Posts Tagged With: Ta Prohm

The Best Of Angkor Wat

IMG_9647A very belated Christmas and a Happy Chinese New Year! Friday, January 31 marks the transition from the year of the Snake to the year of the Horse within the Chinese tradition. The city of Phnom Penh is deserted; everyone is out in the provinces celebrating with their families.

As a consequence, we don’t have school today. In case you were wondering, this is what a day off in Phnom Penh looks like:

8:00-11:00, Drink coffee, blog, plan upcoming trips
11:30, Early lunch at the Russian Market
12:00, Get a massage
2:00, Head back to the Russian Market to get ingredients for dinner
4:00, Go for a swim in our pool
6:00, Dinner at home
8:00, Watch a movie of some sort

This weekend we are also renting bicycles and attempting to visit Silk Island—the real one this time. We also met up with friends for a drink last night; we went to the Irish Pub on the riverside for the first time. I had my first Kilkenny in over a year. Yum!

Anyways, this post is about the best of Angkor Wat. I’m not going to do a “Top Ten”, but I want to tell you what makes Angkor Wat simply spectacular. What makes it the stuff of legends. The reason I am dying to go back.

The trees.

Honestly. The trees in Angkor Wat are the pulse of the ancient temples. They are trees like I have never seen.

Let’s begin.

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They completely envelop the ruins, stretching so high into the sky you have to crane your neck. I cannot believe they can support their height simply on a jumble of old stone.

The most famous temple with astounding trees is Ta Prohm, the Tomb Raider Temple. Rember:

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Not going to lie, I might have pretended I was Angelina Jolie a few times. All I was missing was the black spandex and acting skills… right?

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More of Ta Prohm. The trees command the attention of your eyes. I can’t even fathom how they take root.

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Sean pretending he is the one and only Jolie himself.

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And it’s not like there is one famous tree. When you get there, you think to youself, “Oh, that must be THE tree.” Then you walk five feet and see another one. Then you pass through a crumbling archway and see one even greater than the last.
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One reason why I love them so much is that they completely humble the human existence. We are dwarfed in the massive, timeless presence. They have existed since before I was born, and will last long after I am gone. They bring life to dead civilizations. They own the place.
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Some of these photos aren’t even from Ta Prohm. Other temples had trees just as grand. We lost ourselves in wonder countless times.

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This one was in Ta Prohm for sure. The roots have grown so incredibly large that they need contemporary scaffolding.

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The best part is that all of the temples are in protected areas; it feels like you are driving through a national park in the states. The trees dwarf the car everywhere we went, leaving us under a gorgeous canopy.
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Abby and I climbed a hill that was built onto the side of a temple, and got a bird’s eye view of the road—and our car. There were a lot of swampy areas with trees coming straight out of the water.
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Then we found yet another spectacular tree. This one wasn’t even at Ta Prohm, it was at another temple complex.

IMG_9650The trees are not only decorative, but they are functional.

I have one more post devoted to Siem Reap to share with you. Then we head to Cambodia’s coast!

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Phnom Penh Day Trip: Tonle Bati

We had a day off a few weeks ago, a Tuesday, to be exact. Tuesday is an odd day to have off. It’s not attached to a weekend, and falls right after the first day of a work week. Sean and I were resolved to getting out of the city for a little day trip; to clear our minds of the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh. Plus, we are dying to see more of what the rest of Cambodia is about.

Our friends told us about a little place called Tonle Bati—a small lake 30 kilometers South of Phnom Penh. It seemed the perfect distance for an afternoon drive, and would certainly get us out of the city. What an adventure it turned out to be!

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Before we left, I must confess, we stopped at USA Donut. For donuts. I’m not kidding. Come on, what’s a road trip without apple fritters on the dashboard and a steaming mug of coffee in your hand? If you live in Phnom Penh and have never been, you’ve got to go. It will change your life. USA Donut is on the corner of streets 302 and 51. And no matter where you live, you have GOT to read this story, published only two weeks ago about the history of Cambodian refugees and donut shops. Completely blew my mind.

Anyways, so we picked up some strawberry donuts, chocolate-sprinkled donuts, and of course, the holy fritters, and headed down to Tonle Bati.

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One thing you’ve got to understand: Cambodia is temple-heaven. This place has more temples than Wisconsin has dairy farms. (Maybe not… But both are just as legendary.) Tonle Bati is the name of the lake we headed to, but is also the home to Ta Prohm and Yeay Peau.  Both are Angkorian-era temple complexes, built during the same time (12th century) as many of the temples around Angkor Wat.

The 12th century was 800 years ago. If it all seems too ancient to conceptualize, think about this…

12th Century:
– Second and Third Crusades
– Saladin
– Genghis Khan
– Knights Templar
– St. Francis of Assisi
– The windmill was invented

What makes Ta Prohm and Yeay Peau particularly interesting is that the area has been continually occupied since their creation. Yeay Peau is now part of a contemporary monastery.
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I had a friendly shadow all day… but she was not so enthused that I wanted to take so many pictures instead of hang out with her.

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So she decided to sneak into the pictures… fair enough.

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So this is Ta Prohm. Pretty amazing, huh? We visited during the rainy season, when the flowers were in bloom.

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The carvings were left so delicately preserved!

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What is fascinating to us is how these temples are used for contemporary Buddhist worship. The whole complex was sprinkled with people in doorways, people praying, people taking lunch breaks, people making offerings. The smell of incense permeates your journey. Sean liked the above shrine as it is a headless wonder…

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When we explored the grounds, we found some pretty cool wildlife. This picture isn’t too clear, but hopefully you can make out that the snake is indeed eating a frog!

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And this guy is just getting some sun.

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Yeay Peau is the ancient temple that is surrounded by a contemporary monastery. I can’t get over all the temples that are built within and around trees here. It is really beautiful and awe-inspiring… especially for someone like me who absolutely loves trees!

IMG_7983There were also a ton of statues in the monastery. Some more cryptic than others. Sometime we need to go with a Buddhist guide who can explain the meaning of them all to us.


IMG_7985I do know, though, that this is a Naga. The Naga, in addition to being our school’s mascot here in Phnom Penh, is a famous deity in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The Naga is a snake (a king cobra, to be exact), that is believed to have come from the water to protect all of humankind. In Cambodia specifically, legend says that the Cambodian people were “born from the Naga”, due to a wedding between the Naga king’s princess and an Indian Brahmana. Wikipedia actually does a great job breaking down each countries’ beliefs towards the Naga. Check it out here if you’re interested.

IMG_7986 This is the actual temple of Yeay Peau. You can see how they built the contemporary temple around it. An interesting way to both preserve and incorporate!
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The monastery was built next to a man-made lake of water for religious purposes.

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If our interpretation was correct, these were all female statues.

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Can you spot the blue-skinned deity? The temple of Yeay Peau is famous for pregnant mothers, who come for good luck and good blessings for their upcoming birth. If I were to interpret the above picture, I would say that the blue-skinned deity is a Hindu god (Shiva? Lakshmi?) that is carrying a linga, or a phallic object, as a symbol of fertility for the woman in the center. I may be wrong, but what is the purpose of art if not to provoke thought?

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Again, more interesting statues around Yeay Peau. I wonder what the story is behind this one? An elephant, a god-looking form, and a colorless woman kneeling before her, receiving some sort of liquid into her bowl. Religion, like history, is full of so many fascinating stories!

IMG_7998Here is the actual lake of Tonle Bati. You can even see more temples on the opposite side.
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Another animal spotting…

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Tonle Bati is actually more famous for weekend day-trippers looking to lounge along the lake instead of climb around the temples. Sean and I are the odd ones. For a small fee you can rent one of hundreds of wooden floating huts on the shores of the lake. Each hut is owned by a family that will cook for you and set up cushions for you to relax on. Sean and I weren’t in a lounging mood, but we may have to come back on a clear day!

IMG_8018On our walk back to the car, a quick snapshot of the Cambodian countryside.
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This is a modern, beautiful Cambodian home in the countryside. I loved the vivid colors!

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Before we left, Sean jogged back into Ta Prohm to snap a photo of the reclining Buddha he had forgotten about. Historically, temples weren’t a place of worship, but housed the statue of the deity. The taller the temple, the more important it was. All the homes and buildings around it were made of wood, mud, and leaves. The temple is all that remains… What will we leave behind in 800 years?

 

 

 

 

Categories: Cambodia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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