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Malaysia and Cambodia


This is about my upcoming trip to Malaysia and Cambodia. The first part is pre-trip - information about flights, itineraries, accommodation and all the things that you need to do to plan an overseas holiday. This is my first trip to Asia and I hope it may help others. Comments are very welcome and anyone who has travelled to Malaysia and/or Cambodia, please feel free to comment and offer any advice or tips that you think would be helpful. As of today ( 28th February) , in exactly 11 days (minus 30 minutes) I will be in Kuala Lumpur.

I had the most amazing time and hope you enjoy reading about my trip. Each post is numbered and I'm doing them in order from start to finish - a little like a diary.



61. Ta Prohm - 2

Indiana Jones where are you?

Really you know, all we need is Indiana Jones and a bit of gung ho! and you could be right in the middle of a great adventure. Whizzing up that tree, leaping across to the red metal building bars on the other side - ah...this is the stuff that dreams are made of! I can just see myself in the role of whatsername - you know, the woman that screams all the time in his movie and him coming to the rescue - saving me from a fate worse than death!

Rock and rubble

You do need to watch were you're walking, there are so many massive stones, rocks and bits of building paraphernalia lying in assorted fashion as though they have been laid there artistically.

Above: Ta Prohm ruins
To the right were balustrades with carving at the top and bottom. If you enlarge the picture, you can see some in the far right.
Rather inconguous too are the four yellow workers' hard hats.

Above: Ta Prohm ruins
Large Banyan tree in the foreground.

Above: The leafy jungle
To give you some idea of the place, look at all the foliage. Now imagine that in an endless sea all around you, everywhere you turn. And when you crane your neck up to look at the sky - all you see is miles and miles of tree and leaves.

Above: Ta Prohm collage
You really are in another world seeing these giant trees taking over and growing out of the temple. Banyan, kapok and strangler figs spread and twist their roots over and under and around, their knobby roots looking like deformed snakes taking over everything it their wake.

Above: Floor plan of Ta Prohm

Did you know?
There is a Sanskrit inscription on stone, still in place, which give details of the temple.
Ta Prohm: 3,140 villages. It took 79,365 people to maintain the temple including 18 great priests, 2,740 officials, 2,202 assistants and 615 dancers. Among the property belonging to the temple was a set of golden dishes weighing more than 500 kgs, 35 diamonds, 40,620 pearls, 4,540 precious stones, 876 veils from China, 512 silk beds and 523 parasols. That's a lot of maintenance.

Ta Prohm
Date of Construction: Mid 12th/Early 13th century
Religious Affiliation: Buddhist
Patron or King: Jayavarman VII
Artistic/Archeo. Style: Bayon
Time to Visit: Anytime. Less crowded in the early morning. Good for middle of day due to shady trees.

60. Ta Prohm - 1

The Jungle Temple

The next temple I wanted to see was Ta Prohm - the "Jungle" temple. I had seen pictures of it and it was a child's dream - overgrown with trees and weeds and left to the jungle. The books all said it was a good choice for visiting in the middle of the day when the time is at its hottest because you are protected from the sun by a canopy of trees.

We drove along and soon arrived at a corner on the left hand side - a bit like a watering hole for horses in the country in Victorian times - people congregating outside a horse trough! Of course there were no horses' troughs or horses here, but that is what it felt like.

Meet me on the other side
My driver said to walk down there (he pointed the way) and told me he would meet me on the "other side". I looked at him skeptically and asked, "Where on the other side, how far is it?" He said the other entrance it was about a kilometere walk! The thought of walking for a kilometre in the heat wasn't very appealing on such a hot day, so I told him, "No. I'll meet you back here." He tried again, but I was adamant. Famous last words! I should've listened to him. By the time I had been walking for some distance I realised my error, but it was too far to walk a.l.l. the way back and say, "Listen, you were right Zola, I will meet you on the other side."

Another very important lesson
Always listen to your tuk tuk driver - he knows better than you, a mere tourist!☺ If I had the time over again, I would walk right back even if it was a long way to let him know.

Above: Disabled landmine musicians
Walking along this shady path way, these musicians were on the left hand side. They weren't playing though and I didn't hear them. I found out much later they do not play when you are there, they wait until you give some money and then begin playing. I feel terrible now that I didn't know this and that I didn't help in some way.

Above: Disabled landmine musicians
These men are victims of the landmines that were laid by the Khmer Rouge. Terrible wounds and tragedies inflicted on thousands of people by the communist regime - limbs lost, blindness and deformed, scarred faces.

Ta Prohm history

The temple is to the east of Angkor Thom and you enter from the west and leave from the east. Building on Ta Prohm began in 1186 AD. Originally known as Rajavihara (Monastery of the King), it was built by Jayavarman VII who dedicated it to his mother. Constructed originally as a Buddhist monastery, it was enormously wealthy in its time with control over 3000 villages, thousands of support staff and vast stores of jewels and gold.

Above: Ta Prohm
The temple is only partly cleared of jungle growth. It was quite different coming here, I almost felt like I was here as it was being built - all that brick and mortar and stuff lying around. As though the workmen had only just downed tools and knocked off for the day.

Above: Ta Prohm main entrance
Walking closer and seeing this empty ruin, I couldn't but help wonder how it must have looked in its hey day. I can very well imagine monks walking along the terraced verandah, chanting, their hands clasped in prayer. A sense of timeless beauty surrounds this eerie place, no doubt due to the quiet and the fact that it is a ruin in the middle of a jungle. The only sound was the sound of the birds swooping around the trees.

59. Bayon - 2

The temple of many faces
The giant stone faces of Bayon have become one of the most recognizable images connected to classic Khmer art and architecture. There are 37 standing towers and most have four carved faces oriented toward the cardinal points.

Above: Statue
Close-up of a statue at the front entrance.

Above: Buddha
This statue of Buddha is the Happy Home Buddha - a seated figure with an umbrella behind the back. The flowers are real as is some of the fruit put their by devotees. The incense had been lit.

Above: Linga
The linga or lingum is a religious phallic symbol symbolic of the Hindu god Shiva and of creative power. As a religious symbol, the function of the linga is mainly that of worship and ritual. In the Khmer empire, certain lingas were erected as symbols of the king himself and were housed in royal temples in order to express the king's consubstantiality with Shiva. The linga is implanted in a flat square base called a yoni, symbolic of the womb. It was most likely added to the temple during the reign of Jayavarman VIII in the mid-13th century when the Khmer empire reverted to Hinduism and Bayon was altered accordingly.

Above: Carving detail
This was in the east gallery. It was difficult to get a decent photo looking up through the gap from where I was standing.

Above: Carving detail
If you look closely, you can see the row of lotus flowers which is the third section down from the top.

Above: Faces of Avalokiteshvara
There are more than 200 carved faces at Bayon and they evoke a feeling of peace as you look at these sightless eyes.

Above: Jayavaram VII
King Jayavaram VII bears a strong resemblance to the face of Avalokiteshvara, as can be seen from the portrait above which is in the Musée Guimet in Paris. Jayavarman stood squarely in the tradition of the Khmer monarchs in thinking of himself as a "devaraja" (god-king), the notable difference being that while his predecessors were Hindus and regarded themselves as consubstantial with Shiva and his symbol the lingam, Jayavarman as a Buddhist identified himself with Buddha and the bodhisattva.

Above: Smiles of Avalokiteshvara
The faces all have this enigmatic smile which make you just want to stare at them and wonder what they are thinking.

Above: Avalokiteshvara
Detail of one of the huge faces of Bayon towers.

Above: Four faced tower
The easily recogniseable tower of Bayon.

Above: The other side

Above: Elephants at Bayon
When I was leaving the temple, there were elephants in the grounds and I'd love to have had a ride on one but the temperature by this stage was very hot and I knew I still had a lot of ground to cover. But I did stop long enough to take a photo.

Above: 200 Riel banknote
One of the towers of the temple is depicted on the 200 Riel banknote.

Above: Bayon temple plan


58. Bayon - 1

Don't pat the monkeys!

After leaving Angkor Thom we were on our way to the next temple - the Bayon, that wonderful temple with many faces. Along the way you'll see many monkeys on the side of the road and I just had to get a photo. Zola stopped and warned me not to get too close and "Don't touch monkey - he bite." This was evidenced by some not so lucky tourists who decided what cute little fellows - let's pat the monkeys! Silly people, they really should listen to what they're told.

Above: Monkeys on the Bayon road
I kept a respectful distance as I watched these "cute" little fellows. They can be very annoyed if you have food and don't give it to them and they ran about taking peoples things. They were fun to look at though, it isn't every day you get to see wild monkeys up close - for that is what they are..wild. They are not tame and don't be fooled into thinking they are. Like anything, if you treat them with respect and not get in their face, you'll have a fun time and happy memories.

Above: Bayon inscribed stone
I was so excited as we arrived at Bayon and I was delighted to see this stone inscribed with the word "Bayon". There was a timber bench seat to the left where you could sit and take a breather and to the right is where I climbed to walk to the temple. It's quite a high step up too, so watch those knees!☺

Above: Policeman
This nice policeman was happy to pose for a photo when I asked him. I've heard and read a lot of things about the Cambodian police, but I have to say I found them to be very polite and helpful.

Above: The Bayon
The Bayon is located in the center of the city of Angkor Thom and was built 100 years after Angkor Wat.

Bayon history
The beautiful Bayon which lies in the middle of the Kingdon of Ankgor Thom was built by Jayavarman VII at the end of the 12th century/early 13th century and was his official state temple. The Bayon was the last state temple to be built at Angkor, and the only Angkorian state temple to be built as a Mahayana Buddhist shrine dedicated to Buddha, although after his death, later kings altered and added to it reflecting their Hindu and Theravada Buddhist religious preferences.

For example - during the reign of Jayavarman VIII in the mid-13th century, the Khmer empire reverted to Hinduism and its state temple was altered accordingly. In later centuries, Theravada Buddhism became the dominant religion, leading to still further changes, before the temple was eventually abandoned to the jungle.

Above: Aspara on lintel
The best of Bayon are the bas-reliefs on the exterior walls of the lower level and on the upper level where the stone faces reside. This lintel above one of the doorways shows three aspara in the Khmer dance position. The two figures on the left are intact but the third has been partially destroyed.

Above: Walking through the arch
When I was approaching this arch, a young Cambodian chap came towards me and said he'd show me the temple and take me through. I asked him pardon? He said he'd show me the temple and I said oh alright, thinking he was just going to point one or two things out and then leave. Huh! I coudln't get rid of him. After five minutes or so, I thanked him and said, "Bye" but he was like a limpet - he stuck to me like glue.

All he did was talk - he never stopped talking and this annoyed me because instead of being able to think about what I was seeing, I had his voice in my ear the whole time. Not only that, I didn't get to go where I wanted - I didn't wish to appear rude, but didn't know how to detach myself from him. I did try by saying something like, well thankyou that was kind of you and trying to walk away, but it didn't did any good.

An important lesson
When exploring the temples, when someone comes up to you and says they'll show you around, just smile and say firmly, "No thank you I want to go through by myself." For all his constant nattering, there are only two things I remember - a) the faces are the king and god, and b) this is a linga.

Above: Archways
As I went through this arch, I noticed the delicate carving on the right hand side of the portal which includes asparas and gods. to the left of this is a row of balusters.

Above: The Bayon
It was awesome just standing here looking at all this majesty. You can see seven of the many towers for which the Bayon is noted. On either side of the main entrance are the remains of what was once statues of the gods, and to the far left several people were examining the carvings. Quite a lot of stone pieces have fallen and were lying around the grounds.


57. Angkor Thom - 2

The forces of good and the forces of evil

Above: One of five gates with Hindu gods and demons - left side

Above: One of five gates with Hindu gods and demons - right side

Above: Deva
A line of 54 Deva (gods) line the left side of the southern causeway to Angkor Thom

Above: Asura
While on the right side of the causeway are 54 Asura - demons.

It was interesting to note that the left side with the gods - representing good, was light while the right side with the demons - evil was dark. One could argue it was just a trick of light or the time of day, but still.....

Above: Corbelled arch
The Angkorian engineers often used a corbel arch to construct rooms, passageways and openings in buildings. A corbel arch is constructed by adding layers of stones to the walls on either side of an opening, with each successive layer projecting further towards the centre than the one supporting it from below, until the two sides meet in the middle.

Above: Angkor Thom - the other side
The archway of the South Gate is very narrow - about the width to allow one elephant through. This is the South Gate after you've walked through. If you enlarge the picture, you can see gods around the gate on both sides of the arch just below the faces of Avalokiteśvara.

Above: Angkor Thom Asuras and Devas
From the top left-hand corner, going clockwise: Asura, southern causeway, deva, asura - basically all the statues looking towards the left are deva and all the statues looking right are asura.

Above: Angkor Thom map

Angkor Thom
Date of Construction ~ Late 12th - Early 13th century
Religious Affiliation ~ Buddhist
Patron or King ~ Jayavarman VII
Artistic/Archeo. Style ~ Bayon
Location ~ Angkor Thom

56. Angkor Thom - 1

Back To The Temples

Fortified with breakky and a nice hot cuppa tea, it was time to set off again. I knew I wanted to see certain temples, and Zola, my driver seemed to know just which order this should be done. Gordon, the owner of Two Dragons, had said when I was debating on whether to get a guide or not, the driver would know where to go.
And so it proved. We set out at a steady pace (I think I've already said my drivers were Speedy Gonzales!) - gone was the coolness of the early morning, although the weather was still pleasant. We arrived at the South Gate of Angkor Thom, and ahead were many people and vehicles. Zola instructed me to "You walk". Everybody walks along the long, long path.

Angkor Thom

Above: South Gate of Angkor Thom
As you walk along the pathway, dwarfed on either side by massive gods, demons and nagas, you have a sense of awe and wonder. Over one thousand years ago, before electricity, before gas, long, long before the telephone had been invented, huge temples and cities were being built by hand. The massive stones were brought from across the oceans, across the lands by men and elephants - there were no trucks, no trains, no railways.

Imgaine if you will, the scene this evokes - hundreds and hundreds of men, with their bare hands and little else, hauling these weighty stones, day after day while they carried all the bits and pieces that they used on a daily basis, as well as everything else needed for construction. Imagine cleaning up all the elephant droppings, feeding and cleaning them as well as themselves. And of course these magnificent temples weren't built overnight - nor even in a year. They took several years and thousands of hours of manpower to leave us with what we see to day. That these temples are still standing over a thousand years later is testimony to the strength, courage and ingenuity of these men from earlier times.

Above: Statues on the bridge leading to Victory Gate

One of the five gateways into the ancient Khmer city of Angkor Thom is the Victory Gate. It is the second most visited of the five Angkor Thom gates and is at the end of the Royal Road that extends from the compound of the Royal Palace of Angkor Thom, where the Terrace of the Elephants are located, past the towers of Prasat Suor Prat, as the road leads eastwards in the direction of Thommanon and Chau Say Tevoda.

History of Angkor Thom
The city of Angkor Thom was founded by Angkor's greatest king, Jayavarman VII, who reigned from 1181 to 1219 AD and who came to power following the defeat of the former Khmer capital by the Chams. At its height, Angkor Thom governed and ruled over one million souls in the surrounding area.

Angkor Thom was built in an almost perfect square, the sides of which run east to west and north to south. It was surrounded by a square wall (jayagiri) 8 metres high and 12 kilometres in length and was further protected by a 100 metre wide moat, said to have contained ferocious crocodiles.
Angkor Thom, or more correctly, Angkor Thum is Khmer for Angkor-the-Great or Great City.

In exactly the middle of each wall, a gate opened from which a bridge extended over the moat to the area outside the royal city. Angkor was the capital of the Khmer Empire of Cambodia from 802 until 1295.

Above: Face tower of the South Gate showing Avalokiteśvara

Each gate to Angkor Thom displays the four faces of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara.
According to Mahayana doctrine, Avalokiteśvara is the bodhisattva who made a great vow to listen to the prayers of all sentient beings in times of difficulty, and to postpone his own Buddhahood until he had assisted every being on Earth in achieving nirvana.

Above: Deva
I thought it was very interesting to see an 'albino' Deva.
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