Friday, May 19, 2006

Temple Madness

I visted a dozen or so temples in three days and took roughly 500 pictures just of the ruins. I was completely mesmerized by them and can't even begin to describe how beautiful they are in person. The pictures don't really do them justice. What added to the magic of the place was that the temples are still being used by buddhist monks. The statues are robed, there are people worshiping, and the smell of incense fills the air. There are also the ever present sounds of the jungle, musicians in the temples playing traditional music, and the chatter of the locals. I wish I could convey he presence and power of these places, but I cannot. You will just have to see it for yourself!

Bayon Faces


Bayon Faces
Originally uploaded by buckyreed.
The faces of Bayon Temple are everywhere! They are identical and all have the same beatific smile. I met two students from Phnom Penh who were studying archeology. They enthusiastically explained a lot of things about the temple, about the carvings, and about the history of it. I am still amazed at how proud the Cambodians are of these temples.

Outside Bayon Temple


Outside Bayon Temple
Originally uploaded by buckyreed.
Bayon Temple was another spectacular place. It looks like a pile of rocks from a distance, but is covered in beautiful carvings and statues. There are 216 GIANT faces carved into the towers that either depict a Hindu god or the king who built it, depending on who you ask. Legend has it that the temple was originally covered in gold.

Inner Temple Stairs at Angkor Wat

These are the stairs that I climbed to get into the upper/inner temple. They are steeper than they look, heavily worn, and covered with sand. Fun! I met some monks at the top that I talked to for a while. We descended the stairs together and one of the monks asked me if I was afraid. I told him that I was afraid of heights and he replied with "It is no problem to fall. Don't you believe in reincarnation?" Funny guy.

Angkor Wat


Angkor Wat
Originally uploaded by buckyreed.
Angkor Wat was one of if not the most beautiful things I've ever seen. It was HUGE. This is the postcard shot, but hopefully it gives some hint as to just how big this place is. I spent two half-days walking around the ruins and still didn't see all of it. I managed to get there during the absolute heat of the day and didn't run into too many tourists.

Roadside Country Restaurant


Roadside Country Restaurant
Originally uploaded by buckyreed.
This was a roadside restaurant that my driver took me to while visiting the temples. The brown building with the dirt floor is the kitchen. :) You don't want to know about the toilets. The food kicked ass and the people were friendly. These were family friends of Chan, the guy who drove me around for three days. Chan was a super nice guy and was extremely friendly. He took me to a Cambodian wedding party, introduced me to his family, and took me to a party at one of his friend's house. This was defintely not the normal tourist experience. Almost every Cambodian that I met asked me where I came from, how long I was staying, what I liked about Cambodia, and about my family. This last question was the most important to them! I was constantly suprised by how friendly and sincere people are in Cambodia.

My First Khmer Meal


My First Khmer Meal
Originally uploaded by buckyreed.
This was my first meal after arriving in Siem Reap. Tasty chicken curry Cambodian style. There was a Taiwanese couple at the next table that shared their pumpkin soup with me. Mmmm. The guy in front of the restaurant was one of the many, many landmine victims I saw. This is still a terrible problem and doesn't show any signs of abating anytime soon. In many ways this picture sums up what I experienced in Cambodia: A fantastic culture, generous hospitality, extreme poverty, and great personal tragedy.

Three Little Pigs


Three Little Pigs
Originally uploaded by buckyreed.
We passed this guy on the way into town. The pigs were still alive and were going to market. This was a common sight, but usually the pigs were inside wicker baskets on the back of the scooter. The local pork was quite tasty!

Gas Station


Gas Station
Originally uploaded by buckyreed.
There were only a few western-style gas stations in Siem Reap. Most of them were roadside vendors selling gasoline out of liquor bottles. Your mileage may vary.

Special Muscle Wine


Special Muscle Wine
Originally uploaded by buckyreed.
I almost fell out of the tuk-tuk when I saw this ad on the back of another tuk-tuk... I LOVE Asian marketing! The lady in the picture was the Cambodian national beauty queen for 2005 and I saw her in several other ads. What special muscle are they referring to anyway?

My Money is No Good Here


My Money is No Good Here
Originally uploaded by buckyreed.
US dollars are an officially and universally accepted form of currency in Cambodia. The only time I ever saw local money was as change for things that were less than a dollar. It was a little odd getting back a handful of bills instead of a quarter. I brought two bills from the US that I couldn't spend because they were torn. Nobody would take this money. Welcome to Cambodia! Your money is no good here.