|The kids were in good spirits while we traveled.|
We were greeted at the airport in Siem Reap by a very sweet tour guide who led us to a large, comfy van. So far, so good. After driving a short distance, we arrived at a gorgeous hotel. We spilled out of the van, and the kids wrestled on the couches in the lobby while Aaron went to the front desk to check in. After only a moment, the staff brought rolled, ice cold wash cloths for our faces and hands and mango juice in long-stemmed glasses. I was liking this place (even if I did question their judgment in serving juice to my two year old in a glass).
After a few minutes of confusion at the desk, Aaron realized his secretary had initially booked us here, but then cancelled and put us in another hotel. Whoops! Thanks for the free juice…
We piled back into the van and arrived at another beautiful place. More free juice and cold towels…and more confusion. Almost immediately a very apologetic employee came over and began speaking to Aaron in worried, hushed tones. I watched in amusement. Yup. Looks like we were moving again. They had a pipe break in our room and offered to put us up in another nearby hotel. We laughed at the absurdity of it all and piled back into the van. We just made it out of the driveway when the driver received a call and turned back into the hotel. A manager came rushing toward us.
"I saw you were traveling with small children. I'm a mother, too. I have moved other guests out. Your rooms will be ready shortly."
Wow! Then they upgraded us to adjoining rooms. (I can't tell you how huge this is when you have 2 adults and 4 kids - all of whom require supervision.) What a blessing! We settled in, and the older kids watched cartoons while Caleb napped in the other. We had lunch, put on bug spray and sunscreen, and headed out for our first adventure…Angkor Wat!
Angkor Wat is a temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world. Historians believe it took 300,000 builders, 6,000 artisans, and 40,000 elephants 40 years to build and decorate this structure in the first half of the 12th century. Dedicated to the Hindu god, Vishnu, it was built as the king's state temple and capital city.
The complex was made of millions of tons of sandstone (more stone than all the Egyptian pyramids combined) that had to be quarried from over 40 kilometers away. Nearly every stone (including columns and lintels) are intricately carved. Miles and miles of carvings!
It was raided in the 14th and 15th centuries by the Thai and abandoned for the current capital of Phnom Penh in 1434. It became overgrown by the jungle, its history lost and mostly forgotten until the ruins were discovered by the French in 1861. Many monuments were restored, and restoration is ongoing. It is now utilized as a Buddhist center of worship.
|We were greeted by giant, restored, 7-headed serpents (Nāga) on each side of the wide sandstone causeway that lead into the city.|
|Heading into the city!|
|The moat surrounding the complex used to be filled with crocodiles to keep enemies at bay.|
|Taken inside one of two ancient libraries (empty now) that flank the broad walk up the main temples.|
|I was so thankful we could climb these safe, wooden steps, as opposed to the original, steep, stone steps below!|
|Indiana Jones has nothing on this guy!|
|I think this may be our Christmas card this year…|
|Monks sitting outside the temple|
|Goodbye, Angkor Wat!|
Next stop: Ta Prohm!
Note: All historical information in this post came from our tour guide, Wikipedia, infoplease.com, or hotel staff.