Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gone Tomb Raidin' in Siem Reap

One of the gates of Angkor Thom (The Great City) - a preview of the face towers of Bayon. 

Neuroscientists say that a part of our brain filters what actually gets processed by the more advanced section of the brain. One criterion is novelty - if something is new or different, then we pay attention. That's not really rocket science, I just had to put it that way because it sounds legit, y'all. 

The gods and asuras lining up the 'naga' bridge leading to Angkor Thom. 

Let me tell you a story for more... legit-ness? Legit- ability? Legit-imacy? Yes, legitimacy. 

In my hometown, what's called a 'pedicab' here in Manila is called a 'traysikol;' and what's called 'traysikel' here, we call 'pajero' (yes, people from my hood are high rollers like that). We also have a local delicacy called 'moron' (stress on the second syllable and pronounced with a rolling 'r' so it sounds different from the offensive word, but still ...). But see, when I was still living in Catbalogan, I didn't give any of these any thought because they were mundane. I rode 'pajeros' everyday, and I ate 'moron' during celebrations (townsfolk would go "Ah! Such an accomplishment - let's eat some moron to celebrate!).  

Almost sunset at Bayon Temple. 

Bayon - the State Temple of Angkor Thom. 

So maybe you paid attention because my headline has 'tomb raidin' in it. Sorry, but no, we didn't raid any tombs in Siem Reap, but Ta Prohm, which was a location of the first Lara Croft movie, is more popularly known to tourists as the Tomb Raider temple, even tour guides have taken to calling the temple just that. And I could tell Narith, our tour guide, wasn't very happy with the name because you get the sense he's rolling his eyes every time he said "the Tomb Raider temple." 

Battle scene bas relief at Bayon. 

Face towers that make up the stone mountain that is Bayon Temple. 

Also, don't expect your Ta Phrom visit to be anywhere near Lara Croft-ish. For one, in the movie, the temple seems to be isolated in the middle of the jungle - the kind of place where you can be emo and stuff. In reality, you'll have to stand in line to have your picture taken with the giant trees that are now intertwined with the ruins. And no, there is no spot where the ground swallows you and leads to to a hidden room where you'll find the other half of a triangle that will let you turn back time and rule the world.

Large silk- cotton tree interlaced with temple ruins at Ta Prohm. Photo by Narith Pong.

Anyhow, novelty. I talk about it because Bayon Temple - which is popular for its 30-40 face towers - really blew my mind. The concept of gigantic laterite towers each with four faces looking out towards the four cardinal directions is beyond me (understand that I am not a gamer, okay?)

Ta Prohm. Left: Dinosaurs? Right: What name do I give this shot? Dark Knight Rises, or The Ring? 

Ta Prohm. Some roots are kinky; others try to hide secrets. 

Ta Prohm- intentionally left in its natural state to show how most of the temples looked on their discovery. 

So the visit to Bayon and Ta Prohm were like two hollywood movies wrapped in one experience.

Bayon reminded me of Stargate (don't worry kiddos, if you haven't heard of the movie, that's totally understandable, it was released when James Spader and Kurt Russell were "it" guys, and Djimon Hounsou didn't have a last name yet . I am not making this up -he was probably thinking he could have it easy if his screen name were Madonna-ish. Or McLovin-ish. But that's a totally different movie. True story, nine years after Stargate was released, Djimon starred in the second Lara Croft movie, and this time he had a last name. But I digress - a lot!) Bayon was Stargate-ish because, well, it felt like being in a different galaxy.

'Nuff said.

We ended our day of temple fun with the popular Phnom Bakheng sunset. We had to walk for about 10 minutes to get to his hilltop temple, and we were worried we wouldn't get there in time since there was a long queue at the entrance. Our worries turned out to be baseless because the sunset was a disappointment. As Grace said, "Mas maganda pa ang sunset sa Manila. Actually, mas maganda pa ang sunset sa Masbate." We thought it was because the sky had a grey overcast the entire day, but I did a little research, and yes, most tourists agree that this sunset is a little overrated. 

All done with the temple tour. Istine and Grace at Phnom Bakheng. 

This is the last of my Siem Reap temple tour entries. Next, I'll talk about other stuff to do in this town. Oh, if you're visiting the temples, I highly recommend our tour guide, Narith Pong. You can reach him at:


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