Angkor: Elephants, Monkeys, A Stegosaurus, and A Giant Chicken    

Terrace of Elephants
Starting at the North Gate, we visited several different sites in Angkor Thom. The following are short descriptions of some more of the sites around Angkor.

Preah Palilay: is a very rickety looking vertical tower with several stumps of fig trees which had once been growing from it. Their roots seemed to crawl between the stones like lizards.

North Gate and tree

Carved faces of North Gate

Preah Palilay and tree trunks
Phimeanakas: is a climbable though a bit rickety looking stone structure (a wood stairway ad been added on one side). There were several statues on the corners. One looked strangely like a sheep but had in truth been an elephant whose trunk and ears had broken off. The other 3 sides of the tower were off limits.


Elephant becoming a sheep
The Baphuon is also undergoing extensive reconstruction. However, a sign with an arrow said, “Access to the Buddha”. A wooden staircase led to a higher level with a view of reconstruction work and a bizarre, almost wavy looking stone wall. There were posters about the issues of restoration/reconstruction (big one being it was built structurally flawed to begin with). I didn't see any Buddha, though. Then Rowshan pointed out a huge face at one end of the wavy rock wall which was actually the body of a huge reclining Buddha.

Reclining Buddha

Carving in wall of Baphuon

Scattered stones
Elephant Terrace: Lots of elephants and riders. Elephants fighting wild animals, elephants with kids swinging from their trunks, elephants marching through the jungle, elephants battling a Wild Thing, elephants... elephants everywhere... After the elephants was a whole wall of disco sumo birds. Next to the Terrace of the Elephants was the Terrace of the Leper King.

Elephant swing

Row of elephants

Elephant battles Wild Thing

Disco Sumo birds

Terrace of the Leper King

Terrace of the Leper King sea life carving
Neak Pean: a nice little tower in a pool surrounded by 4 pools, each with a different water spout-- only no water.

Neak Pean

Water spout
Ta Som: is famous for a tree in the process of crushing one of its gates. As we parked our bikes, a girl came up selling drinks. Rowshan said, “No, No, No...” making it into a song. (the vendors are really getting on our nerves) After he did this for about a minute, he stopped and she continued, “If you buy one drink...” “NONONONONONONONONONO!!!” Rowshan continued until someone called her away.

Tree and gate

Apsara peering from roots

The gate lintel
Preah Khan: had been a monastery and was very large. There was an interesting 2 story building with round columns on the first story. The monastery/school was built like an X with 4 gates and 4 main passageways to the center. However the 4 entrances weren't symmetrical. The ruins were busy but there were some quiet spots. There were also some pretty trees crushing sections of the walls and towers.

Carving and tree

Carving at Preah Khan

Corbeled vault

Apsara chorus line

Tree crushing temple

Structure in Preah Khan

Rounded columns

Carving at Preah Khan
Ta Prohm: is a monastery/ temple but had a lot of work going on around it. The jungle has been doing its best to reclaim it. Huge fig trees grow from the walls with roots spread over the stone chambers and crushing them as if they were hands of a giant. The jungle seemed very audible this morning with strange croaks whistles and chirps. Huge piles of collapsed stones stood between the remaining chambers. One tree was reminiscent of a giant squid consuming a ship.

Jungle reclaiming Ta Prohm

Closer view of Jungle reclaiming Ta Prom

Tree and Ta Prohm

Tree taking over gallery
We had to go back to Ta Prohm the next day in order to look for the stegosaurus. I learned about it last night from a newspaper article. On one of Ta Prohm's towers is a little carving in a circle of a stegosaurus in a row of carvings of more mundane things. It isn't known if it is genuine or a restoration worker's joke-- but it is there. The newspaper columnist who mentioned it said it could be a Sumatran rhino or pangolin (an anteater that looks like an armadillo). It could also be just a whimsical creation. I find a lot of the creatures carved have interesting unrecognizable appearances-- the disco sumo birds, for example.


Row of carvings
Is this a carving of Animal?
On our way back towards Angkor Wat, Rowshan asked, “Where are all the monkeys?” The monkeys who frequent the forest near the road just inside Angkor Thom, were strangely absent. “Maybe they take a siesta,” I suggested. A few minutes later Rowshan called out, “STOP! Look!”


Monkey grooming Rowshan
In a water weed filled point, the little monkeys were all taking a swim, just as kids would on a hot day. They paddled and splashed each other. Then they took turns jumping from a partially submerged tree into the water. I almost expected them to start diving... but they stuck to flailing leaps.

Monkeys swimming

Monkey jumping into the pond
Phnom Bakheng: is a temple on a hill with a view of Angkor Wat, the lake, and lots of jungle. There is a forested path up the hill... actually there are 3 paths as described on a sign: the “elephant path” which switchblades up the hill (for elephant rides), the “safe path” which slowly circles the hill and the “dangerous path” which goes straight up and was blocked off. The temple was empty-- apparently it is only crowded sunrise and sunset.

View of Angkor Wat from Phnom Bakheng

Towers of Phnom Bakheng

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