Thursday, August 11, 2011

Angkor Wat 2: Ancient Hospitals, etc.

These carvings are 1000 years old, some of the best-preserved "apsaras" or dancing maidens, in Angkor. Apsaras, according to legend, danced naked and only for the King. Anyone else who looked at them immediately had his eyes put out.

This is the "hospital" temple. If someone was sick, they would travel here and visit the fortune-teller first thing, who then directed them to a corner of the lake according to their essential element (as you do).

Depending on whether you were Earth, Wind, Fire, or Water, you would crouch under a stream of holy water emanating from the mouth of the appropriate statue in the appropriate temple-niche. The one below is an elephant.

Our tour guide with an infectious laugh and unflagging energy, Pulyn, took us to ten of the best temples over the course of two days. He also took us to the locally revered Chinese fortune teller, but that's a story for another post. Also pictured below is one of the many adorable child hawkers, who put us to shame with their ability to count to ten in at least five different languages (ten being the number of postcards they will sell to you for $1). We didn't buy any postcards, but we did give them some sunflower seeds and ChocoPie cookies.

Pulyn told us a lot about Cambodia society and his life, such as his struggle with arranged marriage (70% of marriages are arranged in Cambodia, Pulyn estimates). His parent's won't let him marry the girl he loves, as her family is too poor. She continues to wait for him, turning down suitor after suitor, even though he tells her that his parent's won't change their minds, and that she should just marry someone else. He didn't like the one his parents chose, but luckily the fortune-teller said that match was bad luck. Still, the problem remains that he is 27 and STILL unmarried. It was a fascinating conversation.

Can you spot the Dana in this picture?

Gorgeous sky.

What NOT to wear when clambering around 1000-year-old ruins? A nice silk dress and 4-inch wooden heels. Sigh. (Hard to tell in this picture, but she is standing at the top of a long, steep staircase.)

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