That's Wei, our Accidental Apsara.
Apsaras are the heavenly maidens of the gods, and in the mortal realm, they were the court dancers of the khmer temples back in those days when Kings called Jayavaraman ruled. (yes, try saying that three times fast...)
And how did Wei get into this back breaking pose attempting to become an Apsara? Why is her fiance Joe lying in the background with a half sleepy smile on his face?
Those questions and more answered in this post!
Hehehhe. Okay, first up, as you may well have noticed, I have changed the background and look of the blog again. Why? Well, the pictures simply look
better with a dark background... so decided to tinker with the templates. Now, I wish I had a tool like photo shop so I can create my own title bar. Oh dear, I am turning into a blog geek.
As, as G pointed out in his hijack post, I have been napping big time... we left on Sunday (05/02) on an early morning flight to Siem Reap, and arrived on Thursday, and since then have had an awful need to sleep...
Now; prior to these five days were a sequence of events that will explain, at least, why I was in a correct spot to catch Wei's Apsara-ing.
- Wei, an old friend from Primary school, philo hons and SPH (yes, we go back a long way) comes back from her course in Melbourne.
- Wei, Joe and Gnat talk about a holiday. Gnat gets all interested in dive holiday, Wei eventually goes, Gnat (gene and nat) stay back in Sg because we don't have that much leave from work. Gnat sulk and plot a getaway to Cambodia.
- We catch news from the grapevine that another couple we know, the Wees, are coming back to Sg for CNY and are also plotting holidays in the region to get away from the relatives.
- Gnat and Wees confirm holiday, Wei and Joe reckon it'd be good fun to come too.
Hence: three couples set off for the temples of Angkor with one lonely planet among us. (This would change by the end of the trip. Number of lonely planets, guidebooks to temples, and cookbooks increased to six - at last count anyway. Mostly thanks to colour-copy rip offs freely available from the street kids there for a pittance.)
In Siem Reap, which is the gateway to the temples of Angkor Wat, there are a multitude of hotels; ranging from US$5 and up. In fact, there are a couple of thousand hotel rooms built year on year: its a real sign that tourists are beginning to really come into the area. G chose the Hotel de la paix, very nice boutique hotel where the hip factor is high, and the prices too. But the rooms are gorgeous, and they come with ipods and funky speaker stations.
Nice ah? That's the bar...
This is the view of the room. It's all very boutique-y and swish. Everything is in black and white including the robes and slippers. The bathtub is big enough for two to sit side by side. And there are iPods in the room - with over 300 songs. You can opt to blast the buddha bar lounge type music/jazz... whatever takes your fancy actually. That tree you see behind the bed is iron wrought and the design comes from the trees in the ancient khmer carvings on Angkor Wat.
This is the pool. And trust me, it is freezing cold... despite the intense heat of the day. Gene had to practically yank me into it.
They are REALLY into lotuses at this hotel. A nice pile of pool towels artfully arranged into a pyramid with the bulbs as perfect accents. Note how they fold up the petals of each individual flower - talk about attention to detail! (above) Even the shower head at the pool is a large lotus.
But enough about the lurvely hotel right now... moving on to the temples of Angkor, which we were erh technically there for.
With a local guide in tow - her name is Sopinith and "nith" is pronounced "naeert", and more on this amazing petite lady later - our first morning in the ruins was greeted by a HUGE bunch of Korean tourists. They come in LARGE tour buses.
Note to would-be adventurers to Angkor: Korean tourists - though mostly of the middle age persuasion will push and shove. They don't mean to be mean to you specifically... they just think its okay to do so.
This is the entrance to Angkor Thom which is one of the many temple complexes ... beaut eh? But check out that crowd of tourists trying to surge through that narrow archway/gap...
Bayon temple is the famous one with the faces. And contrary to popular belief, they don't all have the same expression. The ones with their eyes closed are meditating, the ones with their eyes open are looking on/over the populace.
There are amazingly intricate carvings all around Bayon. But if course, time and looters have taken their toll here, as with the other temples. Below is what they call the lucky Apsara - the only one to have escaped destruction at Bayon.
But they also had a sense of humour, these carvers. While there are panels literally metres long depicting battles the Khmers had with the Chams - another ancient civilisation that sprung up in what we know today at Vietnam (The Chinese were also involved in these battles, they were on the side of the Khmers) - there are really cute, and down-to-earth bits in them as well. In this one, the warrior pictured got his bum bitten by a tortoise, which was presumably brought along to the battelfield alive so it could erh... remain as fresh provisions..
My attempt at an... ahem.. arty temple shot.
Although taking these shots need careful timing because more likely than not, some tourist is going to saunter into the frame.... gak.
Here are a few more temples:
This is one made famous by Angelina Jolie and Tomb Raider. The forest itself is reclaiming the temples. Gigantic roots push right into the foundations and fry apart the buildings. Please do not be fooled by the apparent serenity in this one: It is crazy the number of tourists going into this temple. To get a good shot, you have ta be pretty quick to snap the frame when no one is attempting to pose among the roots.
This next photo is of Bantaey Srei - noted pink sandstone and the extremely intricate carvings, the most intricate of the lot actually
And at a lesser known one, off the beaten path, a monk sits meditating inside.
And of course, the one which the entire complex is named after: Angkor Wat. It is huge! There are these immense corridors with carvings galore..
We decided to see the sunset from this one, which meant waiting for a little while. It was simply just too hot to do anything so we sat down and listened to Nith's stories - she is all of 24, but she has gone through a lot. Her families members have died from starvation during the Pol Pot regime, but she, and her fellow countrymen are amazingly, not bitter about the past. She earns a paltry sum, maybe $100 to $200 US a month, and that has to support her entire family of seven, including her six month old child.
When she was younger, she trained as a dancer at the temple - and while waiting, she and wei embarked on this impromptu dance lesson. Now we know that Apsaras have to bend their fingers back at weird angles.
Joe, who had been hithertho fast asleep, woke up with a sleepy chuckle and fell back into slumberland. We all now know just how loud Joe can be when asleep *wink*.
Angkor Wat - the biggest of the temples, has three levels, and you have to climb to the very top to get a good view of the sun setting. Which meant climbing steps going up at an 80 deg angle..
But the views are amazing... and the sunset very pretty.
To be continued...