Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ta Prohm

Tired of wats? Me, too. The last one, where Tomb Raider was filmed (did anyone see that? not me). Interesting for what the vegetation has accomplished over the last 1000 years.

This particular shrine is dedicated to...well, I'll leave that up to your imagination.

Everyone here has a job. Starting at age six, seemingly.

And this ain't diamonds on the soles of your shoes. But there it is: sneakers that leave a new mark on the old.

Posting a lot, but there's a reason: Karen and I will be in NYC in four days, and new posts will start to show up. Between now and then, I need to publish Phnom Penh, Chiang Mai and Bangkok. The travel blog continues...

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Angkor Thom

You can't throw a rock in Angkor without hitting something old and made of rocks. Or hitting a monkey. They're all over the place, too, shaking down the tourists.

Angkor Thom shows up in National Geographic a lot--if you've seen the wats with the faces carved into the stone and wondered where that was, it's here.

The wats and causeways and statuary go on and on. And it must have been 37 degrees out with 90% humidity. But when's the next time you're going to get to see the place of the elephants and the platform of the leper king?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Angkor Wat

The main attraction. In the morning hours, the sun pulls cliffs of vapor from the baray, distorting any lens seeking purchase in this man-made mountain. It is massive.

Tourists--everywhere, from everywhere--flock like carrion to the remains of a once pulsing metropolis. From here, it is 600 entrancing meters to the entrance.

Inside the walls, the light differs; it plays too many f-stops too near, a contraction not of space, but of time.

Okay. Enough with the silly language. This thing is gargantuan. They've got signs providing options instead of guidance.

Which is probably how Karen and I got separated. We spent a good 90 minutes looking for each other, which provided optimal exploration and opportunities for photos.

The interiors are as exquisite as the outsides. Corridors 100m long illustrate fables in bas. The resounding theme: the struggle between good and evil fought via a tug-of-war snake across an ocean of milk. Judeo-Christian-Muslims be warned: you've got nothing on this.

Lost, searching for Karen, one encounters the Buddha. There'd be something poetic about that if I weren't such a skeptic.

Still lost. And searching...

No help here, but when you get a photo like this, in this place, it kind of puts the whole mammalian dominance in perspective. These guys used to eat us.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Banteay Srey

This one's pretty far out there, about 30 km from the main group, but the trip is worth it. Of all the wats, this one was my favorite. Maybe it was the time we got there--the afternoon light was just perfect; maybe it was the lack of crowds--not many tourists get out here; maybe it was the detail in the carvings and how well they'd been preserved. Most likely it was all three.

Then there were the kids. That one on the left--named "Tony" in the traditional Khmer--is perfectly qualified to hustle outside Penn Station. And they all speak English.

Heart-breakingly and wallet-openingly cute.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Preah Ko

The last stop in the Rolous Group, the carvings at Preah Ko are magnificent. Behold.

I wonder how this was done. I've seen it on home improvement shows, but that usually involves a jig, a router and something that spins at a high rpm.

At every site, small piles of rocks served as miniature sentinels, perhaps as a connection between the past and the present. I'd love to know more, if anyone has insights.

And there's a modern temple. The first of many we'd visit. Really great stuff--the walls and ceilings are covered with imagery depicting the old stories. Reminded me of the Vatican.