Monday, December 18, 2006

Day 02 - Templeland - The big one

(writing this at Ho Chi Minh airport while waiting for our flight to Dalat to board and listening to Jingle Bells by Boney M over the airport PA)

Where were we... oh yes... we'd just got our temple passes and were off to see the temples of Siem Reap.

Small historic interlude: to get an idea of the scale and achievement here, it's helpful to have a basic understanding of the historical context that gave rise to these buildings. Remember when Europeans were still wearing short trousers? Well that's when the Khmer people decided to build temples that were bigger than the average European city in area. Angkor Wat is a contemporary to Thomas Becket's murder in Canterbury cathedral to give you some idea of architectural comparison. And while that cathedral is impressive, it is dwarfed by Angkor Wat. You could fit over a hundred English cathedrals inside the temple. And the carvings don't even compare. At Canterbury, we get excited about a bit of coloured paint and a couple of saints' heads. You'd need several years to complete a brass rubbing of the bas relief carvings of Angkor.

Although bas relief does look like treatment for someone who's overdosed on classical music, it actually means sculpture which comes out slightly from a flat surface from the French bas meaning low. Angkor is absolutely covered with them including several hundred metres depicting the great Hindu myth the Ramayana.

We weren't heading for Angkor Wat yet though. We were off to Angkor Thom (Angkor Jerry's older brother) which is the biggest temple in the area. A stroll around the walls would cover 12km. Not only was it the biggest we saw, it was the most crowded. You could hardly move at points. Bit depressing really and seeing French tourists cavorting for cameras with locals in trumped up period costumes didn't really strike us as worth coming all this way for.

... more later... they're boarding our flight...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

These temples are enormous. Although have not travelled in your neck of the woods I have been to what was described as the largest...that of Borabudur (not sure of spelling) in Java. (It almost took me a day to clamber round it!)
Guess its time to compare these via the web!

10:37 PM KST  

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