Wednesday, October 25, 2023

APOPO Hero Rat Centre

The APOPO Hero Rat Centre is a training and education centre near Angkor Wat, Founded in Belgium, the APOPO program uses giant rats from Africa to help locate land mines in Cambodia and around the world and has already helped clear over 33 million square metres of land of land mines and unexploded ordinance.

Some examples of the mines that APOPO's rats have located in the past.

Our tour guide explaining some of the history of the APOPO program.

Explaining the procedure used to clear an area of landmines.

A trip wire mine, and this one is not even hidden.

This mine is designed to target vehicles, and as you can see would be quite difficult to spot in the jungle.

One of APOPO's rats and its handler, ready to give us a demonstration of their abilities at detecting landmines.

The rats are tethered so that their team is able to map out cleared areas.

Mel holding one of APOPO's retired rats. The rats take about 9 months to train and work for 4 to 5 years before they are retired.

Lori and one of the retired APOPO rats that live at the centre.

My turn to hold the rat and he decided to run up my arm and perched on my shoulder for a bit before heading back to the staff member that was here with us.

There is a gift shop here as well, and the proceeds go towards funding the APOPO program. We picked up some shirts and stubby holders and I bought a money clip made from spent bullet casings, as we were working mostly with cash in Cambodia and the money clip I'd brought with me didn't hold enough bills.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider helping us out. A donation
will cost you less than the price of a Long Mac in Fremantle.
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Ta Prohm aka. The Tomb Raider Temple

After Angkor Wat, one of the first temples in Cambodia that springs to mind is Ta Prohm, known by many as the Tomb Raider temple. While some claim that one of the Indiana Jones movies was shot here as well, there is no proof of that.

Built in the 12th century and abandoned in the 15th, when the temple was rediscovered in the early 20th century, several large trees had set roots through the temple walls. Early restoration efforts mostly involved clearing the scrub and making the temple accessible, but the size of the roots and how they had grown between the sandstone blocks of the temple walls made removing them impossible.

As you enter Ta Prohm from the east, just before you get to the main temple area, you pass a Dharmasala, or firehouse (literally a house with a fire where pilgrims can rest on their travels).

Ta Prohm is famous for it's trees, such as this one that featured in the Tomb Raider movie with Angelina Jolie. While much of the vegetation has been cleared now, quite a few of the larger trees were deliberately left to give an impression of what the temple looked like prior to the last 30 years of careful restoration.

As with some of the other Angkor temples, Ta Prohm is quite the labyrinth of passageways, with some amazing interior decor to be seen.
Apsara dancers decorate the walls of this hall of Ta Prohm.

While there are not as many of the story telling bas reliefs as there are at some other temples, there is certainly no shortage of carvings on the walls, such as this multi headed naga serpent.

As with many Angkor temples, works to restore Ta Prohm are ongoing, with the Indian government working with Cambodian locals in this case. That said, Ta Prohm is intended to be carefully restored, leaving some of the ruins as they are.

The restoration works have included laying timber walkways throughout Ta Prohm to make the temple safer for tourists.

These temple ruins may look neglected, but that is intentional here, with much of the restoration work focussing on stabilizing the ruins of Ta Prohm as they are.

There is no shortage of discussion about what the animal in the centre carving here is. There is no definitive answer as to why there appears to be a stegosaurus carved into the walls of Ta Prohm.

Part of the beautiful, and still standing, exterior of the Ta Promh temple building.

We visited Ta Prohm in the afternoon in late September, and while there are less tourists than you would find earlier in the day, and in the drier months, Ta Prohm was still quite busy. If (or when) we come back to Cambodia, I'd love to get a 7 day Angkor pass and spend another hour or 2 just taking in some of these temples as even though we did not rush through them, it still seems there is much more to be seen here.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider helping us out. A donation
will cost you less than the price of a Long Mac in Fremantle.
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Friday, October 20, 2023

Royal Enclosure and Phimeanakas Temple

After exploring Bayon and Baphuon temples, we were nearly ready to find somewhere to cool off and have some lunch, but first, we had to get back to Sophorn and his air conditioned van. Simon lead us on a little loop through the ruins of the outer walls of the the Royal Enclosure, past the Phimeanakas Temple pyramid, a smaller three tier temple with the remains of a gallery on the top tier and out to the main road, through the centre section of the Terrace of the Elephants.

The outer walls of the Royal Enclosure have long since been overgrown by jungle, making for some amazing scenery as you follow the trail through to Phimeanakas Temple.

As much as I really enjoyed the restored temples we saw, seeing these walls, still standing after nearly a thousand years, but now covered in greenery was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.

The Royal Enclosure was once home to the Royal Palace although these days there is not much left aside from Phimeanakas Temple and a couple of sandstone pools, but it must have been an amazing site when it was home to the kings of Angkor.

Phimeanakas temple is another of the pyramid style temple, meant to represent an eartly embodiement of Mount Meru. The temple is currently off limits and there are plans to restore some of the upper levels.

Approaching the Terrace of the Elephants from the Royal Enclosure, the terrace was used for public gatherings and royal displays.

View through a missing section of the Royal Enclosure wall to the centre section of the Terrace of the Elephants.

Standing on the Grand Entrance at the Terrace of the Elephants, this gopura served as an entrance to the Royal Enclosure and the Royal Palace.

These stairs lead up to the Grand Entrance part of the Terrace of the Elephants, named for the carvings of the grand elephant parade that adorn most of this 350 metre long terrace. This centre section however, is decorated with garuda and lions and topped with statues of lions and naga.

There was certainly plenty to see here, walking through the jungle, past temple ruins and former palace grounds, and just like so many of the other temples we visited during this trip you can't help but feel that a second, third or fourth visit may be needed to fully explore this area.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider helping us out. A donation
will cost you less than the price of a Long Mac in Fremantle.
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Baphuon Temple at Angkor Thom, Cambodia

Baphuon Temple is a multi tiered temple built on an artificial hill in the Angkor Thom region near Siem Reap. Just a short walk from Bayon Temple, it is part of a walking loop that takes a couple of hours to complete, depending on how much time you wish to spend at each temple. The Baphuon was originally dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, but was converted to a Theravada Buddhist temple at some point, with current estimates placing that conversion around 1440 AD. This style of temple is sometimes referred to as a Temple Mountain, designed to represent Mount Meru, the sacred five peaked mountain at the heart of Jain, Hindu and Buddist mythology.

This is the walkway towards the main approach terrace of the Baphuon. This would orginally have been part of a large entrance gate to the temple.

The long terrace to the Baphuon passes through a pavillion with a large, stone lined pool to the south and reflectng pools on either side of the walkway.

Lori and Mikah in the windows of the pavillion on the approach causeway to the Baphuon.

Passing through the pavillion on approach to the heart of the Baphuon.

Looking back from the outer part of the main mountain part of the Baphuon, you can see here we have already started to climb. You can also see part of the pool near the pavillion.

Part of the next tier of the mountain like Baphuon. There is a tall set of steps on the side here that leads up to the higher levels of the temple, Ken and I decided to head up to the upper tiers while Mikah, Mel and Lori walked around the outside with Simon.

The view from the highest terrace at the Baphuon, showing the terrace we walked down, the pavillion and the gopura at the entrance to the main mountain part of the temple.

The view from the north east corner of the highest accessible part of Baphuon Temple, the entrance gopura to the main part of the temple and the pool near the pavillion in the centre of the shot here.

There were stairs to the top of this central pyramid, but they were closed on the day we visited, it wasn't clear from the signs if they were ever actually open to the public. At this point, we have climbed about 34 metres, and this central pyramid was originally fitted with a large tower taking the total height to 50 metres. Some scholars beleive the statue was constructed of wood and gilded with bronze, which would explain why it has long sice perished.

Passage way along the eastern edge of the uppermost tier of the Baphuon temple mountain.

Baphuon temple, like so many of the temples in the Angkor Archaelogical Park, and indeed througout Cambodia, is an eye opening testament to the skill of those who constructed it. As with many of these temples, all along the way there are bas reliefs to admire and classic Hindu and Buddist temple architecture.

Once described as the worlds biggest 3D jigsaw puzzle, the Baphuon had been partially deconstructed, with around 300,000 blocks carefully removed and labelled before the civil war and the rise of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970's forced that project to be put on hold. Sometime in the years that followed, the plans showing where those blocks had been removed from were lost or destroyed, and it was not until 1996 that another restoration project began to attempt to rebuild the temple. There are still some of these numbered stones laying in the jungle around the Baphuon, athough the restoration is now considered to be complete, so these may be from another temple, or just were not able to be correctly sited at the Baphuon.

If you have the opportunity to visit the Baphuon, I highly recommed the climb to the top of this mountain temple, although it will certainly put your knees to the test.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider helping us out. A donation
will cost you less than the price of a Long Mac in Fremantle.
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Bayon Temple, Cambodia

Bayon Temple is another in the Angkor Archaeological Park, and entry is included with your Angkor pass. We visited here on our second day of the three day pass we purchased in Siem Reap. Built somewhere between the late 12th and early 13th century, Bayon Temple sits in the middle of the Angkor Thom complex and over the last 30 years, restoration efforts here have been assisted by the Japanese government.

Bayon temple is also known as 'the temple with the faces'. Around 200 faces remain here, with the towers having four faces on each tower, some estimates claim that there were around 200 towers here at one point.

Lori has spent almost her entire working life in the mining industry, so when she saw this, mostly female, crew working to excavate more of Bayon Temples secrets, she was naturally very intrigued and rushed over to find out more.

Our Angkor guide, Kea Simon, explaining some of the details in the bas-relief on the outer galleries of Bayon Temple.

Part of the bas-relief from the outer galleries of Bayon Temple, showing the Khmer army marching into battle with the Cham.

There are a number of points along the outer galleries where you can pause to admire the innner part of Bayon Temple.

Here we can see more of the inner part of Bayon Temple, we could keep on coming back here and still not see all that it has to offer.

I love the shots down these dark passageways in these Cambodian temples, and so does the Canon EOS R3. I was a bit apprehensive taking this camera with us, but I think I would have really regretted leaving it at home.

Mel and Ken pausing for a photo as we explore the inner sanctuary of Bayon Temple.

Another view of some of the faces that adorn the towers of Bayon Temple.

Buddhas and faces are everywhere you look here, faces above, Buddha statues with you as you walk. This is, as is common in the Angkor Archaeological Park, an amazingly beautiful temple and one that commands a repeat visit or three.

A bonus shot, Lori (with a little assist from Mikah) getting in on the action at Bayon Temple.

Much like the other temples here in the Siem Reap area and in wider Cambodia, you will not see all Bayon Temple has to offer in one visit, we are hoping to return to Cambodia at some stage and the Bayon will definitely be on the list of places we wish to revisit.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please consider helping us out. A donation
will cost you less than the price of a Long Mac in Fremantle.
Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com