Friday, May 24, 2019

Angkor Wat and the Sweatiest Man in the World

The Mulberry Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia was pretty fancy so I was looking forward to checking out the hotel breakfast.

Lydia was still smitten with her water bottle. Girls are really into fancy cups and water bottles these days.

Lydia was pretty excited about the fresh fruit juices. This one was watermelon.

I went with the prawn fried rice.

Our guide's name was Sina. He said that it was a unisex name, and that si means "to eat" and na means "please". "Maybe when I was young I didn’t want to eat."

We got into a big conversation about kids names. He said there was one generation where it was fashionable to name children after different varieties of fish. Sina continued that when a family has a child that they think (or hope) will be their last, they will name it "last" in their language. Well if they then have another that poor child's name will be "next last". A third will be "end of the last". Exactly how many children are these people having?

When I told him my name was John he thought that was hilarious. He explained that "we like American wrestling in Cambodia. Undertaker, John Cena, Big Show." Well that's kind of random but ok.

John, Sina, John Cena. Get it? It's very funny.

I was a little bit jealous at how awesome the Smiling Hotel looked from the outside. I wondered how much smiling might be taking place in there right now. Sina told us that they aren't allowed to build anything in Siem Reap to a height taller than Angkor Wat.

Our first stop was to a big fancy ticket office to buy ourselves entry into a little spot called... Angkor Wat!  

It was evident that this was serious business when they printed our freaking faces onto the tickets.

There were a lot of rules posted.

We were about to see a whole lot of these creatures everywhere.

We stopped for some refreshments. It was really hot today.

I was pleasantly surprised about how short of a drive it was from the city to Angkor Wat.

Wat wat! Angkor Wat is a big deal around here.

For one thing, it's on Cambodia's national flag.

Angkor Wat, literally "city of temples", is the largest religious monument in the world, sitting on 402 acres. It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu but was transformed into a Buddhist temple around the end of the 12th century.

It didn't take long until I bumped into another one of these seven headed snakes. They are called nagas, and they are part god creatures that can take human/snake/or snakish human form. They were especially cool because their head would be near a staircase like this then their tale would wrap around an entire building forming a banister.

Many of the stairs had wooden steps built on top of them to prevent further erosion.

More snake-creature nagas!! There was a large bas-relief telling the Hindu story of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk. The story describes the beginning of time and the creation of the universe. Gods and demons are fighting each other but they temporarily work together by using a naga's tail to churn the sea of milk to release the powerful elixir of life (amrita).

You can see a lot of cool fish and dragon-looking monsters that live in the milk sea below. I think the guys pulling here are the demons.

One thing all of that churning does is creates apsaras, which are sort of like cloud nymphs, depicted as dancing women. Those are the small characters that you can see in the air above the snake tug-of-war participants. 

There were carvings that Sina pointed out were left unfinished because of war or some other hardship. that kind of bummed me out or made me curious about what exactly happened to the person that was carving this or that unfinished artwork. 

I took the possibility of visit less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I've read that Angkor Wat has the size of the Great Pyramid (went there) and the intricate craftsmanship of the Taj Mahal (omg went there too I'm the coolest). I guess I would agree, which made the experience kind of daunting. I ran out of energy and sweat and attention span way before I'd run out of things that deserved to be explored. 

Mimosa pudica is a cool little plant because it quickly wilts when it's touched. I guess that unique quality makes it a good plant to run experiments on involving plant memory. I think the deal is if you keep touching it the same way it will learn that you're not a threat, and will stop wilting. Very cool. 

Lydia must've looked like she wasn't going to make it because a random tourist pulled her up the stairs.

Who needs nirvana when you look this good?

There were a ton of chunks of stone and statue chunks all over the place. The emphasis seemed more about paying respect to the images that had broken than on repairing them.

There were elaborately dressed women twisting their way over many of the stone walls. I believe that apsaras from the milk ocean.

Lydia liked this one because the figure looked like she was eating ice cream.

When we first arrived we saw some workers on the roof chopping off vine overgrowth. Later we met one of the workers and showed him some pictures we'd take of him working really high up. He seemed really excited about it.

These looked like some swimming pools. I could really go for a dip.

What ancient religious site is complete without some monkeys attacking chariots?

I'm glad I've already visited the Taj Mahal because if I went there after this I'd be like "where are the damn monkey soldiers this place is boring!"

At this point I started sweating through my clothes and so my pictures are less hygienic. Adventuring is a dirty business, folks.

Weather worn naga, naga, na ganna work here anymore anyway.

You really can never have too many pictures of yourself standing in front of a famous thing.


We had a couple of... strange encounters with the other tourists. One instance involved an older Asian couple. First they wanted Lydia to take the woman's picture while the man just stood out of the frame. Maybe he was a bad photographer, I don't know. Then the woman wanted me in the photo with her. Still not the man. Ok? I did some weird poses with her that they were amused by. Who knows how many random asian people's photo albums I'm in at this point. At least they all asked nicely. Some weirdos in India would just stand by you and someone would snap a couple pics.

Luckily it was time for a hard earned refreshment because I was about to faint.

Vietnam and Cambodia have both had my number... it's hard for me to resist buying a beer named after the place I'm standing in. But... they all taste the same. Oh well.

This one was especially weird because it had the pull tab thing on top. I know that's how beers in the US used to be but I don't think I've ever operated one of these myself.

Sitting at a table rubbing a cold drink on my forehead made me a good stationary target for peddlers. I told them to peddle their asses right on to the next table.

There was a man selling taffy out of the back of a motorcycle playing techno music though. That gentleman genius deserved to be supported.

We were on a Cambodian temple trail of sweat that I was unable to stop. It was time for more stoney places. 

Ta Prohm Temple was cool because it had a lot of giant stone faces to see. My thing is, if you're gonna make a stone face, make it a giant one, you know?

There were some of the skinniest chickens you ever saw running around. Would take three of them to make a nugget.

These places were cool because they had been left to the jungle trees to.. grow in them?

Lydia doing some calculations.

Only afterwards did I realize that: I am Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.

The roots of the spung tree were all over the place.

There were a lot of defaced Buddhas in the area. It kind of reminds me of me, you know? Like there are some haters out there who are gonna be chiseling your face off temples but you just gotta shine on.

Buddha and I also like to wear rad hats.

More milk snake churning. So much milk snake.

Next was Bayon, the awesomest temple at Angkor Thom.

Dancin milk whispies: check.

The main thing I learned is that in Cambodia you're never far from a delicious milk snake.

There were a lot of bas-reliefs here too but they depicted actual events/everyday life. You know, all the stuff that happened after the milk ocean. Here is a Khmer army complete with war elephants on the march.

I think these are Cham warriors in the boat and dead Khmer warriors getting eaten by alligators in the water.

Black Friday sale at Pottery Barn.

Back at the hotel I think I was still heat delirious because I ordered about seven lunches.

I was impressed by the bamboo straw situation here.

Last but not least we booked a food tour with the hotel, which was fun because they drove us around in a little tuk-tuk.

I was really amused that our first stop was right outside the ticket building that we started our journey in this morning. At night they block a lot of the road and have a little food festival. The road's main purpose is to shuttle tourists to Angor Wat so it doesn't have much purpose at night anyway, right?

The food at this place was... questionable. There were so many flies. So many flies that people set up little ceiling fans over the food and tied plastic shopping bags to the blades. The whirling shopping bags were supposed to keep the flies at bay. Other food stall personnel just had some shopping bags tied to a stick that they would whip around to shoo the flies. It was a losing battle.

After you bought some food you could rent a little carpet or hammock to nibble on.

Let's hurry up and eat so we can get straight to the food borne illness.

The chickens were splayed out in this torture device ready to be heated up on the grill. I was excited about that step because the grill was the one surface that there were no flies.


Those yellowy orange balls on the sticks. Wait until you hear what those are. They are unlaid chicken eggs. They killed a chicken and then pulled the still forming eggs out of its insides. That's graphic stuff folks. Graphic yolks.

I was impressed by this jerry-rigged ride for kids.

There were children walking around with empty baskets, and they were trying to get you to buy a drink that they would then fetch for you and get lil something in their pocket in the process. I was down to play the game and asked our guide if they would get me a beer. He said no they only get fruit juice. Fruit juice?! How the hell am I supposed to get drunk off of that? I need something to help kill the E. coli.

It was fun to watch local children nonchalantly eating the same stuff that was making my eyes bulge out.

The food was actually pretty good. I stuck with the chicken mostly.

Our fearless leader ordered some pong tea kon. They weren't normal eggs because that wouldn't be weird enough. They were friggin' eggs with little birds in them. You don't order a specific number of eggs either, they just bring you a pile of them and assume that you'll be so overcome with duck fetus munchies that you'll eat them all. 

I spotted some exotic fruits that we popped into a little take home bag.

Not even watching the dismemberment of a bird fetus could ruin Lydia's appetite for crepes.

Next we hit the Phalla Angkor Night Market. It was much less... graphic than the last place.

I think we'd earned as much ice cream as we wanted at this point.

It was that rolly kind that they pour onto a cold surface then scrape off like an old fence post.

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