Monday, March 19, 2012

Happy Birthday from Siem Reap!

Today was my (Nana's) dad's birthday. Since I couldn't be there to celebrate, I thought I'd send a little message from Cambodia. I'm standing at Lolei temple in the Rolous group, in front of a nice temple built by the king for his father. If you're keeping score, this was built around 892. If your offspring is the king, you get temples that last 1,200 years. If your offspring is the history teacher, you get a goofy photo.

But Cambodia, it turns out, is a pretty friendly place. Throughout the course of the day, I met many locals, all of whom wanted to join in wishing Dad the best. Here, for instance, are some well-wishes from a lion statue guarding Lolei.

Nandi, the bull, is the faithful steed of the Hindu god Shiva. He also wishes Dad happy birthday.

As do all nine heads of the snake god Naga.

This fish lives in a koi pond at the Butterfly Garden restaurant. He sends his best.

By afternoon, word of this auspicious day had spread to Angkor Thom, the big walled city. The causeway into the city is flanked by demons and gods tugging on the body of a snake, as part of the Hindu story in which they "churned the ocean of milk" to produce the "nectar of immortality." I'm not totally sure how that worked, but they were very busy, so it was awfully nice of them to take a moment out of churning to send birthday greetings.


That's some nice churnin' there, boys.

Angkor Thom is famous as the home of dozens of towers of four-faced statues, which could represent the four faces of the Hindu god Brahma, or also the Four Noble Truths of Buddhist thinking. The king who constructed it was playing it safe and not taking sides, theologically. When we took this picture, a neighboring tour guide nodded thoughtfully and said, "This is a happy smiling statue for your father's birthday. Your father will certainly have good fortune."

Both the Hindus and Buddhists could agree on Dad's birthday.
On the Terrace of the Gods, unfortunately, Indra, the King of the Gods, couldn't make it, but he had his three-headed elephant Erawan bring a note.

A dancing Apsara, or Hindu/Buddhist angel/nymph, gave a special performance for the occasion.

The king and his concubines appreciated the excuse to party.

And last but not least, the crab says hi.

So there you have it, Dad: a birthday widely celebrated. Hope it was a great one!

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