Exploring the Angkor Wat Temples

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For my 40th birthday, I wanted to do something BIG. Something from my Life List, something that came from my dreams.  Since I was in Sri Lanka for the big event, it made sense to take advantage of being on this side of the world. But having just traveled from L.A., I didn't want to fly too far. So I came up with Cambodia and Angkor Wat.  I'll admit that this was partly inspired by Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, which I dig because of my deep love of Indiana Jones. (I also like The Mummy movies, if you must know.)


I only decided a few days before my birthday on Dec 21, so I had to wait until my husband could get some time off, which wasn't until two months later. Not the most ideal time to visit weather-wise, but I figured my years in Sri Lanka had prepared me and at least we wouldn't have to contend with many tourists. What I didn't realize was that it would be so challenging to make sure my husband could get into Cambodia with his Sri Lankan passport. I got mine online, as did our British passport-holding friends. So walking into the airport was exciting, yet suspenseful. Here's Kshemendra, Abey and Mary walking in. (Click on any photo to enlarge it.)

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Happily, they gave him his visa! So after a brief stop at our hotel, we were off to explore Angkor Wat. In my head, Angkor Wat was something we'd view from the exterior, like this (from trip advisor):

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and then we'd see the 5 main spires that represent the Hindu mythical five peaks of Mount Mehru. And we'd get close to see the representations of Nagas – their many-headed mythical serpents, and the Apsaras – celestial nymphs representing an ideal of female beauty. Then we'd be off to the places I really wanted to see at Angkor Thom, where there's a temple with giant stone faces, and another where the trees have taken over (where Lara Croft wandered, above). But actually Angkor Wat is HUGE and extensive! Like this (from Wikipedia):

250px-Angkor-wat-central By the way – Angkor Wat means "Temple City".

And there's a moat and a series of looooooong pathways before you're even really inside.  See?

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That's me holding an umbrella for shade. It was about 95 degrees F at 11am. I was wearing my baggiest, coolest, lightest clothes. Long pants with shoulders covered because it's still an active site of worship.

On the other side of this entrance, there's another looooooong pathway.

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Even the stone walls that have been there since the 12th century are fainting from the heat.

If this hadn't been abandoned, it might be in similarly good shape as some of it's contemporaries — Westminster Abbey and Notre Dame de Paris.

Off to the side are two library buildings that you can see in the 36-second video. (Sorry, I'm not a good videographer.)

Finally!  The entrance to the temple!

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And once you're inside, you follow the arrows and signs, and there's no last chance exit like they have at Disneyland. You're IN.   (Click on any photo to enlarge it.)

Lions guard both sides of the stairs, Apsaras entice from beside the pillars and long galleries branch out on both sides.

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As you can see from the sign to the left of the entrance, they were good about letting us know which section of the ruins were the most ruined, and therefore, the most dangerous.

I'm holding my hubby's camera bags there.

Here's some detail from just behind that danger sign of a welcoming Apsara and column decoration.

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There's Mary peeking from the gallery to the right, which is where we'll be next. 

 

P1010016 Me capturing Kshemendra with my camera in the long hallway of outer columns. 

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Inside the inner columns are wall friezes. Here's me snapping a small sample.

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Pretty good detail in this section. I liked the elephant.

The columns all look like this, but are in various states of disrepair.

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Following the arrows, we went through an inner, lofty hall…

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And then emerged into the inner courtyard. From here, it looks as if there is a decoration at the bottom of one of the towers, but actually, it's from a closer building, just perfectly aligned. 

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See? Here's us with only the closer one visible.

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Then we climbed halfway up the steps behind us and took some more.

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We couldn't enter the upper sections from here, so we went back down to the courtyard filled with lovely rubble.

P2230053 Stacking stones is a form of worship. 

Here's a 360 degree view of the inner courtyard… with a tour guide walking by, some tourists and more lovely rubble and ruined ruins.

 

Before we reached the highest level we could access, we did find a couple of Buddha statues that are obviously still being cared for and prayed to.

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It was an oasis of vibrant color amidst ruins stripped of all but stone.  

And then we got to the other side and saw the steps we'd have to climb to complete the tour. I was soooo hot and tired and said "nevermind!" but then I realized I'd regret it, so up we went.

At least the breeze was good up there, and the view…

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We're almost done now! 

There were a few pretty things to see, but this video shows the point of being up there, I think.

 

So then we went as fast as we could to meet Mary and Abey at the air conditioned Angkor Cafe across the street from the entrance!  I was overheating. Head pounding, heart pounding, sunburned and shaky. But lunch in cool comfort fixed me up enough to carry on.  Next: Angkor Thom! 
 

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