Siem Reap… and its busy little Shrine

Flowers in bloom at the Royal Garden, Siem Reap

Flowers in bloom at the Royal Garden, Siem Reap

I was taking a nice stroll through the Royal Gardens after having checked out the Grand Hotel d’Angkor.  I love grand old hotels and this is a classic…one almost expects Somerset Maugham or Graham Greene to come strolling through the lobby on their way to the bar. Built in 1932, it is the epitome of Colonial order and class distinction and offers a glimpse of a bygone era.  It somehow survived the Khmer Rouge and carries on in the grand tradition of high teas and icy gin and tonics for the well-heeled, well-mannered traveler.

Tree lined avenue in the Royal Garden, Siem Reap

Tree lined avenue in the Royal Garden, Siem Reap

After my visit to the other side of the tracks, I was enjoying the visit to the gardens where giant trees whose trunks were covered in large leafed vines lined the boulevard leading to a shrine dedicated to the sister deities Preah Ang Chek and Preah Ang Chom.  The gardens were amazingly well cared for with formal beds lined with trimmed hedges, fountains and beds of flowers. Everywhere I turned there, workers in blue smocks watering, trimming or sweeping…keeping the place looking ship shape.

Altar at the Shrine of the Twin Sisters, Siem Reap

Altar at the Shrine of the Twin Sisters, Siem Reap

My real goal was the shrine of the twin deities! The story goes that the two sisters were Angkorian princesses whose statues were originally in the Gallery of a Thousand Buddha’s at Angkor Wat. Over the centuries, generations of monks who were determined to keep the statues protected moved them repeatedly in order to keep their whereabouts secret.

Monks giving blessings at the Two Sisters Shrine

Monks giving blessings at the Two Sisters Shrine

The two statues were moved to the current location in 1990…an unassuming looking temple structure that hides a happening scene.  As soon as I scoped out the place I thought of the story of driving out the moneychangers from the temple in the Bible.  Everything that could go on here was going on…a band, fortune telling, blessings by monks, blessings by nuns, bird sellers, flower sellers, beggars with afflictions, neon halos or aureola’s , large urns filled with hundreds of smoking joss sticks …it was a big money maker. Even the statues of the deities had purses hung around their neck so someone could slip in an offering if one was so inclined.

Fortune tellers waiting for a customer at the Shrine

Fortune tellers waiting for a customer at the Shrine

I have never seen an altar so filled with action…people going up and down ladders, lighting candles, burning incense, offering up flowers and fruit…a constant stream of people.  At one point, I felt I should participate by donating to a monk or a beggar but there was a problem, I only had one big bill. I stopped in front of where three Buddhist nuns were sitting … I held this big bill in my hand and looked on with what must have been a perplexed expression. Before you could say Bob’s you’re uncle, a laywoman sitting there relieved me of my bill and gave me enough change so I could earn merit all over the shrine…money for the monks, nuns, beggars and even a little for the guy who wanted a tip for arraigning all the flip flops outside the temple in nice neat rows.  A little here, a little there…I already felt my Karma getting lighter.

Nuns and Musicians at Two Sisters Shrine

Nuns and Musicians at Two Sisters Shrine

Next to the shrine in the middle of a traffic circle, another shrine was operating full tilt as well. This shrine was to Ya Tep a local spirit who is said to offer good luck and protection for Siem Reap.  What a hotbed of spirituality I had stumbled into on my morning walk….who knew!

 

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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2 Responses to Siem Reap… and its busy little Shrine

  1. dan coffey says:

    so that’s why things are going so well for you lately! I have to simply start handing over more moolah to enjoy the same.

    Look forward to hearing about sukothai and ayuutaya. Rent a bicycle for ayuttaya. The place is enormous.

  2. Claudia Hammer says:

    What! No picture of the Grand Hotel! You had that lead in and my eyes were all set to see some wonderful picture of a period hotel and then there was none. It does sound like you are improving your karma.

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