Friday, June 29, 2012

Angkor Day 4: Pre Rup, East Mebon, Ta Som, & Preah Khan

(Nana and I are traveling until July 7, but we've put a couple posts in the pipeline to tide you over until then.)

Also known as: the anti-climax.

On the advice of Lonely Planet, Nana and I saved Angkor Wat for our last day of touring . . . but on the advice of our flagging legs and wobbly stomachs, we did Angkor Wat in the morning and left some less important temples for the afternoon.

And a good thing, too: while we had planned about six small temples for our last hurrah, we only made it through three before giving up and heading back to the hotel. Taken together, they were a good farewell to the temples of Angkor, covering all the major temple styles: the temple mountain of Pre Rup, the (former) island temple of East Mebon, and the forest ruins of Ta Som & Preah Khan.

Pre Rup

Pre Rup was dedicated to Shiva in the 960s as the state temple of Rajendravarman II. It is a classic temple mountain, with the addition of a few galleries more typical of later temple pyramids like Angkor Wat.

It's every bit as steep as it looks.

Just ask Nana!

Pre Rup has been the site of much conservation, but little restoration. That's another way of saying there aren't any trees, but a lot of the towers are still in bad shape.

A carved false door atop Pre Rup.

An apsara who has seen better days.

You can see East Mebon from the top of Pre Rup - it's only a few hundred yards due north.

You can also faintly make out the central tower of Angkor Wat on a clear day. Unfortunately, in the tropics, "clear" also means "blisteringly hot."

Getting down without falling is almost as tough as getting up without passing out.

East Mebon

East Mebon was dedicated to Shiva in the 950s by Rajendravarman II. It used to be an island temple in the center of the East Baray reservoir, but the reservoir has since been drained.

If it looks a lot like Pre Rup, that should be no surprise: built by the same guy, only a decade apart. But the shorter East Mebon, being less exposed, is in significantly better shape.

Each corner is guarded by a friendly lichen-encrusted elephant.

These apsara were carved directly into the brick, then overlaid with stucco. Of course, the stucco has long since fallen off.

A well-preserved lintel depicting Indra.

A restored lintel of Garuda atop a decorative false door.

Ta Som & Preah Khan

Ta Som & Preah Khan are two of the smaller Angkor Thom temples commissioned by Jayavarman VII, who is most famous for the face-towers of the Bayon.
This guy. You remember him.

Both temples date to the 12th century, and both are largely deserted, as the nearby Bayon itself draws off most of the crowds. In addition, both exhibit Jayavarman II's chaotic blend of Buddhism and Hinduism: while the central sanctuaries of each temple were Buddhist, each includes satellite shrines and temples to various Hindu deities.

I won't really bother to differentiate here, partly because I wasn't careful about keeping track of the photographs. In any case, the overall impression is the same: woods and ruins, a lot like the larger and more famous Ta Prohm.

The balustrade along the causeway into Preah Khan. AKA, more Churning of the Sea of Milk!

More Garuda + Naga = Buddhist Hindu Happy Friendly Fun Time!

More huge trees growing out of walls!



More Nana looking through ruined doorways!

More atmospheric close ups!

More detail on obscure bas relief carvings than you ever thought you would read in your life!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Little update

Justin and I are finishing our time here in Oz and are off to New Zealand tonight. Some Australia highlights:

- snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, at which I totally saw a shark
- holding a koala and feeding a wallaby at the zoo in Kuranda, at which we also learned that wombats have square poop,
- visiting two bat sanctuaries, taking time at the second to play fetch and pet the owner's adorable dogs,
- befriending the German proprietess of an Aboriginal art store, from which we purchased a drawing of Jesus Birds,
- watching two Ayers Rock sunrises, two Ayers Rock sunsets, and one Ayers Rock stargazing session, at which we asked so many dorky questions that we were invited to be test guests on a new star tour the next night,
- taking a bushtucker tour, at which we consumed a plant which tastes like salted kale chips,
- viewing the Sydney Harbor Bridge, which we did not climb, and the Sydney Opera House, which we did not enter
- seeing the Pixar movie Brave after purchasing tickets online and presenting a bar code on my phone (never thought that would work)
- visiting too many museums, including the National Maritime Museum, Museum of Sydney, Cairns Historical Society museum, Rocks Museum, and airport historical galleries,
- discovering that crocodile is kind of chewy, emu is like chicken crossed with venison, and kangaroo is freaking delicious,
- drinking excessive amounts of Flat Whites, Austalian coffee with hot milk but not foamy like a latte, sticking to decaf
- coming in third at the hostel's trivia night, behind teams of at least 5 people (what country did the black swan come from? What building grows six inches in summer? WHAT COLOR IS A GRASSHOPPER'S BLOOD??)
- visiting my sister's baby blog 46 times

And a lot more! Wish us safe travels and great skiing in New Zealand, and we will see a lot of you soon!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wednesday Weirdness: The World's Largest Spatula on Miyajima, Hiroshima

(Nana and I are traveling until July 7, but we've put some Wednesday Weirdness in the pipeline to tide you over until then.)

Miyajima, a cool little island south of Hiroshima, is in fact home to the world's largest spatula.

It's pretty big.