Saturday, April 9, 2011

Angkor region - Day 3

The alarm rang at 4:00AM and I was up in a flash. Hey, wait a minute, what's that sound outside, can you hear that? Oh no! Is that rain? And thunder?

Drawing the window curtains apprehensively revealed that our fears had come true. It was raining..!! Which meant, sadly, no sunrise at Angkor Wat. 

We had been in two minds the previous day, wondering whether sunrise at Angkor Wat would be as disappointing as sunset at Phnom Bakheng. The clincher was when our 13 y/o said, "Lets' go", and very convincingly, too. I was secretly very relieved and happy that Junior was loving Cambodia as much as the Seniors.

Setting our disappointment aside, I called Tula, our tuk-tuk driver, and suggested that he should show up by 7AM, if the rain stops. The rain did reduce to a drizzle by then, and we decided to change our plans a little bit. 

The staff at the Golden Temple Hotel were awfully considerate and handed over a bunch of food boxes and water bottles as we left for the day. They said it would help as we went touring. Wow..!!

We decided to visit the Pre Rup temple early in the morning.  The Pre Rup ("Preah Rup") Hindu temple complex in the East Baray area was constructed around the year 960AD, dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Pre Rup temple was located in the capital at that time, and is about 12 km from Siem Reap town. 

The architecture is based on the temple-mountain or pyramid design. The complex is not too large, a little over 100m square. 

The temple is built on three tiers. Lions guard the stairways around the temple. 

A closer look reveals the intricate carvings, lions and apsaras that have got eroded over time. 

There are twelve brick towers at the second level. 

The five towers at the top level, representing Mount Meru, are similar to the architecture of the Angkor Wat which was built after Pre Rup. The five towers are dedicated to Lord Shiva and other Gods and Goddesses.

Gosh! There is really an amazing amount to learn. Far more than and certainly more interesting than what is taught at school. Travelling and learning is great fun. Playing with camera and lenses, and sampling different food is even more fun. 

Extremely steep and narrow Khmer stairs, even more challenging to negotiate after early morning rain. These stairs lead to the back side. 

A little detour at the middle tier with the brick towers provides excellent views of the temple complex and vegetation all around, with many photo opportunities.

It certainly helps to climb up and down gingerly, sideways, with an outstretched arm ready to take support from the wall nearby. Cameras and steep stairs need to be handled with care. 

There are several smaller shrines surrounding the base, at the lower level. 

On the road again, off to Bantreay Srei, filling up petrol at a local filling station. The storage drums are coloured differently, representing different grades of petrol. Premium unleaded, maybe?

The Banteay Srei temple is considered by many to be synonymous with the "jewel in the crown" of the temples of the Angkor era. Located about 22 km from Pre Rup, it is a pleasant 45 mins away by tuk tuk. The eastern Gopura, the only one remaining, provides a tiny glimpse of what is to come.

Wow, are those really carvings? It appears that the brown-red sandstone is a hard material that has stood the impact of wind and water erosion over time. Lord Indra (King of Gods, according to Hindu mythology, and also God of Wind and Rain) sits astride an elephant in the centre of the panel. 

Remains of galleries between the outside enclosures along the long causeway leading in. Only a few of the galleries are standing today.

Legend says that the temple carvings were the handiwork of ladies, no other way in which such delicate results could have been achieved. A quick look at one of the hundreds of pillars.

Between the enclosures as you approach the central temple complex lie several stones yet to be pieced together.

The doorways are relatively small, leading to speculation that the temples were constructed by ladies. Banteay Srei means "Citadel of Women".

Intricately carved bas reliefs on every pillar.

Two elephants seem to be honouring the God in the midst of carvings.

Painstakingly restored gopuras.

The carved lotus flower on the floor inside the temple complex. 

Small, exquisitely carved doorways lead into the interior parts of the temple.

There are three towers in the interior part, dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu, guarded by figures of kneeling humans with animal heads.

A close up view of one of the panels depicting Shiva's dance of destruction..

An even closer look. No wonder then, that Banteay Srei is referred to as the "jewel in the crown".

Carved, false doors were reportedly built for spirits. Several false doors are found with carvings all over the door, lintels and columns. Apsaras adorne the walls. 

The carvings seem to cover every available space, and go up to the ceiling level.

A close up of one of the Asuras (demons).

View of  the temple complex from the back. 

Dense vegetation around the amazing temple complex, hidden for a thousand years, discovered a hundred years ago.

Victims of land mine blasts play soulful music on a variety of local instruments.

Here is the cause of all the maiming. We stopped at the Land Mine Museum on the way back to Siem Reap, a grim reminder of the cruel era pf only a few decades ago, and the devastating after effects which still remain.

Villagers make cakes from sugarcane through a manual, stirring process. Handicrafts, clothes and sugarcane cakes are for sale along the highway.

Simple homes in villages on the way to Siem Reap.

Prasat Banteay Samre, off the beaten track is located a little east of the East Baray. The site can be reached via a short detour on the way back to Siem Reap from Banteay Srei. It is a quiet and relatively small temple, with a single tower which resembles the design of the Angkor Wat. 

The approach is from the east, along a mud road that parallels a causeway guarded by lions. 

The nagas (snake figures) line the sides of the long causeway. The causeway is a couple of 100 m long.

Inside the complex is the library (right) facing the central tower (left). A second library is on the opposite side of the complex across the central tower. The inside walls and platforms are again full of carvings. 

The central  tower viewed from the outside of the complex.

Scenes from the Ramayana are depicted on the gopuras and doorways. The style of the bas relief and the materials seems to be similar to that of Banteay Srei.

As we leave, a look behind at the Angkor Wat like central tower of Banteay Samre visible through the trees. 

Time for Soup and Amok at one of the restaurants opposite the Sra Srang baray. Once again a good opportunity to catch one's breadth. We have a few interesting sites to visit later in the afternoon.

The Banteay Kdei temple complex is right opposite the Sra Srang. The influence of the Buddhist and Jayavarman era is evident from the four headed Bayon style tower at the entrance. 

The site is rather long, with multiple enclosures and complexes.  The name means "Citadel of Chambers".

Nagas (snakes) are found along the walkway that leads to the Hall of Dancers.

Carvings depicting mythological stories decorate the doorways and walls.

The Hall of Dancers in the background, with Apsaras on the walls. The feet of a seemingly large statue that once stood, and with the heads of nagas in the foreground.

A "Live God" near the Hall of Dancers. 

A look up at the top of the Bayon style central enclosure.

Looking in from the library area is the central enclosure that houses a 'Shiva linga', showing a fusion of Hindu and Buddhist styles, as evident at several other sites, as well. 

As we leave to walk back to the gate near the Sra Srang, a curious look at the ruins hidden among the trees. Now, what might that have been?

The four impassive faces of Jayavarman high up at the exit gate of Banteay Kdei.

A short tuk-tuk ride brings us to Preah Khan which was a vast temple-monastery complex. Located a few km north-east of Angkor Thom, it is an extremely fascinating temple site. 

A part of the moat remains on the western side. 

Huge Garudas holds up Nagas on the perimeter wall.

Conservation work is still going on, a giant, priceless jig saw puzzle.

 A 'Shiva linga' in one of the galleries. 

A tall Buddhist stupa in the central enclosure.  

Devatas (Apsaras) still stand amidst the ruins.

Carved lintels and headless protectors still stand. 

The evening sun slants in through the dense vegetation.

The east gate leads to a giant tree that has established its presence.

The tree is really, really  tall.

Smaller temples are found around the central enclosure. This is a Vishnu bas-relief at the lintel level of the Shiva temple facing the west.   

Ruins of one of the monastic buildings in the complex. 

The entrance to the inner enclosure, looking from the west.

Preah Khan looks peaceful through the trees as you walk out towards the moat. It is a large complex, with several enclosures and galleries. We would need far more time for even a slightly closer look.

The light of the late afternoon sun falls on the devas and asuras over the moat, with a garuda in the background.  

A fruit seller waits for customers towards the end of the day, sitting amid the carved columns.

On the way back to Siem Reap, we stop at the Bayon Temple of Angkor Thom as the sun begins to set. 

A quiet moment during sunset at the Bayon temple.

Upon reaching Golden Temple Hotel, we were handed back our laundered clothes, $1 per kg, neatly ironed and folded.

The Golden Temple Hotel came up with a surprise that evening.  After the massage and swim, we were invited to complimentary dinner. Our dinner consisted of multi-storeyed sandwiches...

... and veg stir fry...

... and Khmer beef...

... at the restaurant overlooking the pool.   

Another day has drawn to a close. Perhaps it would not rain, and we would be able to view the sunrise at Angkor Wat the next day. 

-=-= End of Day 3 -=-=

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