Friday, January 20, 2006

Angkor Who

Not since the churning of the milky sea have the gods had such a remarkable place to live. Kate and I left Bangkok for Cambodia and arrived in Siam reap, a god awful tourist town right next door to one of the worlds great temple sights. It was here that the ancient Angkorians created an entire mini universe to house all their gods and let me tell you the Hindus don't muck around when it comes to gods. ( My last count had them at over 30 million). There are more face towers, five headed horses, monkey armies, and flying dragons than you can poke a serpent stick at. In fact, Angkor wat is the worlds largest religious monument. The amazing thing for me is that Angkor wat only rated 4th on the list of amazing temples in the area with Angkor Thom, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm being more amazing in my opinion of course. The temples around Angkor date from around the 9th century, achieving a peak around the 13th century and then practically deserted by the 17th century. The only buildings to survive in the area are the religious monuements as these were built out of stone whilst the cities and houses for the people were made of wood. Once the Angkorians had moved on or actually were defeated by the Siamese, the trees moved in. Little birds would build nests in the crevasses and the seeds would sprout in little holes sending roots downwards which in time would grow to take over these buildings. Scientists call this indianjonesing. Ancient Angkor, was of course a cheery place as long as you were not a sinner. The damned as they were called could have fallen down a trapdoor to hell, all 32 of them, for a slow roasting. Alternatively should you find yourself a little too close to the wife of a scholar you could be thrown into a lake of slimy pus for all eternity. But how did they build these magneficent temples? I hear you ask. Well the official version is that Vishnu after confounding the demon king and defeating the forces of evil, transformed himself into a giant and whilst riding a flying turtle took posession of the heavens and the Earth. Not even the nine headed nagas appearing as giant disembodied monkey heads could stop him. Gotta hand it to the guy. For our grand Angkor tour, we hired a Moto -remorque, a sort of moped chariot and were driven around by our friend Nabot. Like a couple of nineteenth century english colonialists we sipped cold drinks as we were whisked from temple sight to temple sight where we pondered the natives from up high. All in all 2 days of temple doing, and we could have even done more, had it not been for the intense heat here in Cambodia is averaging about 38 celcius and also for the fact that Siam reap really is one of the most depressing places ever. Unless of course dealing with starving, armless and legless mine victims whilst eating international cuisine in trendy minmalist restaurants is your thing.

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