I’m now writing to you from Siem Reap in Cambodia, where I arrived from Laos two days ago. I can describe the weather with two words: very hot.
Siem Reap is something of a touristic boom town, with new hotels, shops and apartments going up to add to the many that are here already. The advantage of this city is it’s close proximity to the great temples of Angkor, built by the Khmer empire nearly a thousand years ago. It is for visiting these places that so many people come here.
Mention the name ‘Angkor’ to many and they will think of just one thing: Angkor Wat. While it’s true that Angkor Wat is one of the main attractions of the area, it is but one of many fascinating places to see.
Yesterday our touring started out with what has been my favorite ancient site so far: the temple of Ta Prohm. This is an amazing place, not just for it’s design and decoration but for the fact that it’s been taken over by the Cambodian jungle, with huge spung trees spreading their roots over the ancient structures. This is one of the major sites to see at Angkor, and after Ta Prohm we visited two more: Angkor Thom and its Bayon temple, followed by Angkor Wat.
The Bayon is a place with huge faces of the king Jayavarman, in whose reign it was built, staring out from huge collars in four directions. Angkor Wat is the most complete of the ruins at Angkor, with wonderful wall reliefs depicting action from the Indian tale of the Ramayana, which is very popular here and in Laos and Thailand.
Today we visited Banteay Sray, a temple made of red sandstone and possessing very fine carvings, and Preah Khan, another fascinating place with the jungle taking over. In the afternoon we took a boat ride on the Tonle Sap lake to see how people live on the water.
To me, this trip is really just an introduction to these places. Photographically, things at Angkor have not been easy. Even though we’ve left our comfortable hotel at 8 a.m. each day, by the time we get out to the sites the sun has been rather high in the sky and a lot of other tourists have been there, each one of course wanting to pose in front of the very thing that I’ve been wanting to photoraph. As the day wears on and the sun gets higher, things get worse. I don’t think I got any good images of the giant faces at the Bayon. At Angkor Wat, I pretty much limited myself to photographing the carvings of the apsara (celestial dancers) and some building details. As we left Angkor Wat the light was getting better, but hordes of tourists were arriving, too.
The very hot weather hasn’t made things any easier, and I’ve been carrying the bare minimum of camera equipment so as not to overtax myself in the heat. At the end of a day of sweating at Angkor one has a patina of dirt and sand covering oneself, not to mention all of the salt from the sweat.
Maybe I’ll come back on my own some day and get off to an earlier start (like 6 a.m.) Until then, I’ll have to hope that I got a few decent images. I shot two rolls at Ta Prohm and I think I may have gotten some okay stuff there. (Sorry, but the Ta Prohm photo here is not a very good one. I got better ones with the digital camera, but their file sizes are too large for posting here without editing.)
Tomorrow we leave early for the capital Phnom Penh, which I’m sure will be a totally different experience. Stay tuned for more.