Sunday, May 01, 2005

Cambodia - Day 3 Part 3

After buying some rather heavy souvenirs, we made our way back to our bicycles, and sure enough, there was the little boy, keeping his promise -- guarding our bikes, with his life. And with an army of 5-6 more kids standing there to fight for his cause. "You promised you come back and buy from him, okhay?" the tiny tots chorused. "Yes, yes!" we said. And we bought drinks from him. I asked him what his name was, and he said shyly, "Snah".

There was a lunch place right outside Angkor Wat. By then we were totally fried, and any form of air-conditioning was a blessing from above! But as luck would have it, there were no vacant tables inside! Anyway, we sat outisde under the shade of a huge umbrella, and had our lunch. The guys ordered a bottle of wine, and as was tradition, everyone who drank it signed on the cork, which Ro would archive along with numerous others. I took a sip just so I could sign it too! Crafty, huh?

Ro, Max and Chin at the lunch place

Jeeves and Viv at lunch place

As we were eating, a little face peeped out of the bushes. We realised that Snah had followed us to the lunch place! He chatted with us happily for a while, and then ran off to join his other friends.

After a nice little lunch, we were all set to go to the Bayon, second to the Angkor Wat in popularity and enigma. On the way, we saw some locals selling corn on the cob.

Remember this lady -- she was to play an important part later...

Max was very excited at this point as he had been rambling all day, "Yaar, bhutta khana hai, yaar bhutta khana hai.." (I wanna eat corn on the cob.) We decided that we would have it on the way back, and cycled on.

A very dejected Max climbs back on his cycle as the amused
corn sellers look on.

We cycled on...

Road to the Bayon...

...and finally the majestic south gate came into sight.

Viv and me on our bikes (Yes, I was quite stable on my bike by then!)

And the others...

Ooh is Max gonna fall? (For the curious -- no, he didn't. Darn!)

We pose under the enigmatic face of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva.

We alighted outside the Bayon temple, to greet our usual hosts. The drink-stall owner, a pretty lady, said to Ro, "You come back and buy drink from me, okhay?? I renumber you!"

Yes, she actually said, "I renumber you!" I will never forget the way Ro laughed when she said that.

We went in and were greeted by the 216 smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva. The Sanskrit name "Avalokiteshvara" means "the lord who looks upon the world with compassion". I had read that it is believed Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva transforms himself into countless forms to help those who need him. Some scholars also believe that the 216 faces also contain a representation of Jayavarman VII, the builder of the Bayon temple. This strengthens the theory of the 'Devaraja' or God-king cult.

View from the entrance

We pose before stepping in. (Notice Ro's shorts have transformed
into these cool pants? He'd bought them outside the Angkor Wat.)

I could not wait for this snap to be taken so I could escape into
the shade. It was a hot hot hot day.

At any one time, you can see about a dozen of Avalokiteshvara's faces looking at you, with an enigmatic and yet amused expression.

Wherever we looked...

... he was there...

... smiling away...

... as if he knew a secret...

... that we did not.

We sat under his watchful eye.

While I was clicking pictures of the omni-present apsaras...

...the guys were clicking pictures of other kinds of apsaras!

We saw two monks, who started speaking to us in broken English.

One of them asked me, "You are from India? You know Sanskrit?"
"Yes, I do."
"Can you write for me?"
"Ok, what do you want me to write?"
"How do you write 'Sorry'?"

He handed me a notebook, filled with scripts from all over the world, written by tourists over the years. As I immortalised my handwriting on his notebook, my friends watched in amusement. Then he asked me to write his name and also his friend's, in Sanksrit, on the notebook. I did, and we moved on, leaving him to read a foreign word in a foreign language.

I wondered why he asked to write in a language that has been dead for centuries. Was he really trying to learn Sanskrit out of all languages? Later, I read that it was common for the monks to try and have conversations with tourists, some of which could be quite meaningless, just so they could practise their English! Wow!

The monks and their notebook

We found a lady worshipping an idol of Buddha, and she beckoned to me to join her in prayer.

I found myself drawn to the temple.

Max also joined me, as we lit incense and prayed.

I found myself chanting the 'gayatri mantra' under my breath. It had been so long since I had chanted it. It felt peaceful.

After the prayer, we found a place to rest for a while.

And out of nowhere, we started talking about equations of ellipses, parabolas and hyperbolas. Till date, I am clueless as to why on earth, six friends were sitting inside the Bayon temple and discussing equations of curves. But there we were, surprising the other tourists with our conversation sprinkled with terms like "x square, y square, blah blah". Somehow, it was more comical than nerdy.

Isn't this like the cutest picture ever?

After resting our asses for a really really long time, and revising all our geometry concepts along the way, we were ready to go. As we left the Bayon, the lasting image I saw was that of the monk, peering at us from one of the gaps in the structures.

Solitary monk looks at the parting tourists.

When we came out of the temple, there she was, waiting for us! The "renumber" lady. A very highly amused Ro said, "So do you renumber me?"

"Yes, yes, I renumber you! You buy drink from me, okhay?"

"Okhay!" We said, and sat down to have coconut water and redbull to rejuvenate ourselves before we headed for the elephant terrace and the terrace of the leper king.

It felt lovely to just sit there, exhausted from the day so far, and looking forward to the rest of it. It was an unforgettable moment.

I will "renumber" it forever.


  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Shina, at 11:06 PM  

  • I have been debating for days now: to write or not to write without making you feel uneasy about me being a stranger to your world. Today I gather enough courage to write to you to tell you that I have immensely enjoyed reading your blog. I must say that you have a real talent for it. Your fine play with words captures the moments so well that I am at loss of words here. I especially enjoy your impressions on chin and max. Your sense of humour is commendable. I can't wait to read your book someday.

    By Blogger Shina, at 11:13 PM  

  • Hi Shina,

    Thanks so much for your comments! I'm really flattered! :)

    I hope I can do a good job with my description of the rest of the days too! Your note has made me feel more inspired.


    By Blogger Sayesha, at 11:52 PM  

  • you pray? I thought...

    By Blogger Chints, at 2:05 AM  

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