Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

20 Sep 2006

Thanking myself for moving out of K.T Guesthouse and choosing to stay in Banglamphu turned out to be a wise decision. I didn’t need to think twice to get to the palace as I already knew the road that leads to it. The Grand Palace opens at 8:30am and I was there at 9:00. As I walked past through the huge wooden doors entrance I spotted armed guards standing still and staring at you and the also I some tourists taking pictures of them, with them and from them too. I noticed that the guards were sending most of the “scantily dressed” women to the counter where they provide you free shirt (for covering those sleeveless blouses) and trousers(if you are wearing a mini skirt or shorts apparently even 3/4ths are not allowed). I later learned that there was a strict dress code to enter into this sacred site.

Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves — no tank tops. If you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks (in other words, no bare feet.) Women must be similarly modestly dressed. No see-through clothes, bare shoulders, etc.

Grand Palace

Grand Palace

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew Stupas

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Wat Pho, Wat Arun & Khao San Road

19 Sep 2006

After catching up with enough sleep I got out of the guesthouse (K.T Guesthouse, Sutthisarn Road, Inthamara soi 14, Single: 560 Baht Double: 690Baht A/C,Hot Shower no T.V, Has a pool too)

K.T Guest House

to catch some authentic Thai breakfast and then I remembered that they don’t have any breakfast..they either eat what was cooked in the night or may be have a soup. I wandered my gaze around the street to find a lady cooking something in her wok. I walked to her and asked her to give me a Khao Phat (KHAW PAT: Thai for fried rice) I learnt this from the Lonely Planet – Thailand I purchased in Cambodia for 5 USD.

After polishing another plate of Khao Phat, this time with sea food varieties and a nice plump cake I headed back to the guest house. Even though the guest house was very clean and quiet I’ve come to know that there are more cheaper and lively places in Bangkok to stay. So, I decided to catch some action and I checked out from the guest house and hailed a cab to head to the backpackers ghetto: the Khao San Road. It is often made fun of that if you stay at a guest house in Khao San you have a freak show at your doorstep. Thanks to Lonely Planet.

Khao san road is infact a back packers paradise, as I walked with my 20kg backpack I think I spotted a tourist from every nation I know. Guesthouses, cheap clothes, food carts, massage parlors, Internet cafes, tuk-tuk drivers, shoe sellers, restaurants..boy this place was bustling with action or what. I walked down the street and checked a couple of guest houses only to find that they were already full and other guest house have shared bathrooms and some say that the only room available was the executive or special room what they call which costs around 700 baht a night. So I pulled out my Lonely planet and found that there are most quieter and cheaper guesthouses at Thanon Phra Athit (by the way Thanon is Thai for ROAD and SOI – pronounced as soy, is STREET) just off Khao San Road. I walked into one of the quiet bylanes and found SUKPASATH HOTEL for 400 baht a night with A/C and hot shower.

The clock now stuck 2:30pm I quickly had a shower and headed to the nearest “place to see”, WAT PHO, thanks to the map I picked up at Airport. In fact all the famous “must see” places of Bangkok are situated very conviniently near Th. Khao San. The National Museum, National Theater, Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew (Emrald Buddha), Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun (Temple of the dawn) are at walking distance range from this road.

Wat Pho or Wat Phra Chetuphon: Built in 17th century is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok. Wat Po hosts one of the largest reclining Buddha, gold plated is 46 meters long and 15 meters high, illustrates the passing of Buddha into Nirvana. The eyes and the feet are engraved with mother-of-pearl decorations. The feet is decorated with 108 auspicious charecteristics of Buddha.

Wat Pho being the oldest wat in Bangkok, is the finest center for traditional Thai massage. Courses are also offered throughout the year if you are interested to learn Thai massage. I think the duration is 30 hours costing approx. 4000-4500 baht over a span of 10-15 days.

Tickets at Wat Pho: 50 Baht

Reclining Buddha, Wat Po

Reclining Buddha

then we headed to the closest ferry station “Ta Tien” to catch a ferry to cross-over the Chao Praya river to Wat Arun, the Temple of the dawn, by paying 3 baht each way..wait a minute that was the cheapest denomination I paid during this whole trip. Then it stuck me that I could reduce my costs by utilising the ferry service. I read a bit about the ferry service in Lonely Planet and with my little smiling skills I was able to understand the routes and for the next four days this would become my preferred mode of transportation in Bangkok.

Wat Arun, The temple of the dawn: One of the most published site by the tourism authority and the only tourist attraction on the other side, Thonburi side, of the Chao Praya river. Construction has an elongated prang(tower which is built in Khmer-style) which is surrounded by four smaller prangs. The prangs are decorated with bits of porcelain. It is also said that the wat hosted emrald buddha for a brief period of time.

Tickets at Wat Arun: 20 Baht

Wat Arun, Temple Of Dawn

Wat arun when viewed across the Chao Praya river when the sunsets down is breath-taking

Wat Arun, Chao Praya banks

Siem Reap to Poipet

18th Sep 2006

I hired a taxi early morning and we left Siem Reap at 5:30am, to gain time and speed before the traffic increases, sun gets hot and the weather really humid. This time the ride to Poipet costs only 30USD as opposed to 50USD to Siem Reap. Strange!! but later I figured out that when you leave to Siem Reap there is a certain amount of fare paid to the taxi association by the drivers thus the high prices.

I was lost in my thoughts and memories that Cambodia had offered me in mere three days. The temples, ardous designs, ornate carvings on the bas-reliefs the long causeways and lotus bud like stupas, smiling colossal faces, the “3 for 1 dollar” kids the smiling women at the shops, delicious Khmer food and of course the Angkor beer. Thinking about it the pride of Cambodia: Angkor Wat was, every where, on their flag, their money, their clothes and infact on the beer too. By the way I recommend the light Angkor beer which is usually served at a discount price (50 cents a can) after the sun goes down.

During my stay in Siem Reap I did the best that I could to eat from the locals, drink the local and stay at the locals (even smoke the local cigarettes: PALLMALL). This way I felt I did my little part to support the Cambodians.

The taxi dropped me off at the border at 9AM. I paid off the taxi driver and walked across the bridge toward Thai immigration. It was quick and in no time I was again in Thailand, what a contrast. I relaxed a while and had breakfast at a quite restaurant with wooden tables and chairs which served very good Khao Phat (fried rice). This is Aranyaprathet

I took the 11Am bus to Bangkok and reached Bangkok at 3:30pm.

Exploring Bangkok would start from tommorow 19th Sep 2006.

Bantaey Srei, Bantaey Samre, Sra Srang, Bantaey Kdei and Ta Prohm

17th Sep 2006

I woke up at 5am this morning to catch the sunrise once again at Angkor Wat. Saphol (my tuk-tuk driver was already waiting there) since today will be a different route altogether he asked a new price. I bargained finally for 15USD for the whole day.

After a long, peaceful and quite drive passing through the lush green, unexplored landscape we reached Bantaey SreiThe Citadel of Women“. The temple is considered to be the pinnacle of Khmer art. Otherwise referred as “The jewel of Khmer art“.

This monument is dedicated to the God ‘Tribhuvanamaheshvara‘. These walls exhibit themes of Shiva (Ravana trying to disrupt the meditation of Shiva enthroned on Mount Kailash, by shaking the mountain; Kama attempting to disturpt his medidation by means of seduction). Other themes of Vishnu such as ‘The Rain of Indra‘ and ‘The Killing of Kamsa‘ are a few themes that can be viewed on these walls .

Bantaey Srei

It is said that the art on this temples walls must have been carved by some skillfull women as the intricate carvings and the 3 dimensional art wouldn’t have been possible by the hands of a man. Bantaey Srei though very small in size is considered the most beautiful of all. The ornatley carved stones on the pink hue stone is a wonder to watch.

Carvings, Bantaey Srei

Carvings, Bantaey Srei

Our next stop was Bantaey Samre
built by Suryavarman II in the middle of the 12th century has bas-reliefs depeciting the legends of Vishnu

Bantaey Samre

and then to the famous Sra Srang (the wide pleasure pool) used for ceremonies and royal bathing, faces Bantaey Kdei .It is said that “Elephant bathing was not allowed” was inscribed on the walls of this pool.

Sra Srang

As I was walking up to the view point I was swarmed by kids trying to sell me bracelets and metal buddhas I looked around to find that there were more stalls trying to sell clothes, linen, T-Shirts, Cool drinks, Coconut water, beer. I heard screaming voices “Sir..do you want something cold to drink..you look tiiered”. “Sir would you like to buy a T-shirt..very cheap 1 for 3 dollar..I give you best price sir” having experienced all these in the last two days…I ignored those calls..noticing that the girls started again “Sir..I remember you..you remember me OK? When you come back you buy from me OK..otherwise you make me cry”

I burst into laughter and so did all the tourists around who are being subjected to this. Honestly, it could be annoying for most tourists if they are not used to this selling, tailing you back until you buy..but for me it was a very pleseant experience as I had humour filled in me all the time..in fact I think it is the golden rule if you wish to make your travel memorable. Be ready to get conned, ripped off, buying fake stuff etc c’mon this happens to innocent tourists in your home country too..be careful but don’t snap back at them or get angry..ignore if it annoys you..but if you have to confront be polite..say “No, thank you” and add a smile if you can.

The Sra Srang lakes faces opposite Bantaey Kdei The Citadel of Cells“. Banteay Kdei was built as a Buddhist complex by Jayavarman II. It is said that the existing condition of this monument is due to hasty construction which was carried out during that period.

Bantaey Kdei

Ta Prohm is stones throw away from Bantaey Kdei .

Ta Prohm means “Great City“. It is said that Jayavarman VII, has dedicated this temple to his mother. A classic example of nature against man. One witnesses here the conflict between nature and stone: The stone trying to withstand and the vegetation growing tall over the monuments

see for yourself.

Ta Phrom

massive roots embracing the walls..these trees must’ve been growing on the top of these temples for atleast 200 to 300 years may be older.

Ta Phrom, Entrance

unfortunately a few years ago, part of a gallery inside this monument was damaged due to lighting which brought a massive tree down.

Bayon, Angkor Thom: Cambodia

16th Sep 2006 (Part 2)

After grabbing a quick bite, stir fried chicken on fried noodles (for a discount price) and some iced tea I headed towards Bayon.

As I walked towards Bayon I felt like as if I was part of an “Indiana Jones” movie.
Bayon is a class apart unlike other temples of Angkor, Bayon is rich with its depictions on the bas-reliefs surrounding it.

As I walked in I was stared by numerous huge colossal smiling faces.

Bayon Faces

These faces represent Lokeshvara, who projects Buddha consciousness.

The structure of Bayon represents a microcosm of the mythological cosmos.

Bayon

Originally, there were forty-nine towers but now only thirty five stood the test of time.
It is said that Bayon has gone through lot of remodeling and restructuring as it faced kings of different generations. The now standing faces, they say, represent the King Jayavarman VII, the king becomes the god thus expanding his power throughout the universe.

Bayon, enjoys the reputation of holding the best of Khmer art, on its bas-reliefs.

I shot pictures for all possible angles walking around the Bayon, I still couldn’t get enough of it.

Hastily driving away I headed over to my next stop: Phnom Bakeng, the sunset point.

The tuk-tuk driver left me at the base of this little hill and after a steep walk-through on a muddy track for 15 minutes I reached this structure which invited me again with its steep staircase. By this time I was sweating profusely due to the humidity in the air and the steep walk up. I gathered some more strength and climbed the steps to find some hundred tourists waiting for the sun to set. I looked around to find the best spot. I was hoping to see Angkor Wat and other temples from the birds-eye view but it was quite disappointing I could see Angkor but not completely. I tried a few stunts by climbing up the rocks to get the best view but my efforts went in vain. Anyway, I shot a couple of pictures of whatever it was just for the record’s sake and then I walked back to my tuk-tuk driver.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

16 Sep 2006: Part 1 (Angkor Wat)

I couldn’t catch the sunrise but I was there luckily when all the tourist hoard was away.I hired a tuk-tuk for 7 USD (whole day) that would take me to Angkor Wat, Bayon, Baphoun, Prae Khan and Phnom Bakeng (Tourist spot: Sunset view point).

The Tuk-tuk dropped me off at Angkor at 9AM after collecting my three day pass, to visit all the temples of Angkor, for 40USD. The weather was pleasant and would get hotter as the sun goes high. The sight was breath taking. A huge moat surrounds Angkor wat and a bridge connects the gopura at the entrance to the causeway.

Causeway at Angkor Wat

The causeway could be approx. a kilometre. The stones that make the causeway are worn out. Taking millions of tourists now and thousands and monks and visitors in the past the stones show their age by the smoothness on them.  As I walked on it Water reservoirs in front of the structure are filled with lotuses and provides a perfect and a complete reflection of Angkor wat.

Angkor Reflection

Lotus bud like stupas rising high pointing towards the sky. Four stupas surrounding a huge one in the center. Apparently, these were built according to the Hindu cosmology.

Entrance Angkor Wat

Steep stairways (steep as 75deg) providing access to the hallways and to the prayer rooms. A step inside these temples takes your imagination back a couple of thousand years. The archaeologists have dated this structure to belong to the 10 century, 967 A.D but are now reconsidering the date as they suspect that it could be older because the architecture of the 10th century some how doesn’t match with that of Angkor’s. I spotted some monks climbing the steep stairways effortlessly by using their hands, it seemed to me like as if they were rock-climbing minus the gear. I later found that it really reduces the effort if one walks up by using the hands on the next step as support. Really fascinating. The most fascinating of all are the carvings on the walls they are so ornately carved that some are almost three dimensional. So much detail went into it. What still fascinated me was how it stood strong against time, ageing gracefully and exhibiting more beauty as it grew old. How did this structure make it through rain, storm and other calamities that nature brings? I read somewhere that there were no earthquakes registered in Cambodia till date.

I wondered why would someone build something like that? Why were the stairs so steep? Why were they built so high above the ground level, so high that once you climb to any one of the stupas you could almost see the flat landscape for miles and miles. Was it to keep an eye to the approaching enemies? How the hell did they build those high rise structures? How did the stone reach so high? Did they use pulley’s? or was it just manpower? Many questions lingered in my head.

Stone, stone and stone everywhere. Chocolate chip colored. Algae and fungi found their homes on the moist corners of the walls.

The clock was now showing 11:45am. Wow! time just flies by. Apparently the busiest time at Angkor is at sunrise and at 3pm onwards, guess I have missed all the tourist hoards.

I have shot many pictures at Angkor wat but I don’t think any lens could capture the complete beauty of Angkor wat.

Angkor Sunrise

Moat surrounding Angkor Wat

I got back to the tuk-tuk where my friendly driver waited for me to take to the next wonder that Cambodia has to offer the Bayon..

Hampi, A Time travel to the Sangama Dynasty

After a long tiring week I decided to take off from the city and decided to go to some place quite, historical, cultural with similing faces and laid back atmosphere so I decided to go to HAMPI.

Boarded the HAMPI Express from Bangalore which leaves at 10pm and reaches HOSPET,the closest town to Hampi, at 7:30am. Hired an auto rickshaw (indian tuk-tuk) to take us to HAMPI which is around 13kms away from HOSPET.

The landscape was a nice change tea shops, mud houses, children playing on the streets to banana plantations and finally the rocky hills indicating that we have reached HAMPI. The experience was exhilarating: ruins, temples, carvings, pillars, rocks, boulders, restoration sites, archealogical sites are definetley a get away from the city’s hustle-bustle.

Some of the moments captured from HAMPI.

History: Hampi (ಹ೦ಪೆ, Hampe in Kannada) is a village in northern Karnataka, on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in India. Hampi is located within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Vijayanagara empire. Possibly predating the city of Vijayanagara, this village continues to be an important religious centre, housing the Virupaksha Temple. The village of Hampi contains several other monuments belonging to the old city. It extends into some of the old ceremonial streets of Vijayanagara.

Hampi is identified with the mythological Kishkindha, the monkey kingdom which finds mention in the Ramayana. The first historical settlements in Hampi date back to 1 CE.

Hampi formed one of the cores of the capital of the Vijayanagara empire from 1336 to 1565. Hampi was chosen because of its strategic location, bounded by the torrential Tungabhadra river on one side and surrounded by defensible hills on the other three sides.

you can wiki for this more here
Ruins at Vittala Temple

Vitthala Temple
The famous stone chariot “Kalyana Ratha, Vittala Temple

Kalyana Ratha

Hemakoota Temples

Hemakoota Temples