February 03
Day Two

Today we headed out to Banteay Srei, an exquisitely detailed temple complex some twenty km from the rest of central Angkor Wat region... and of course we saw many interesting things along the way, too.

Making Sugar

On the way to Banteay Srei we stopped at one family's house as they were making sugar from palm fruits. From right to left, a kettle is cooking the syrupy mixture down, while two men lay out circular palm-leaf rings to act as molds; a table holds raw ingredients ready for the next batch, and finally, finished product is stacked on a table beside the road, ready for sale.

The Ingredients

Palm Sugar comes both from from the fruit of the female tree, and the large finger-like blossom clusters of the male tree. Here our guide cuts away the fruit husk to reveal gelatinous fruit and a reservoir of slightly sweet juice. The bamboo canister in the foreground holds the extract from the male flowers. Both will be reduced over fire.

Cooling the Boil

After the water has been boiled off, the remaining syrup, lightly caramelized, is stirred to cool before being placed into the molds.

Finished Product

The finished products, inch-diameter disks, are stacked in palm-leaf tubes. You'll see them set out for sale on tables along the road throughout the countryside.

Exquisite Detail

The carvings at Banteay Srei are perhaps the most detailed, and compared to many other sites this one comes across as "delicate". It's a bit off the beaten path, but the visual treat of ornate stonework makes the trip worthwhile.

Ancient Writings

I don't know how many people can still read this, but after a millenium, this sanskrit is still legible. (I guess you could call that "archive quality"... ;)

Hall of Doors

Architects would get a kick out of studying Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei, and Prea Kahn, each of which transitions from space to space quite dramatically. A favorite technique seems to be the lining up of doorways as shown here.

"Gingerbread" Buildings

It seems like every square inch of these buildings is engraved either with great mythological scenes, or exquisite patterns.

Eastern Mebon

On the way back from Banteay Srei we stopped at this ruin, that of Eastern Mebon. This place is a funerary vault, holding the ashes of kings, which were incinerated at the crematorium complex of Pre Rup.

Pre Rup

A few kilometers to the south of Eastern Mebon is Pre Rup, which as I said, was essentially a crematorium.

Racing Monkeys

Along the south edge of Angkor Wat proper, two monkeys play tag.

Eight Arms

This statue in one of the side entrances of Angkor Wat's outer perimeters recently had its head restored.

Angkor Wat at Last

After having spent several days skirting the central feature of this site, we now delve in. Here we see it from beyond a small pond, all that remains after the end of the dry winter season.

Not ADA Compliant

The first thing you notice about almost all of the stairs here is that they are very steep -- a 6-inch tread with as much as an 18 inch rise, so when you climb stairs here, you really climb!

Stairway to Heaven

There's a purpose to such steep ascents, I'm told (aside from allowing very tall buildings...) -- the summit of Angkor Wat represents heaven, and it is a journey you are supposed to work at. Y'know, the view from heaven isn't that bad.... ;)

Inner Sanctum

Here we look at the central cupola of Angkor Wat, looking up from beneath the cupola at north-west corner of the courtyard. The sun is getting low in the sky, so the lighting is quite dramatic.


Steep Descent

Here's just another view of the slope pilgrims must ascend (and later descend) when visiting the summit...

Last Golden Light

As the sun approaches the horizon, the inner complex is seen, again from beyond one of the diminished ponds. The air is still, and still quite hot. Frogs in the pond cause the only disturbance to the reflection.

Buy Postcard! Ten for One Dollar!

The first thing you'll encounter when visiting any site here is the knot children relentlessly selling postcards (10 for a dollar is the going rate, but can be negotiated down) and pirated copies of tour books (like Lonely Planet) for a few dollars. As cute as the urchins are, I'm faced with an ethical dilemma of supporting piracy vs. doing the compassionate thing. My recommendation: don't buy, give them school supplies, like paper and pencils.

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