A few days ago, I wrote a piece here: https://thebetterfit.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/wonderwander-angkor-wat/ about my Angkor Wat experience. I had initially intended to just group my whole Siem Reap trip into two – divided between the two “big days” we spent there. However, as I was writing the entry it became clear to me I would need to break everything up even more. Thus, I decided to give every temple its own post, and save the food for their own post, and the general experience along with tips for another.
Anyway, that being said, today I want to write about my personal favorite temple of the bunch. Immediately after seeing Angkor Wat, Sophy took Bernice and I back onto our tuk-tuk Chan and we set off on a quick 5-minute ride to our next temple: Angkor Thom.
The entry to Angkor Thom is an elaborate archway – massive in all ways except in room for entry/exit. The archway is a part of a wall that makes a fortress of the entire city of “Thom” (which is what Angkor Thom’s literal translation is: City of Thom; and if I’m not mistaken, Thom itself means Greatness; thus it is called “the Great City”). Though not clearly pictured above, a short bridge leads up to the entrance and on either side of the bridge are devas (devils) and asuras (angels) depicted in stone, in reference to the old myth of the Churning of the Sea of Milk – which is a prevailing theme in all the temples, I’ve found. The story apparently goes that these devils and angels churned at this sea with Vishnu at the center of it all for something like 1,000 years…….and it all had something to do with eternal life*.
As it turns out, back in the day* this was the original Khmer capital, and was done in the Bayon style*. The prevalence of the faces in all the work are believed to either be the king* himself and his different “moods”/”states of being”, or a particular bodhisatva they held in high esteem at the time.*
One of the reasons I am so in love with these temples, really, is the fact that they are still used as active places for Khmer worship. This “Khmer worship,” I’ve found, through my experiences in Siem Reap, is such an ambiguous mix of Hinduism and Buddhism practiced by such a kind, warm people that it simply makes me believe in the feasibility of “World Peace (Ms. Congeniality, 2000).”*
After we had explored Bayon, we got back on the tuk-tuk and were driven through the city, where we made a few more pit-stops – including a visit to the Terrace of the Elephants, and a stop by these mini-temple-like things I never quite figured out that we were told were Hindu back in the day, but seem to host a small group of Buddhist monks as of late.
Another healthy feat, another wonder wandered (wander wondered). There is no shortage to the beauty in the breakdown of a moment that reminds you just how human you are – and how fantastic that is.
Upcoming Posts: #4 of Best Ways to Start Your Day, a healthy lemon square recipe, Wonder/Wander: Ta Prohm, a slew of food reviews, and probably a list of reasons why tomorrow never comes and it all begins today.
*Language barriers make history lessons slightly more difficult to learn in person, but I want to keep this entry as authentic as possible. I have since looked up the myth and discovered that it is actually about the nectar of immortality, a sinking mountain on Vishnu/Kurma’s back, and 14 other things that will make this entry much longer than it needs to be. If you’re interested in more like I was, though, that’s what Google’s for!
*Back in the day = the 12th century; although supposedly another capital overlapped into it when a later king built it and infused it with Angkor Thom in the 1500s
*Bayon is actually the name of the biggest temple at the heart of Angkor Thom (directly in the smack middle of the four entrances facing N-S-E-W), so it really confuses me as to why our tour guide kept describing Angkor Thom as being decorated in the Bayon Style when the Bayon Temple is in fact the heart of Angkor Thom? But ANYWAY…………
*King Jayavarman VII
*That bodhisatva, upon some further research having encountered too much difficulty attempting to spell his name phonetically, was called: Avalokiteshvara. Yes. Clearly I was listening in this history lesson.
*”World Peace” is clearly an exaggeration. But it comes close to the point. Also, if Paris Hilton can claim “That’s hot,” fictional (or hypothetical, in some cases) Ms Americas from symbolic texts all over have every right to trademark “World Peace.”