Here’s the second half of the things we saw and experienced at Angkor.
The amazing birdsong we heard by the entrance to the temple. The size of the thing – moving deeper and deeper into the center of the temple through what felt like endless, successive rooms, cool and dim and full of deep shadows and intricate carvings. The rumble of approaching thunder and the speed with which the massive puddles formed on the stone floors once the storm arrived. The beauty of the sun on the rain on the rocks. The skeleton of a massive tree still interwoven with the stone walls.
The sound of the vendors’ nasal voices drove Roman crazy. 🙂 Luckily it was much more peaceful inside the temple compound. The dramatic walk over the broad stone bridge spanning the moat. The mesmerizing faces of the stone dancers drew us in. Each individual and with such fascinating and warm expressions on their faces. They were my favorite part of Angkor Wat. The sun’s heat reflecting off the stones – this was the only temple we went to that didn’t have the benefit of lots of shady trees. The families there who lit incense and prayed in front of large Buddhas, the father and son who had their heads shaved as part of a ritual – I wonder what it was about. I loved the monastery we wandered through as we left Angkor Wat. Still and peaceful with beautiful trees, funny shrines, and Buddhist flags flapping against a clear blue sky.
Mystical, magical feeling with all those massive heads serenely smiling into the depths of the surrounding forest. We made a donation, lit sweet-smelling incense to a Buddha and the woman there tied red string around our wrists. The temple is surrounded by some modern outdoor shrines with massive Buddha statues housed on covered platforms among the trees. I loved these as much as Bayon itself, the massive orange candles burning against a backdrop of pristine nature. We came back on the last day so Roman could take photos (his camera had died as we arrived at Angkor Wat) and I sat on the wall and just breathed. Birds, frogs and insects sang, somewhere a monk was pounding a large drum, devotees came to pray at one of the shrines. Sitting in that peace was one of the highlights of Angkor for me.
Baphoun/Terrace of Elephants
We couldn’t go into/onto the recently completed Baphoun, but the surrounding ancient walls, the pathways and yet more incredible trees made for a spectacular, peaceful atmosphere and I loved the stillness and beauty of this place. No photo I’ve ever taken of a tree has ever done it justice – these were ten times as huge and beautiful in real life. Walking on the Terrace of Elephants, asking “Where are the elephants?” and laughing when we discovered them all over the place. More gorgeous carvings. It really is so much to take in and all so spectacular!
We also went to Ta Prohm but I didn’t take my camera that day. It was also a must see, not just because of its association with Tomb Raider. Incredible, incredible – more trees to fall in love with. Best though was meeting the friendly Mr. Miyagi-type guy working there who got a kick out of the fact that we were so excited by the bird song (a Drongo. We recorded it – you can hear it here: bird2, along with phone-type sounds from the staff’s walkie talkies), he shared yellow fruit with us that he gathered from a tree and rinsed in a puddle, took us for a mini tour around the ruins, shared the heart-beat chamber with me, and helped me when we lost Roman, running around and communicating with me with enthusiasm and sign language. I wish we got a chance to properly say thank you and goodbye but we lost each other during the search for Roman. Also sweet was the young girl who kept me company in the parking lot while Boune, our lovely tuk tuk driver, went to check on the other side of the park for Roman. We quizzed each other on world capitals – incredible how many she’d learned! 🙂