Day 21: Ankor What???
Since he was a child, Bryce has wanted to see Ankor Wat even more than he wanted to see Disneyland. This is the largest and most spectacular temple, and is considered to be the heart and soul of Cambodia by the people who live here. Ankor Wat is an example of how the kings of old sought to outdo previous kings by building a bigger, more detailed and symmetrical temple than the king before. They thought that this showed their great devotion to the gods. We climbed the central tower, which is 31 meters up a steep staircase. This gives a great vantage point from which to see the entire compound, measuring 1.5 km. long by 1.3 km. wide. The stone blocks in the temple weigh up to 3 tons each, and had to be transported here from a stone quarry more than 50 kilometers away. It is difficult to imagine how this was accomplished in the early 12 century in the absence of heavy duty cranes and motorized vehicles. It is thought that they were floated down the Siem Reap River on rafts. Unbelievable!
|Top level of Ankor Wat|
After our afternoon nap by the pool, we set off to see our last temple of the trip, called Banteay Srei. It is thought that this temple was built by women, as the stone has a pinkish tone, and the detail is exceptionally fine. This temple was began in the late 10th century, and although much smaller than the other temples, it was one of our favorites. As in all of the temples, there is a great deal of restorative work going on, with archeologists puzzling over each rock that they find to try to figure out where it belongs. Just as with the restoration of the terra cotta warriors, this is like putting back together a giant jigsaw puzzle!
One of the advantages to going late in the day is that most of the other tourists had left, so we almost had the place to ourselves. This temple seemed to be more protected, as the inner temple was roped off in order to keep tourists out. This is because, with over two million people a year visiting these temples, it causes further damage to these precious relics. There were two uniformed police officers sitting inside the compound, and I assumed that they were watching to make sure that no one crossed over the rope. One of them approached me and said that since most of the other tourists had gone home, I could go inside the roped off area if I wanted. I was just so thrilled at this special treatment, and delightedly said, “Oh, thank you so much!” He put out his hand and asked for money! I felt so naïve, not stopping to think that in many countries, this is how special privileges are granted. I declined his offer, and we had a good laugh at my gullibility.
|Bryce and Arlene in front of Bantay Srei|
We headed into town for supper and a last visit at the night market, as Bryce was worried that he hadn’t bought enough shirts. I have no idea how we are going to fit all our plunder into our suitcases as we already had them stuffed before we got here.
There are no taxis in this city, but an endless supply of tuk tuks takes care of all our transportation needs. As in the markets, the tuk tuk drivers are quite aggressive, constantly asking the tourists if they want a tour of the city. It can get annoying, as we are doing our best to just walk down the street without being run down by traffic, and we have no intention of heading home yet. As in China and Vietnam, sidewalks here are used for everything but walking, with food and clothing stalls spilling out all over.
We have been paying $3.00 for a 10 minute ride from downtown to our hotel. When we were ready to go home tonight, we said okay to one of these eager drivers. When we asked how much to go to our hotel, he said $7.00. We laughed and said, “no, $3.00.” He was insistent on $7.00, and I guess that the combination of the heat and too many early mornings brought me to the end of my usual patience and good humor at cultural differences. I am certain that the tourists are already being charged twice what the locals would be charged for everything, and it just made me mad that he was trying to take advantage of us. What would have happened if it was our first night in town and we didn’t know what the regular price was? I told him that he was making me mad and that he was insulting us by wanting so much money. “Okay, okay, he said, $3.00.” But, by now, I was no longer feeling very friendly and said that I wouldn’t go in his tuk tuk. Poor Bryce was so embarrassed that I was making a scene, and thankfully a very gracious young man in a brand new tuk tuk came along and offered to take us for $3.00. Obviously I still haven’t gotten over getting ripped off by the taxi in Beijing!
With over 4,000 temples in the entire country, we only have 3993 to go! We shall have to save them for another trip, as we are back to Vietnam and three days on the beach starting tomorrow. We are both relieved; as our poor feet are aching from three days of solid walking over rough uneven paving stones at the temples.
|fine detail at Banteay Srei; shows it being pieced back together|