Getting In to Bayon

This post should have come earlier … to get to Bayon, you have to pass from Angkor Wat into Angkor Tom, the formal capital complex of the Khmer Empire under King Jayavarman VII. Angkor Tom is a walled city which is reached via gates to the north and south, by crossing a bridge which is lined with statues of gods on one side and demons on the other. Each group of figures is holding a seven-headed naga along the length of the bridge. (Unfortunately, most of the statues on both bridges have lost their heads over the years, and the…

Banteay Srei

The next temple we visited was Banteay Srei, also known as the Pink Temple for the color of the sandstone with which it is built. Banteay Srei was consecrated to the Hindu god Shiva in the 10th century and fell out of use some 300 years later. It was rediscovered in 1914, and nine years later—fun fact—André Malraux stole four devata statues from the site, a stunt for which he was arrested. News of the event sparked increased interest in the site, and the authorities began clearing it the following year. Given how old it is, the carvings are in remarkable…

Ta Prohm

The final temple of the day was Ta Prohm. King Jayavarman VII built Ta Prohm to be a monastery and university, but it is best known as the temple in the Angelina Jolie film Tomb Raider. The temple is distinct for the trees with their enormous root structures growing out of the ruins, and—apart from stabilization—the temple has largely been left in the condition in which it was found.

Bayon

After Angkor Wat, we saw Bayon. Bayon was the state temple for Jayavarman VII, built as “the centrepiece of [his] massive program of monumental construction and public works”. The temple is most noted for the 216 faces carved on its towers, which—some scholars say—are copies of Jayavarman’s own face, in his role as a representation of the Buddha.

Angkor Wat

Abby and I ran the Khmer Empire Marathon in Siem Reap, Cambodia, home of the fabled Angkor Wat temple. The marathon itself ran past many of the monuments—of which Angkor Wat in only the most famous—but we arrived a few days early so we could explore them at our own pace. Angkor Wat was built in the early 12th century as a Hindu temple, and converted to a Buddhist temple by King Jayavarman VII at the end of the 12th century. By the 16th century, however, it began to fall into disuse and was probably completely abandoned (although not forgotten)…

Let’s learn Thai – part 8, in which I almost get a social disease

I decided to go back to language lessons after a six-week hiatus, since I began forgetting everything I’d learned. I’m enjoying the new school, although it is a bit like drinking from a firehose. Every day is something new. Today, my teacher explained the structure “nʉ̀ng nai” (หนึ่งใน), which means “one of”, as in “one of the things I hate about Thai is how difficult it is.” The “ʉ” is pronounced like you would pronounce “uhh” while grinning from ear to ear (which is why Thailand is called the Land of Smiles; you have to stretch your mouth to pronounce…

A different side of Kathmandu

A few weeks back, I went to Kathmandu to take photos for a friend’s research project. She is examining the leadership roles—formal and informal—that women play in sukumbasis, informal settlements that have sprung up in Kathmandu as migrants have poured into the city.  The sukumbasis we visited are on either side of the Bagmati river. The Bagmati is a holy river—the Ganges of Nepal, as it were—but is now heavily choked and polluted due to the unrestrained population growth of the city. Two generations ago, people swam in it; now it is full of untreated sewage. A view of Jagritinagar from the…