Monday, November 12, 2007

Ankor. Wat on Earth?!

So it turns out the road from hell leads to somewhere close to heaven. The temples of Ankor, just outside Siem Reap, are something indeed. There are dozens of enormous, spectacular and diverse temples scattered throughout the countryside of jungles and paddy fields. The jungle has invaded them all but has been removed from only some. For the others, it has become an integral part, both binding the stones and splitting them apart, and only adding to the spectacle and atmosphere.

The temple of Ankor Wat is the headline act and certainly an awesome spectacle. Up close it amazes with endless intricate stone carving and detail.

The Bayon is adorned with hundreds of images of the Buddha which double as portraits of the commissioning Ankorian king. The temples are a mix of Buddhist and Hindu, sometimes both at once, as the Ankor civilization oscillated between the religions.

There are many working temples inside and amongst the ancient sites where monks are busy having fun as only Buddhist monks do.

Ta Prohm has been completely overrun by the jungle which has a permanent grip on the temple. It makes for an atmosphere of pure Tomb Raider, unsurprising since scenes from the movie were shot here.

My personal favorite, Preah Khan, is pure Indiana Jones.

By comparison, Pre Rup would seem to be pure Beastmaster (I'm thinking of the final scene on the temple steps where the bad guys are vanquished while the good guys lose only a male ferret in the battle. No ferrets were harmed in the taking of this photograph).

Preah Khan was very quiet and atmospheric. One of the few inhabitants was this girl with her pet - some kind of strange, nocturnal animal (answers on a postcard please). Stranger and stranger are the temples in the early evening.

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