“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Good News

I've been offered a place at University of New England-Armidale, New South Wales, Australia, for a distance education course for next year! Yay!!!!

Anyway, that aside, had a wonderful day today cycling around Angkor Wat. Didn't see hardly any of it (its enormous), but will take a tuk tuk tomorrow to get to the more far-flung places. It rained a bit which was a bit of a downer, as no sunsets and lots of camera fanagling to keep dry. Took my new zoom lens and had to change it over frequently!! What a spectacular place for photographers.

Basically explored two areas today. The first one was Angkor Wat itself. This is the famous temple that you see in all the photographs. You know, the sunset pictures with the bee-hive type shapes reflected in a cute little pool with lillies? Well, this thing is enormous. The walls of the complex are 1km long with a huge moat that makes the things around European castles seem like paddling pools. Of course, they would also have had ferocious crocodiles to catch you even if you dared swim. Touted as the biggest religious building/complex in the world (and I believe it!), there's an enormous esplanade leading to a central complex area (this thing is also huge...500m long or so). The whole thing is meant to represent the history of the Hindu world, with each circle within a circle getting closer to the beginning of time. They say that getting to heaven is not meant to be easy, so of course they choose the steepest most dangerous steps to get you to the top of the complex. There are just rooms within rooms and courtyards separating corridors, and then each time you go through one doorway, it keeps on going. There are fantastic heavenly nymphs carved everywhere (and of course, the naked breasts on each have been thoroughly rubbed smooth over time) with different hairdos and clothing and just amazing decoration at every turn.

The other place I went was Angkor Thon (the big city). The best thing in this is the Bayon complex... heads everywhere! The guy who created it is said to have wanted to "watch over" the 54 provinces he controlled, so he built this amazing temple-like structure (again with the multiple layers and circles) with 54 creepily smiling faces carved into it. These faces are just mammoth... Each face is around 10 feet tall, and at any moment you have around 12 of them staring or half-staring down at you. They really are beautiful, though, and my prior fascination with faces, segments, art, etc, was completely satisfied.

I ended the evening at the Plaza of Elephants, the Temple of the Lepur-Princes and a lovely little structure in the trees, with trees growing every which way out of the rubble itself (think 3 foot wide trees growing out of a pile of rubble that is 5 floors high). I was bitten by a dog there as I left (even on my bike, though thankfully it didn't break the skin... I'd hate to have to get rabies shots in the middle of a holiday), which soured it a bit, and then had a run in with a bit of officious authority (the police wouldn't let me take the shorter route home because they weren't posted on that route, so I suppose I can't really blame them, but wish they'd told me that at the beginning instead of just saying STOP! NO!).

Nice dinner, met a nice Danish girl who's been volunteering in Pattaya in Thailand (she said she kept being mistaken for a Russian prostitute by slimy English guys because the town is that notorious!). It was nice to actually have a conversation with someone (the "Hello, lady, where you from? Oh New Zealand, all New Zealanders are pretty!" and "Hello, lady, I watch your bike. You want scarf, you want postcard, $1, $1!!" do not count as conversations)--I've been feeling a tad lonely as haven't really hooked up with anyone on the latest part of this trip.

Off to sleep now. It still hasn't stopped raining (of course, I left my umbrella at the guesthouse), so I guess no sunrise tomorrow (ah, what a pity... I SO wanted to get up at 5am).


Rama said...

Congrats!! Heading back to NZ for a year should be nice!

Natalya said...

Misunderstanding... I'm not going to NZ. I'm doing it through distance education (I work full time, and I study full time over the internet).