Angkor Wat

 We visited Angkor Wat three times in total; once when we attempted to watch the sunset but were forced to leave because it was closing; the second time we took the back entrance but were forced to share the temple with hundreds of other tourists, all clamouring for photos; the final time for a somewhat anticlimactic sunrise.  Despite these not fully successful endeavours I was astounded by the shear effort and patience that must have gone into creating such an amazing and beautifully carved triumph of ancient architecture.

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This was my first glimpse of the temple.  The long walk certainly gives one plenty of time to mull over its grandeur, I wonder what visitors thought of it 800 years ago.

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My version of the classic temple reflection photo after deciding that I didn’t fancy vying with the crowds to use one of the ponds on either side of the walkway.

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Unlike most other Khmer temples, Angkor Wat faces west not east.  This is thought to either be because it is dedicated to Vishnu or because it was intended to be the resting place of the Khmer King Suryavarman II who had it built.  This was the best shot of the sunset I managed to take before the whistles of the guards drove us back to our tuk tuk.

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At least everyone leaving meant some nice (relatively) tourist free photos.

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What’s a trip to the temples of Siem Reap without a few monks?

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Seemingly every surface save the floor is engraved in breath-taking detail.  I was particularly impressed with the engraving of the story of how the gods’ and demons’ quest for the elixir of immortality led to the churning of the sea of milk and the creation of the cosmos.

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Why take the public steps when you could take the Indiana Jones route?  Or as my German friend liked to shout, “TEMPLE RUN!”

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The best photo from our sunrise outing and I have to admit, my camera made it look considerably better than it was.

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Since we were at the temple early we planned to try and make it up to the very top of the temple as the queue had been too long the previous day.  However, it was not be as we would have had to wait a further forty minutes for the central stairs to open.  Fortunately, I at least got this rather nice photo before the sun was too bright, causing all my other photos to have blindingly white skies.

First Impressions

It is common knowledge that when one meets a new person, crucial first impressions are formed in the initial seven seconds.  It is not quite the same with places.  Here the generous time slot of the length of the trip to ones hotel is the allotted time.  My journey to the university campus left me with two main conclusions:  one, the weather is very hot and two, Singaporean architects love plants.

On the first point, there was very little surprise.  I had been thoroughly briefed by every man and his dog that the weather was going to be hot, humid and often times rainy.  I had come prepared.  I had two fans, air-conditioned rooms (a splurge I decided was crucial to my sanity) and summer clothes galore.  However, walking into a solid wall of air is something no amount of planning can prepare one for; it is no more pleasant the hundredth than it was that first time at the airport.  Sadly, my small hope that it may be possible for one to acclimatise to this brutal climate was cruelly shot down in this morning’s orientation briefing where one of the speakers assured us that, despite having lived in Singapore for thirty years, he had still not adapted to the climate.

My second observation was how every other building was shrouded in greenery.  It some cases, it was overflowing balcony planters but in many more the plants were as much a part of the uniquely shaped buildings as the glass and concrete.  This thought has remained with me since my initial taxi ride.  Every spare bit of space is filled with plants while trees rise up between buildings.  This green-fingered approach to architecture unequivocally brightens the city and rejuvenates the weary traveler with spectacular shades from grassy green to emerald forest.  I am undeniably curious to see whether this design is carried out throughout Singapore or if it unique to my corner of this cosmopolitan island.