Angkor Wat Day 1. Yesterday, the driver asked me if I needed a tour guide. He said he knew a good one so I nodded. There he was, showing up with the driver in the morning.
The tour guide always emphasized that in the Angkor temples, there is a mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism. These two statues are situated at the entrance of the South Gate of Angkor Thom. One is smiling and the other is not. The smiling one is the face of Buddha and the other one is the face of a Hindu god.
In the past, Cambodia used soldiers from different countries to help them fight in the battles. Some are from Thailand, and some are from China. You can see the different faces between the Khmer soldiers and the Chinese soldiers.
This is a very famous spot. Here, you can see many faces of Buddhas. It’s quite impressive. The faces are immense. When you look at them closely, you will see that each brick was carefully carved and measured. It seems to me that the people in the past were very good at this. Wherever you go, you can find carefully carved and precisely measured stones laying on top of each other, e.g. Persepolis in Iran, Stonehenge in the UK (I don’t know when I can write that. I went there before 2005 when I was still using an SLR camera), palaces I visited in China and here in Cambodia. Where can we find this kind of skill in modern days?
The word ‘Angkor’ means ‘city’ and ‘Wat’ means ‘temple’ or ‘monastery’. The whole term ‘Angkor Wat’ means ‘royal monastery city’. As suggested by its name, the place didn’t just house a temple, it was also a place for people to live in. I believe it was a very common practice in the past – Mont Saint Michel was like this, Machu Picchu was like this (I will write about it later) and many other places. People don’t live in Angkor Wat now unless they are monks. The temple was originally built for the Hindu god, Vishnu, therefore it faces west and so when you visit this place, you go in an anti-clockwise direction. Whereas for the Buddhist temples, they face the east and you walk in a clockwise direction. For the Buddhist, the east means life. Angkor Wat has 3 levels. According to the tour guide, the first level means hell, the second means earth, and the third means heaven. That means all the visitors have to go through hell in order to get to heaven. 😉 Angkor Wat was built of sandstones. That’s why when the sun sets, the colour changes.
Angkor Wat had gone through many dynasties. Some kings believed in Hinduism while some believed in Buddhism so you can see carvings of both Hindu gods and Buddhas. As mentioned before, originally Angkor Wat was dedicated to the Hindu god but when Jayavarman VII came into power, he converted Angkor Wat into a Buddhist temple.
When you walk around Angkor Wat (and other ancient temples in Siem Reap), you will find that most of the places have turned black. At first, I thought it was from the bomb during the wars but the tour guide explained that it was actually because of acid rain. Yes, acid rain. He then showed me the bullet holes etched in the columns of the temples, ‘these are from the wars.’ They are not hard to find at all. But do you really want to trace them?
The driver told me normally, Apsara dance performance including a buffet cost much less than USD10. It was ok for me back then. The performance was good. I tried a non-alcoholic drink called Svakum there too. It’s a mixture of pineapples, oranges, mangoes? and coconut milk? It was actually quite thick but I liked it.
I desperately needed a rest as I needed to wake up early to catch the sunrise in Angkor Wat tomorrow.
Stay tuned. 🙂
10 December 2008
P.S. Interestingly, on the same day in 2019, I visited an off the beaten track in Cambodia 😛 Check it out here.