17 July 2018

You Weren't Expecting Angelina Jolie, Now, Were You?

In The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock, T.S. Eliot's eponymous speaker laments, "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons."

Most of us, I believe, have measured out something or another in our lives in ways that have nothing to do with the metric or Imperial systems.  Me, I've gone on bike rides that I didn't measure in miles, kilometers, minutes, hours, days, pedal strokes or calories.  

As for the latter, I have followed the example of an old riding buddy and measured out my rides in bananas, water bottle refills, "gorp" or trail mix packets, dark chocolate squares, pizza slices or other foods consumed during the ride--or what was consumed afterward. 

I have also measured rides in the number of climbs or amount of climbing, temperature changes or the number of chateaux I visited. 

You know which country I was touring when I was counting chateaux.  Although the country where I've ridden the last few days was a French colony for a bit less than a century, that method wouldn't work very well. But there is a parallel method of measuring a ride in the vicinity of Siam Reap, Cambodia, where I am now.  

To wit:  I have been able to gauge my rides, more or less, by the temple ruins I've visited en route.  Only one of my rides so far have included none at all, though that one--the PURE countryside tour--took me to a currently-operating temple and monastery.  My other two rides both included the "big one": Angkor Wat.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, my ride with Grasshopper Adventure Day Tours began with sunrise at Angkor Wat. (Interesting fact:  Angkor Wat is really a nickname. It means "city of temples".  Its original name, in Sanskrit, was Parama Visnuloka.)  Stuart and I, led by Vichea, rode a series of trails that Vichea knows about because he rides and races in this area.  Those trails took us to other temples that have at least some relation to Angkor Wat.  

They were actually part of a complex called Angkor Thom.  If Angkor Wat is the "Temple City", then Angkor Thom is the "Big City"--literally.  It's Angkor Wat on steroids--and at least one other mind-altering drug (at least according to my amateur knowledge of psychopharmacology).  It covers 9 square kilometers, or 3.5 square miles: roughly the size of Manhattan below 14th Street. 

Since it was designed as a city, it has  ports, if you will:  gates leading to  bridges lined with carved images.  All of those bridges and gates have more or  less the same architecture and carvings, which depict the deities involved in the Hindu creation myth.  

Once inside the gates and cross one of the bridges--we came in through the North side--possibly the most striking monument is Bayon, which is full of ecstatic depictions of Hindu deities.  The style of the place is often described as "baroque", in contrast to the "classical" Angkor Wat.  The latter has a symmetry that Bayon lacks, but it's hard to imagine Bayon built, or its carvings rendered, in a more restrained way.

Then there is a temple you might have seen even if you've never gone anywhere near Angkor Wat.  At least, you might have seen it on a screen much bigger than the one you're using to read this post.  Now, though, you get to see it with me in it.  Who needs Angelina Jolie, right?

I'm talking about Ta Prohm, more commonly known as the "Tomb Raider" temple.  Aside from its intricate structure, it's known for the trees whose roots ravel themselves around and under various walls and other parts of the temple.  Next to one of those trees, Jolie's Lara Croft character picks a jasmine flower and tumbles through the earth into....Pinewood Studios.  Hmm...I don't recall seeing that in Dante's Inferno.

I saw other temple ruins with Vachea and Stuart.  But Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm were enough to make the ride a monumental one, however many kilometers we pedaled, tree roots we rumbled across and mud we flung from our tires.  Oh, and just as nature re-conquered the Ta Prohm site once dominated by Khmer kings, at least one creature showed us who really has the run of this country, however slick we were at riding the trails and roads!

Give me a home where the (water) buffalo roam!


  1. How are you dealing with the high humidity ?

  2. Chris--It's somewhat worse than what I experienced four years ago in Florida, when I was visiting my parents in August. I'm dealing with it simply by drinking as much as possible. You know it's humid when you drink as much as I've been drinking and you still don't have to pee!