Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Ankor Thom (Bayon) July 9, 2017 and Pre Rup, East Mebon, Preah Khan and Neak Pean on July 10, 2017
We all got on the bus at 4:30 am and saw the sun rise above Angkor Wat this morning. The peace and tranquility of the hundreds of tourists all focusing on this one single event was a sight to see. Since we started the day so early, we were able to visit Ta Prohm, the temple of "Tomb Raider" fame, at a leisurely pace with few tourists. The beautiful smiles of Bayon at Angkor Thom also beckoned. Bas reliefs and Sanskrit texts were surprisingly well-preserved. The roots of a banyan tree going through the temple walls showed the power of nature to overcome any man-made edifice. People try to see nature in the way that is familiar to us so we were able to see elephant trunks and butt cracks in the tree roots. Many of us marveled at how incredibly hot and humid it was with sweat dripping down our bodies all day under the merciless sun. How anyone was able to transport, stack, carve and paint in such oppressive heat was an accomplishment in and of itself. The unique beauty of the design that was supposed to represent the whole cosmos shows the power of religion and the coercive power of rulers.
The second day of temples introduced varied designs with more orange tones and almost Aztec-like features at Pre Rup and East Mebon. The pools of water that forces one to take a boat to the shrine at Neak Pean gave us a glimpse of how many of these temples looked initially surrounded by water that has now dried up. The reflection of the temples on water produces a double image and more mystery to the already other-worldly surroundings. Preah Khan had several arches, each one getting lower at the center so that one is forced to bow in respect and reverence. Two storeys of Greek-like columns on one side made it seem more familiar to Western aesthetic sensibilities. We saw seven temples in all but what is amazing is that we had only scratched the surface of the country's hundreds of temples.