Eyes closed, they faced the scorching 37°C summer morning with a smile.
Our guide said that when Jayavarman the VIIth was building the Angkor Thom, he decided to adorn the centrepiece, the Bayon Temple with 216 (no less) faces of himself, as a representation of the Buddha. 64 towers in the main Bayon temple are topped by 4 huge stone faces of the King (or Buddha), one looking in each direction. As you sweat and bake in the sweltering heat, the faces continue smiling serenely and obliviously.
The temple itself has witnessed a few changes of faith over the centuries – from Buddhism to Hinduism and back, and roaming around the temple, you’ll come across remnants of crude alterations in the sculptures and carvings to transform them according to the prevailing religion of the time. The Bayon is indeed the centrepiece of the Angkor Thom; and as you walk around with your camera taking innumerable pictures of the 200+ identical faces, you can’t help but feel that though separated by centuries, the Emperor and you were, somewhat, united by a common muse.
The Emperor-Buddha face greets queues of visitors at the South Gate, Angkor Thom
The temple from afar, engulfed in a heat haze at 10 in the morning
How many faces can you count?
They’re everywhere you look
Stone-faced but smiling
P.S. Angkor Thom is 7 km from Siem Reap, your base for exploring the Angkor area and is easily reached by a tuktuk, that you can hire (with driver) for the day for 15-20 USD. The Angkor Pass works and will be checked so don’t forget to carry it along. Apart from Bayon, explore Phimeanakas, Baphuon, the Terrace of Lepers and the Terrace of the Elephant King and make a day trip out of it.
What’s been your latest travel-related muse?
How do you know you’ve grown up?
It’s when you don’t ask for the window seat on planes anymore.
– Source unknown
But if this is remotely true, count a few years (or decades) of growing up in the future for me. Give me a seat with a view and I’ll be sorted for a few hours.
Around sunrise – somewhere above Thailand / Malaysia
Scary but very dramatic walls of clouds above KL (flying MAS doesn’t make it any easier these days)
Webs of human settlements, somewhere in Malaysia
Like tufts of cotton, suspended in the air – on the way from KL to Siem Reap
These photos were taken in the South East Asian skies, over Malaysia and Thailand on the way to our destinations on our trip to Siem Reap and Bangkok-Krabi in April.
So… which one is it for you – window seat or aisle seat?
Wisteria flows over the front yard of a house behind the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Blooming outside the Blue Mosque, Istanbul
A sea of tulips at the Topkapi Palace, Istanbul
Okay, I might’ve gone a little overboard (with taking flower pictures)
Seriously, they were everywhere!
A lone cornflower in Capadoccia
Bright red poppies and daisies spring up between the ruins of Hierapolis in Pamukkale
Apple blossoms made an appearance too
Bombay (or Mumbai) doesn’t really have spring – we have two seasons for the year – 1) hot and humid; and 2) raining cats and dogs. So I was happy to make this trip down memory lane to pull out these reminders of a spring in Turkey a couple of years back. When we landed in Istanbul in the middle of April on an overcast afternoon, there was a sharp chill in the air. As the next few days progressed, the weather decided to cast aside its dull winter robe and finally take on the full-fledged brightness of spring.
Like I said, we don’t get spring in Mumbai (where I currently live), so I was excited to experience the transition from winter and the newness and freshness of things around me – the aroma of roasting chestnuts left over from the winter, the clouds clearing up to make way for sunny days and bright blue skies and the blossoming of flowers of every shape, name and colour, at every stop of our trip.
P.S. Go see the tulips welcoming spring in Istanbul at the annual Istanbul Tulip Festival in April. There's going to be millions of them (seriously)!
The Fire Dance is a special performance put up by the Banjara (gypsy) community of Rajasthan. It involves women dancing with aflame vessels balanced on the top of their heads; and more spectacularly, the Fire Breather (and Eater) who swallows a few fireballs, drinks kerosene and breathes massive fire clouds – all in a day’s work.
Walls are often silent backgrounds or spectators to the action upfront.
But sometimes and in some places, they take on a personality of their own – at times a grim one, like the Berlin Wall that once separated East and West Germany; or at times a fun one, like the walls of the Comic Book route of Brussels or the ‘Love Wall’ of the supposed house of Shakespeare’s Juliet in Verona.
Juliet’s Wall, Verona – hastily written last-minute love letters (stuck with chewing gum, more often than not)
Asterix and Gang in a rush – Along the Comic Book route in Brussels (1)
Tintin & Captain Haddock trying to make their way down a flight of stairs – Along the Comic Book route in Brussels (2)
Lucky Luke – Along the Comic Book route in Brussels (3)
The engraved panels above the ‘Passion Facade’ entrance of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona
One of the last standing sections of the Berlin Wall, only retained as a grim reminder of the past
The East Side Gallery, Berlin – a section of the wall full of murals ranging from the solemn…
… to the superhuman…
… to the illusional
More walls from around the world here – Wall.
Which walls from your travels do you still remember?
The color, orange, dominates many a skyline in Europe. It could be the well-preserved old town of Prague, or the Renaissance capital of Italy – Florence. Another city that’s all orange is Dubrovnik, sitting pretty on the Adriatic Coast of Croatia. Orange-topped sisters by coincidence, I think.
More color here: “Orange you glad it’s photo challenge time?”
This Part 5 of a multi-post series covering our trip this summer to Ladakh, a remote region high up in the Indian Himalayas. You can read the other parts here.
Days 6 & 7, 30th and 31st July – Leh to Nubra Valley and back
Nubra Valley is located about a 3 to 4-hour drive away from Leh and is reached by crossing the Khardung La Pass, which at an altitude of about 18000 ft above sea level, claims to be the ‘highest motorable road in the world’. The claim is disputed but that doesn’t stop visitors (including me) from stopping and taking a customary picture with the sign at the pass claiming this. Nubra Valley is famous for its sand dunes, double-humped Bactrian camels (that came here from Mongolia a few centuries back and have been forced into the tourism industry now), a giant statue of the Buddha in Diskit and a village called Turktuk which lies a few kms from the de facto border between India and Pakistan was wrested by India from Pakistan in the war of 1971.
Here are a few pictures from the two days.
Looking back at the Leh Valley, from the way up to Khardung La Pass
Khardung La Pass – more than 18000 ft high, apparently
Prayer flags are everywhere in Ladakh – I mean everywhere, including the Khardung La pass
Skies so blue
The Diskit Buddha silently watching over the Nubra Valley
A prayer wheel at the Diskit monastery with the Nubra valley in the background
The 106-feet tall Diskit Buddha – Up close
Young monks at the Diskit Monastery, some of them come all the way from Tibet to learn here
Getting late for class, maybe?
The Dunes of Nubra
We are family
A forlorn-looking baby camel. Couldn’t bear to ride one of these – they didn’t look like they were treated well at all
Far in the distance, among the snow-capped mountains of the Karakoram range, lies the K2 – the second highest peak in the world
Spot the river (Shyok is its name)
Bidding goodbye to Nubra, as we turn back for Leh
Vistas that will blow your mind await you at every bend of the road in Ladakh