Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Siem Reap II: Bayon, Angkor Wat, Ton le Sap

Siem Reap Part 1 is HERE with our resort and more temples like Pre Rup, Banteay Kdei, Banteay Srei and Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider temple).

For this post though, we get to relive our tour of Angkor Wat, the Bayon/Angkor Tom, and the floating villages of Ton Le Sap Lake. I get giddy just thinking about it!
First, the Bayon, the biggest walled complex of temples in Siem Reap, just north of Angkor Wat. We're standing here in front of its most famous temple, Angkor Tom, dating from the 12th century and known for its many faces of King Jayavarman VII. I've never seen so many selfies!

We had so much fun exploring it!

 Can you spot Lorelei? The kids had this place to themselves. What a fun spot to play hide and seek!
I climbed some very steep steps to get better acquainted with this famous selfie-king.

We found a family of monkeys outside of the temple, and this little mama was nursing her baby. Ah, such love!

This sweet monk bought a lotus to feed this hungry monkey.

In the middle of the Bayon was this beautiful Buddha.

This is one of the famous Bayon gates, with these demons holding a serpent.
After exploring the Bayon until we were drenched in sweat (did I mention it was stifling hot?), Lee whisked us off to the crown jewel of SE Asia...

The world's largest religious site, the stunning Angkor Wat!
When the kids were little, we studies these world landmark flashcards over and over again (and our sweet bunny Mr. Tubbins would help select which cards to quiz on). We were always enthralled with this one place so far away, and much too impractical to ever visit, Angkor Wat. So this day, here at this monumental landmark we'd studied, meant so very much to us!
 Mr. Tubbins choosing between Niagara Falls, Old Faithful and Angkor Wat. I miss that bunny!
Back to Cambodia from our trip down memory lane...
To get to Angkor Wat you had to cross a floating bridge, since they're repairing the main bridge across the moat.

Lorelei was surprised to find out these towers were made of stone! In the landmark flashcard, she had always thought they looked golden (from the sunset & lighting).

 There were so many fun corridors and towers to explore!

 Only adults were allowed to climb these stairs to the very top, so Mark and I took the steep climb up the symbolic Mount Meru, home to the deities of Hindu mythology. We were exploring among gods and kings.

 Buddhism overtook the Khmer lands not long after this temple was built, and the religious syncretism found here is oddly beautiful.

I think I let a cuss word slip at some point, hence Lorelei's shocked face. (It happens. And they get after me every time.)

 My heart was so full to be taking our family to Angkor Wat. I love my traveling companions so much!

 This particular corridor was lined with Buddhas and monks pronouncing blessings, like the ones we received at Baneay Kdei.

I think the yellow and orange colors pop so beautifully against the gray rock.

We walked a bit around the grounds, capturing Angkor Wat from different angles.

And made friends with more monkeys.

 This was near the Angkor Wat entrance/exit/parking. I think the bells purify and bless.
 And look who we ran into! My childhood hero, Indiana Jones! Ha! (Gryffy and I watched Raiders of the Lost Ark on our flight home from Korea.)
We rode back to our hotel past tangles of wires.
The next day, while the kids relaxed in our room, Mark and I treated ourselves to two hours of traditional Khmer and deep tissue massages.
After some swimming and a relaxing morning, we headed out to the floating villages of Ton Le Sap lake, the largest freshwater lake in SE Asia.

 We spent waaay too much money on a boat ride.
But hey, we're here, right?

Homes, businesses, even churches are on stilts. This way they don't have to pay taxes. No land? No taxes.

 During monsoon season, the residents move their homes to new areas, attaching them to boats and tugging them along. This family was in the process of moving theirs.

 We stopped at a very touristy spot full of wild animals--a monkey, snake, birds and crocodiles.

The boat attendant told us we could go here to buy food to deliver to the nearby floating orphanage, and my radar went up--I knew there was some scam, something not quite right. We didn't have enough cash to buy the quantity they were trying to sell us anyway, but I did feel bad after we left. Had we let some poor orphans down?! I learned soon after that they sell you rice, take you to the orphanage to deliver it (nice humanitarian photo opp--gah!) and then the orphanage returns it to the vendors. Slimy. So we decided later to do something else to bless the people in need, and avoid these shady sellers.

Notice the boat in the trees? That's where the water level will be in a couple of months!

 After the lake, we stopped by a lotus pond. Mark shared some research with us all about the qualities of the lotus plant, and we would learn more about this in Thailand. It's amazing how this beautiful plant emerges from the muddy waters, and lives for an almost everlasting amount of time! No wonder they're associated with purity, eternity and longevity.

This poor hat fell on a millipede at Banteay Kdei, flew off our tuk-tuk and was rescued by a guy on a scooter, and then dropped off my head into the lotus pond. We had to fetch a long stick and fish it out!

My hero.
 Lotus plants.
Still feeling guilty about that orphanage, we asked Lee what we could do to just bless some people here. He brought us to this shop, and we stocked up on food and drink to deliver to a nearby village. I'd never seen $20 stretch so far.
We loaded up the tuk-tuk feeling like Santa Claus' elves!
 Gryffy, of course, had to sample some snacks. Quality control.
 I put my camera away during delivery, but it was here at this village that we enjoyed our favorite memory of Cambodia as Lee announced to a few families that we had come to deliver some treats, and over a dozen children rushed toward us, absolutely beaming! I'll never forget that day.

 The next day, we packed up our stuff, carefully weighed and re-weighed our bags (only 15kg allowed for our carry-ons), and left with about five layers of clothes each, looking like fools.
We hated saying good-bye to Siem Reap, this place full of joyful people and mysterious temples that stole our hearts. But alas, we had a flight to catch to Bangkok, Thailand...