Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Angkor Wat - A World of Stone

We flew from Hanoi, Viet Nam to Siem Reap, Cambodia on Wednesday 9th January.  Our tuk-tuk driver, Savuai met us at the airport and took us to the hotel after a quick stop at the ATM, which provided cash in crisp US dollars.  

The next day we got up before dawn to start exploring Angkor Wat, which is a huge ancient complex with many stone temples.  Sara had a high fever and a hacking cough and felt like Patient Zero in a medical epidemic!  However determined not to miss anything we spent the day exploring several temple complexes.

The temples are made of huge pieces of stone and there are many intricate carvings in the stone.   I have no idea how they moved all the stone around to construct the temples.  Many of the temples have been restored; however, a few of the lesser visited ones are being taken over by the jungle and have the iconic tree roots growing over the stone.

Angkor Wat is a huge tourist destination so there are big crowds.  We managed to avoid most of the crowds by getting up before dawn and resting during the heat of the day, before a final afternoon/dusk excursion. 

The temples are surrounded by jungle and many large moats.  It is quite hectic with tourists, tuk-tuk’s, vendors and motor scooters.  We are amazed we did not see any accidents, or get run over ourselves; although it seemed our tuk-tuk was going to be squashed by a bus several times.

Our hotel provided us with the tuk-tuk driver everyday so we could visit any temples we chose.  Savuai took great care of us, waiting patiently under a tree with the other drivers while we explored the temples.  He also took us to an excellent local Cambodian restaurant with fabulous food, and we were happy to buy him dinner, which he seemed to greatly appreciate. 

One of our favorite temples was the Bayon, full of large stone carved faces on towering pillars.  We also enjoyed Preah Khan which was very long and being taken over by the jungle.  Here we met an old nun, who gave us both a blessing.  We also spoke to an artist who was painting in the temple.  We loved his work and bought several paintings. 

On our last day, Saturday the 12th we drove out an hour into the countryside to see Banteay Srei a small temple with very ornate carvings.  Since we arrived early it was empty and very peaceful.  That afternoon we took a ride in a tethered Helium balloon, which went to about 350  feet.  The sunset views were amazing.

When Savuai took us to the airport we shook hands and hugged and we both had a moment of emotion. John in particular had bonded in that short time in Angkor Wat. This was a 37 year old man whose father was killed by the Khmer Rouge when he was a small boy. This was a man making about $10 a day, living in one room with a wife and a small daughter. This was a man with a different color of skin living in a different part of the world speaking a different language but yet I felt a sense of brotherhood as two human beings on the same planet. Won’t it be nice if we all could have that sense of brotherhood?

We are headed home to Dallas tomorrow, January 24th, and will work on our photos and description of our Myanmar experiences on the plane!

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