Before we get to the pièce de résistance that is Angkor Wat, a couple of personal items. We ran into Michael Velasco and his wife Maria at our hotel, The Raffles. Michael was a rally competitor in the 2013 Peking to Paris Rally that I participated in. After a cocktail and a lot of catching up, Ilene and I had a great dinner with them. I'm happy to report that Michael is still doing competitive rallying and will be doing the Safari Rally in Southern Africa. One change: This time Maria will co-drive and she does not like Michael's mid-60's Mercedes which preformed very admirably on the P2P, so he has acquired a pre-war Bentley and they will do the Safari in an open car.......good luck Michael and Maria.
After breakfast on our second day here, we had a visit to the Angkor National Museum. Our tour of the museum was conducted by the Curator who was very knowledgeable in the cultural and religious history of the area. The museum is very well done and was a good primer for next stop.
There are 293 known Temples, or more accurately Temple Complexes, in the Siem Reap/Angkor area. They were built from approximately 1100 to 1500. Scientists believe there may be more, although not yet discovered. The jungle is so thick here that you cannot even see them from the air even though they occupy hundreds of acres.
The largest and most famous of these Temple Complexes is Angkor Wat. In fact, it is the largest Temple in the world. How big you ask: Angkor Wat consists of 200 acres surrounded by a moat that measures 5 miles. It was built over 40 years in the early 12th Century. At the time, there were about 1 million Khmer people living in the region; by contrast PARIS at this time had a population of about 2,500,000. The Temple was built using 15,000 slave laborers. These slaves were Muslims that had lived in the middle of what is now Vietnam, near present day Da Nang.
|Carved relief in the long hallways|
Around the 15th Century, this Hindu Temple was converted to Buddhism, but many of the Hindu icons still adorn the walls of the Temple. The Temple has five towers and three different levels. King Suryavarman II built it for his cremation and burial inside the Temple.
The Temple was maintained by Monks and Nuns, who did not live inside the Temple's walls. My favorite spot was an entrance at the rear of the Temple with no steps or path to entry. This was the entrance used by the King when he arrived by elephant.....it is just a great stone platform that will accommodate a smaller Asian elephant.
|Two of the locals listening to our lecture at Angkor Wat|
Next, an afternoon rest and then a lovely dinner and we're off to The Night Market, a large complex in the center of Siem Reap, that sells all makes of "knock-off goods" -- from fake watches to fake designer shirts, this Night Market has more phony goods than you can ever imagine.
Tomorrow we're off to Laos.....