I haven't seen such a wonderful place before. It reminds me a little of the Mayan temples of the Yucatan, but the sculpture is something completely else. All the beguiling carved faces seem to be holding a happy secret. They are content to let you wonder their temple grounds, but they will withold the secrets of the divine from us mere mortals. And they are always watching you; from the doorway, the wall, or ceiling.
The part that really bowls you over is that we are seeing only some of the immenseness that was here before. There is rubble everywhere. For every square foot taken up by temples there is at least another square foot of stone rubble that used to be a temple, causeway, or wall. And hordes of this stuff has been pulled off in to museums and the black-market.
And it's still mythologically stunning.
We've saved the big temple, Angkor Wat, for another day and spent the first day doing some of the other major sights. Each temple, tucked away in the rumbling Cambodian jungle has it's own uniqueness.
One is full of 54 giant stone faces, all with an otherwordly expression.
Another is lined in Elephants.
An immense, mountain-shaped temple was dissasembled for study but the documents were lost thanks to the Khmer Rouge, leaving the 75ish% complete mother-of-all-jiggsaw-puzzles.
One of the largest is almost completely unadorned with sculpture after it was struck by lightning during construction. It was abandoned by the king for this bad omen. Or perhaps the king died during construction. Nobody knows. It was too steep for Erin to climb (mostly she was starting to fade after 6 hours in the heat). She missed a historical account of the temple by a local who would tell you stories for 10 minutes for a couple dollars.
It's also worth noting that every single temple has a line of huts with people selling things for "wan dallah!". These are mostly the direct descents of Angkor since the villages around have always been inhabited since the fall of the Empire. They, if anyone, should benefit from the tourism I guess.
The kings of Angkor probably enslaved hundreds of thousands of poor Cambodians to build these wonders. Such exploitation is a shame, but such wonders are a gift.
This internet cafe isn't so great on the whole speed thing -- I'll upload more photos at the other one across town some other time. Perhaps after dinner.
Speaking of dinner, it's off to Bar Street to try out the "Tomb Raider" coctail after seeing the temple where they filmed a few scenes of that movie!