

Apsara dancer details on some columns

At least 2 Buddha heads are visible here - can you see them?

At least 2 Buddha heads are visible here - can you see them?

More details from the temple

More details from the temple

Bet you can see the Buddha heads with no problem now, right?

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

Everywhere you look, you see such incredible detail, even hundreds of years after the temples were constructed

Another Apsara dancer next to a window

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

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 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 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

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

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

Rubbings from some carvings from various temples

One of Cambodia's smaller temples - "Chau Say Tevoda"

One of Cambodia's smaller temples - "Chau Say Tevoda"

It looks like a beautiful door, but obviously it's not

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

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

Offerings

Offerings

Thommanon, across the road from Chau Say Tevoda

Thommanon, across the road from Chau Say Tevoda

A detail from Thommanon in the afternoon light

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

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

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

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!

Posted by feiheli 21:40 Archived in China Comments (1)

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