Tuesday, July 03, 2007

angkor what? (i'm sooo original)

as it's been quite some while since i've written a proper entry, you'll notice that i'm on a bit of a time delay. today i'll be recounting for you my breathtaking trip to siem reap (home of the ancient angkor temples) , which took place over three weeks ago. oops.

to make up for my tardiness, i'll keep the writing to a minimum (lucky break!) and instead cram it full of pictures.

here's a brief summary: back in mid-june i made a solo journey to the north of cambodia where the intricate system of temples reside. though there are numerous sites to see (each king having tried to outdo the one before him), i had only time to take in the dazzling top picks: angkor wat (the largest and most famous), angkor thom (the one with all the mysterious smiling faces), banteay srey (the meticulously detailed pink temple) and , of course, ta prohm (known to many around the world as the "tomb raider" temple). each temple had its own form of beauty; angkor wat's is its symmetry and scale, angkor thom in the sly expressions of the scores of statues, banteay srey in its intricacy and ta prohm in the eerie creeping of nature over man's creation. by some stroke of luck i would arrive at a site minutes before the busloads of tourists and had at least a few peaceful moments at each location before being overrun by the noisy crowds.

though the temple visits themselves were awe-inspiring, the real beauty of the trip came in the form of my guide, mr. thy. on the advice of those who'd tread there before me, i hired a personal tour guru to take me around and explain every exhausting detail (you can only imagine what nerdy glee it provided me!). the information was nice, the personal attention even better...but the most edifying piece was in talking to mr. thy about his life in cambodia. over the course of two 8-hour days he described in great detail the struggles, fears, hopes and joys that he and his kin face in modern times.

in the shadow of angkor wat, he recounted tales from the dark years of pol pot; he told of how his parents were forced to marry in the labor camps, how dozens of family members were killed and how the legacy of that pain is still carried by many cambodians today. he beamed with pride at the glories of old kampuchea and emanated a resilient optimism for the future. we talked about corrupt governments, the burden of history and the capacity for the human spirit to thrive in even the most dire of situations.

as a bonus (at my insistence), mr. thy taught me a spate of khmer phrases to use during the rest of my time here. we covered all the basics: i'm hungry, i need a nap, i love to eat, etc...and i can even count to 999,999! i've impressed many a taxi driver with my budding language in the days since my trip but of all the information mr. thy gave me, the glimpse into his personal life has been the most rewarding.

and on that sappy note...some pics!

(i apologize if they're a bit on the generic side. i was so engrossed in our discussions that photography became almost an afterthought.)

ta prohm (tomb raider temple)

ta prohm doorway

ta prohm entryway

outside angkor thom

faces of angkor thom

more faces of angkor thom

bridge to ankgor thom

praying at angkor thom

apsara dancers at ankgor wat

statue at angkor wat

doorway of baneay srey

banteay srey detail

angkor wat

1 comment:

Geoffrey said...

far from being generic, i think those pictures are awesome. once again, i am jealous. boo-hoo