Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bayon and Ta Prohm

Hi everyone. I hope all is well in Iowa.

I am SO excited. The big surprise Kristin promised me was a really exciting field trip!

I learned today that Cambodia is famous for very old temples in a place called Angkor, near Siem Reap. Kristin says many of the people who visit Cambodia come just to see Angkor. Who knew? I also learned today that Kristin visited Siem Reap in 2003 while working on a radio program with my friend Keith at the Stanley Foundation.

Kristin says the Angkor temples are as important to Cambodia as the Great Pyramid at Giza is to Egypt. I had no idea! I wonder if Aunt Lynn knows about this place called Angkor since she knows so much about the Pyramids in Egypt.

Kristin says there dozens and dozens of temples in the Angkor area, but we don't have time to see all of them (plus, it is REALLY hot outside!). So, Kristin hired a car and guide and she took me to just two of the temples today.

While we were waiting for our guide to buy Kristin a special pass so we could visit Angkor, she told me that the Angkor temples were built between the 9th and 14th centuries (that's a really, really long time ago!). They were built by the kings that ruled the region that included what is now Cambodia. Kristin says each one of the temples have a special meaning, but there are SO many that I know I won't be able to remember why each one is special. Kristin told me not to worry. She says she gets confused too! Whew...I thought she might test me on this stuff later!

Kristin says the most famous temple is one called Angkor Wat. Did you know the word "wat" means temple in Khmer (and that Khmer is the language of Cambodia)? I had no idea!

Kristin says we are supposed to visit Angkor Wat later this week, so today we visited temples called "Ta Prohm" and "Bayon."

Kristin took me to Ta Prohm first. I was expecting to see a really nice building, but as we walked up a long path surrounded by a jungle of trees, all I could see was some very old stone walls that looked like they were falling down. That's when Kristin explained to me that people moved away from Angkor long after the temples were built. And because no one was around to take care of them, the jungle trees eventually covered up parts of the temples.

In the 1800's, an explorer from France found Angkor and told people back in France that they should come visit. Soon people started cleaning up the temples and trying to make them look nice again (although Kristin also told me that some people stole statues and other parts of the temples too). Ta Prohm is special because it hasn't been cleaned up like other temples in the area.

Well I wasn't so sure I wanted to see a bunch of rocks, but Kristin promised me that I would see some cool things. Guess what? She was right. Look at this photo!

Do you know what that is? It is a BIG tree growing right on top of the rocks! And what you see in the photo are the roots of the tree. Can you believe it? I thought tree roots only grew under the ground. Kristin says it is a "Sprung" tree and she says the roots can grow above ground. Who knew?

Ta Prohm has lots of tunnels and it is hard to walk around because there are damaged rocks everywhere! Kristin had to climb through some dark tunnels to get to this spot.

There must be HUNDREDS of roots growing around that door! If you look closely, you will see that Kristin is holding me. :)

There were lots of other tourists who were visiting Ta Prohm and wanted to have their photo taken by this tree. While we were waiting, I decided that I thought I had seen the same doorway before. Kristin told me I had a good eye because it is the same spot shown on the cover of Kristin's guide book.

How cool is that? I got to stand in the very same spot that the photo was taken for Kristin's guide book.

After we left Ta Prohm, Kristin asked the guide to take us to a place called "Bayon."

From this view, Bayon doesn't look all that interesting, but as we walked closer to the complex, I started to see what looked like giant faces carved in the stone.

Kristin says Bayon has 54 different towers and there are 216 of these giant faces.

Doesn't it look like the faces are staring right at me? At first I was kind of scared of the big faces, but then I decided they were pretty cool. Here you can see me near just a few of the 216 faces at Bayon.

We didn't stay at Bayon for very long. That's because it was REALLY HOT. It was so hot and there was so much of that humidity stuff in the air that Kristin's hair was dripping wet. She looked like she had just been at the swimming pool! So Kristin decided that we should go back to the hotel and get out of the heat. I didn't think it was too hot, but I fell asleep as soon as we got back to Kristin's room!

I told Kristin when I woke up that I wanted to go back and see more of the temples, but it was raining outside. :(

Kristin says if I am really good...and if it doesn't rain....I may get to go see some more of Angkor later this week. I promise to be good and I am going to hope it doesn't rain!

Until next time....bye for now!