Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Day 3: Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, Pre Rup, Neak Pean, and Preah Khan

Day 3
12th June

It's amazing that even in Cambodia, I can still rejoice that it's payday. = )

I discovered that I much prefer the smaller temples to the larger complexes like Angkor Wat itself. Banteay Kdei is a medium sized linear temple, until Angkor and the Bayon, which are a series of square enclosures centred on a central shrine. Walking through Banteay Kdei is a much more purposeful journey, in the sense that you proceed to a known destination, whereas in Angkor and the Bayon, one is meant to circle around and read the bas-reliefs on each level before proceeding to the next higher one. Banteay Kdei has a hall of dancers, now a collection of roofless pillars with dancing apsaras carved into them. Along the left and right of the central axis as you proceed, there are a series of small enclosures, open spaces with grass and purple flowers surrounded by walls with doorways and carvings.

C2-21
Originally uploaded by Wahj.

Around this time, a lot of my photographs started to be of doorways and passageways, which was the main thing one saw at Banteay Kdei.

A thought also occurred to me that some of these temples would make excellent D&D maps - the standard description "You find yourself in a 5ft wide corridor proceeding east and west" actually comes alive once you've walked through some of these ruins. T, you need to map these temples when you come in December: you won't regret it. = )

Ta Prohm, on the other hand is an amazing site, spoiled somewhat by the coachloads of tours (even in this the low season) all wanting to pose for shots in front of that tree root. Amazingly, there were butterflies at Ta Prohm, crowds fo them, fluttering through the ruins. Ta Prohm was left in a semi-ruined state by the French to allow visitors a glimpse of the romantically ruined state the temples were in when first discovered - if they had known how much more tourists prefer a picturesque ruined temple, rather than a restored one, they might have saved themselves a lot of trouble and restoration work: Ta Prohm easily attracts as many visitors as the main Angkor Wat temple itself, all packed into a much smaller space. I managed to take a few pinhole photos (useful since the long exposures blur out unwanted interlopers. In this photo,

Ta Prohm
Originally uploaded by Wahj.

if you look carefully you can see a blur on the left side of the rubble that was a tourist straying into my shot: the 45 second exposure got rid of her nicely) and at one point, climbed on top of a wall and waited 10 minutes to try and get a nice clear shot of the towers (people just kept straying into my shot ... grr)

C2-28
Originally uploaded by Wahj.


K and I earmarked Banteay Kdei and Ta Prohm for a revisit even before we finished. One last thing to mention about these two temples: beware of the 4 little girls who lurk in the 400 metre stretch between the Western entrance of Banteay Kdei and the Eastern gate of Ta Prohm. They rule this entire stretch, and will ruthlessly plead, wheedle, and beg you to buy something from them. They are unbelievably persistent - not as rude as the fellow the previous day, but these kids don't know the meaning of the word "quit". The only way to get rid of them is to run the guantlet, and come within sight of the guards at Ta Prohm, whereupon they beat a hasty retreat. Think Wandering Monsters. = )

In the afternoon we visited three sites. Pre Rup was a nice change. A temple mountain with a nice breezy top, a good break after tramping round fairly enclosed temples. The lions looked strangely Babylonian to me, with their stylized manes. Next on the Grand Circuit was Neak Pean, which would have been spectacular had the pools of water been filled, but alas they were dry. Walking in to the site, K spotted a spiderweb, with a butterfly caught in it. We stood there for some time watching the poor creature, and this tourist walked by and said "Poor butterfly". I wish I could've told her that a few minutes later, with a dramatic flutter of wings, the butterfly escaped, floating away into the trees.

Last stop of the say was Preah Khan, a slightly eerie experience as we were about the last tourists in it, and it was getting dark. I remember Preah Khan as being very, very quiet, and very still - the kind of place where you instinctively speak softly. We walked through its almost deserted hallways and chambers for a while, then turned in for the day. Sang was not feeling well, a result of his having been rained upon yesterday - we felt really bad about that.

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