lin·gam n :a stylized phallic symbol of the masculine cosmic principle and of the Hindu god Siva
 

What is up with all the phallus-love?  From ancient borneo tribes with the penis-gourds to Egyptian and Roman obelisks, and more modern Eiffel tower and Washington monument, I mean, there’s a pattern here.  People like their towers of power.  I dunno why this ramble, maybe the Da Vinci Code has got me thinking about all the patriachal societies from ancient times to the modern day.  Is that the cause of the philo-phallic moneuments over the years?
 
Who knows…anyway, Ankor Wat sure has plenty of ’em.  Here they are called lingams, and as you read above it has something to do with the Hindu god Siva the destroyer.  Everyone loves to appease him since he’s the one who’ll knock you out if he’s upset.  The lingams are on these little altars, very Raiders of the Lost Ark.  In one of the temples, the roof had caved in, and a beam of sunlight was shining in on the lingam.  I kept adjusting the amount of sand in the bag, and checked for booby traps before attempting to swap it out.  As I walked toward it, I brushed off the massive spiders that had crawled onto my back…..um, ok not really but hell this place gets you thinking like you are Indiana Jones.
 
One interesting thing about Ankor, its got quite a few massive city-fortresses….the first few are Hindu and the later ones are Buddhist.  You can actually kind of see Buddhism taking root in Southeast Asia by wandering around here…its really just a big mix-up, Hindu and Buddhist gods and temples next to each other, but it still kinda works.  Kinda like Mexican food, you mix it all up and it still tastes good.
 
The place is friggin’ huge, these guys were ballers back in the day.  They say the ancient Khmer rulers in Ankor had a larger city-state than Rome in the height of the Roman empire!  Just kind of eye-opening to think how in the west we think of the Romans as the most important empire the ancient world ever had.  But asia had it going on too, we just don’t hear about it too much back home. 
 
As I said, the scale of this place is impressive.  The moat is enormous, I had visions of invading burmese elephant armies getting stopped in their tracks by it.  The wall is 1 m thick of stone, and the city is huge.  Gotta be over a kilometer square.  The main temple complex is nice, but I have no friggin idea how they got up and down those steps.  They’re damn sketchy to get up and down, I was picturing the old king going up them to do the ol’ ceremony and missing a step and tumbling down with a broken neck.  I’ll give Dawn props for getting up and down them.
 

So Angkor Wat was big and impressive, but didn’t get the blood pumping yet…too many camera-toting tourists and drink vendors, not enough jungle and spiders.  I headed off to the nearby mountain temple, which actually was really good.  You climb up this big hill, and at the top you can really see the whole area spread out.  That was pretty cool, Angkor Wat is just one a few enormous city-fortresses in the area, and from that viewpoint it appears to rise straight out of the jungle.  Then we cruised north to the main city, Angkor Thom.  In the middle is the really cool Bayon temple, which has these enigmatic smiling giant Bhudda faces peering out to the four corners of the world.  It is crumbling down and you definately get a Tomb Raider vibe exploring its chambers and passageways.  It had started to rain again, which actually made it even cooler, with pools forming and water dripping down through the temple to give it a spooky vibe.
 

After the Bayon I explored the rest of the city.  One big ol’ temple was suposed to house this huge ol’ reclining buddha, but I guess the Khmers didn’t know too much about drainage, after a big storm the place collapsed and hasn’t been itself since.  One little temple was worth mentioning, covered in sanskrit.  Apparently it was where the king took his virgins and appeased the gods by, eh, introducing them to adult practices.  The place is so big that soon I really was off on my own, and I could start to see why people say you need 3 full days to see it all.  Finally I headed up to a smaller temple city dedicated to the king’s father.  This place was the real deal….it was crumbling down all over the place and was getting slowly reclaimed by the jungle.  There were only a few tourists, and I quickly found myself alone as I walked further into the old temple.  Giant trees grew straight out of the walls, lingam and buddha shrines were to be found in empty passageways, and broken naga serpent railings separated overgrown lawns from the main temple.  This place was really fun to explore, I kind of wished I had a whole day just to walk around and pretend to be Indiana Jones dodging booby traps.
 

But the best was saved for last…excellent Ta Phrom temple.  The preservationists in Cambodia have cleared the jungle away some of the other monuments, but Ta Phrom is still very much hidden away.  It is literally falling apart from the intrusion of massive banyan trees growing everywhere over and through the ruins.  Walk a bit away from the temple and you are in serious jungle…not a good thought when you remember that there are fairly new landmines all over (the fighting didn’t really stop until the 90’s I guess).  Half the temple has warning signs that signal a section could collapse on you if you climb on it…oh man it was awesome!!  I mean you can’t believe its real, it feels like you are in a movie.  Course I was reminded by my guide that in fact this was where they filmed Tomb Raider…
 
Ta Phrom ruled…I’ve never seen anything like it.  I will have to go back and watch Tomb Raider again and compare it with my pics.
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