How about a new year that's at least not any worse?
Conqueror Virtual Challenge - Berlin Wall

Conqueror Virtual Challenge - Angkor Wat

FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #345 - 'The Conqueror - Virtual Challenges I Virtual Challenges' - www.theconqueror.eventsTL;DR -Time to get moving again.
I really like this site, and want to get back into the challenges. The locations are from around the world, often with amazing sights to explore via Google Streetview. The Facebook community is awesome, support desk is fast, and such cool medals once you finish.
My first challenge was the 42km Marathon to Athens.  I used my Fitbit to track steps and travelled the same route daily via Streetview - taking screenshots and commenting on my discoveries in my Facebook. I really enjoyed it. My second was the 66km Flower Route , in the Netherlands. Great Street Views and I did the same screenshot commenting - just not as frequently. Next was the 161km Cote d'Azur. I started with good intentions but my steps/day, and (new) rowing machine time, as well as my views and comments, fell off. I think it was boredom with the walk - beautiful but repetitive - as well as my boycott of much of Facebook. Maybe less peer pressure? My last one was the 56km Amalfi Coast.  - no added steps, no tracking, took me 28 days. Just no motivation. 
I'll restart small - I have some codes and I hear that Ankhor Wat has nice views. So, it's off to Cambodia for me. I'll try to track my progress daily in this post, just adding to the end as I go.
Jan 20 - Victory gateNew challenge, Angkor Wat. Only 32.2 km, and hopefully scenic. I'm starting my walk at the Victory Gate, in Siem Reap, Cambodia. 
Jan 21 - A modest start, at only 1.6 km - my outdoor walk in the cold was brief and nothing was added indoors. Too busy gaming, as usual. I did get a postcard from myself, describing the start of my journey. There will be several more of these, as well as trees planted at intervals. 61768888
Here's the text  - 

The medieval city of Angkor once served as the capital of the Khmer Empire, the indigenous people of Cambodia. Only 3mi (5km) east of Siem Reap Airport, it is very closely located and easily accessible. A thriving ancient megacity, at its peak it housed up to one million residents and contained several hundred temples with over 70 of them found inside the core of the city.

The temples were built over a period of 300 years, first dedicated to Hinduism and later to Buddhism. King Jayavarman II, the first king of the unified country circa 9th century, declared himself a Devaraja (God-King) and as such built himself temples for king-worship. Although very little remains of his structures, Jayavarman set the ground for succeeding kings to follow.

Believing that the mountain was the centre of the world and a link between heaven and earth, the temples were built to resemble mountain-like structures with tall, tapering towers. By the end of the building period in the 12th century Angkor was the largest city in the world.

After repeated invasions from the Thai in the west, in 1432 the Khmer moved the capital to Phnom Penh and Angkor was abandoned. Over the following centuries the city was swallowed by the jungle and disappeared until 1860 when naturalist Henry Mouhot, in search of exotic insects, was cutting his way through the depths of the jungle and came upon the city.

Teams of archaeologists descended upon Angkor to study it until the mid-20th century when decades of political unrest left the city neglected. In the 1990s preservation efforts resumed and in 1992 Angkor was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I am standing at the Victory Gate within Anghor Thom and I imagine, as lore tells it, the King sending his army through the gate into battle and upon victory welcoming their return. The elaborate arched gate is adorned with four large heads, each facing a cardinal direction, representing gods and demons. At the inner corners of the gate are sculptures of three-headed elephants. Through the gate is a path lined with statues of gods and demons holding onto a seven-headed serpent known as Naga. Just as the army departed into battle centuries ago, I too began my journey heading to the famed Ta Prohm temple that’s been enveloped by giant tree roots.


Here's the overall route, and my small progress so far. FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #340 - 'Angkor Wat Virtual Challenge - My Virtual Mission' -

FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #346 - 'Angkor Wat Virtual Challenge - My Virtual Mission' - www.myvirtualmission.comStarting off - no super highways here. I think the trip will be more paths through the jungle, some paved, some not. 
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #341 - 'Мост Spean Thma - Google Maps' - passed by Spean Thmor - like many of these old sites, the jungle has taken over much of it.
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #342 - 'Ta Keo - Google Maps' - was Ta Keo, a huge sandstone temple. I'm amazed such a soft stone has lasted so well. With conservation efforts underway right now. Wiki says, in part - Ta Keo was the state temple of Jayavarman V, son of Rajendravarman, who had built Pre Rup. Like Pre Rup, it has five sanctuary towers arranged in a quincunx, built on the uppermost level of five-tier pyramid consisting of overlapping terraces (a step pyramid), surrounded by moats, as a symbolic depiction of Mount Meru.
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #344 - 'ប្រាសាទតាម៉ៅ Ta Mao Temple (Monument MH 384) - Google Maps' - ended up near Ta Mao Temple - no access via StreetView but I found a pic. 
Jan 22 - at the 3.3 km mark.
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #348 - 'Angkor Wat Virtual Challenge - My Virtual Mission' - www.myvirtualmission.comNot much progress since yesterday, but it's bloody cold out. I did go shopping - in my car. It started, but with not a lot of enthusiasm. At least the tires weren't 'square' - in olden days when it was really cold they would develop a flat spot while sitting overnight. Not much, just enough to clunk until the tire warmed up a bit.
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #349 - 'Angkor Wat Virtual Challenge - My Virtual Mission' - www.myvirtualmission.comBut I digress. My 'walk' ended up along one of the many tiny roads of the area, shortly after passing through Ta Prohm Temple.
61898343I got another postcard, from the temple stop. Here's the text: 

It was with great anticipation that I arrived at Ta Prohm temple. Possibly the most photographed temple in Angkor due to its unique appearance and subsequent rise to fame when it was used as a location setting for the 2001 Tomb Raider feature film. It’s not every day that you see trees growing out of ruins but that’s exactly what the jungle did during Angkor’s dormant centuries.

Ta Prohm was built by King Jayavarman VII around the late 12th century in honour of his family. He was the most prolific Khmer builder, constructing hundreds of monuments in as little as 40 years. The complex with the temple at its centre is made up of five wall enclosures. The outer wall is significantly larger and surrounded by a moat. Much of the internal space is now forested but this area once teemed with life when the complex had as many as 12,000 people living within its walls.

The three inner enclosures are galleried. With a low roofline, the interior passageways are very dark with little light filtering through the windows from outside. Some of the external walls have carved decorations of deities, meditating monks and temple guardians.

When restoration works began on the complex it was decided to leave it untouched allowing the trees to co-exist with the buildings they have grown over. Whilst it provides a fascinating view, the concerns are that the trees weigh heavily upon these fragile buildings. Although conservationists have added iron supports in some of the passageways, many of the ceilings in unprotected sections have collapsed under the weight.

Wooden walkways have been installed to protect the temples and as I walked around the complex I marvelled at the huge trees, snaking their roots along the temples’ roofline, spilling down the side like a fan. As nature strangles the narrow passageways it lets it be known that at any time it can reclaim itself and anything within it.


FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #351 - 'Krong Siem Reap  Siem Reap Province - Google Maps' - FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #351 - 'Krong Siem Reap  Siem Reap Province - Google Maps' - FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #351 - 'Krong Siem Reap  Siem Reap Province - Google Maps' - are a few more views of the temple area. 

Jan 24 - I'm at 6km now.
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #356 - 'Angkor Wat Virtual Challenge - My Virtual Mission' - www.myvirtualmission.comInching along, or is it centimetering along? 
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #358 - 'Krong Siem Reap  Siem Reap Province - Google Maps' - journey resumes along the road/path heading east. This is from a 2013 Streetview, so the lack of tourist traffic recently may have let the vegetation creep in closer. 
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #359 - 'Krong Siem Reap  Siem Reap Province - Google Maps' - it's yet another hub, with tuk-tuks and tourists and shops, as I head south. 
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #360 - 'Jungle Restaurant - Google Maps' - FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #360 - 'Jungle Restaurant - Google Maps' - quiet road, with an old wall to the right for something old I assume, and a restaurant on the left. Pricey, but a shady spot to rest. 
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #362 - 'Banteay Kdei - Google Maps' - FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #363 - 'Krong Siem Reap  Siem Reap Province - Google Maps' - a brief detour to visit to Wat Kathanyaram, a nice pagoda, and check out another temple, Banteay Kdei, then it's past the occasional cafe, and of course some random ruins.  
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #364 - 'Srah Srang - Google Maps' - a turn to the south, and it's Srah Sarang, (Khmer: ស្រះស្រង់, "Royal Bath") a baray or reservoir at Angkor. It was dug in the 10th century and is well known for its beautiful view and tranquility.  
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #357 - 'Angkor Wat Virtual Challenge - My Virtual Mission' - FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #357 - 'Angkor Wat Virtual Challenge - My Virtual Mission' - www.myvirtualmission.comI ended up here, next to a reservoir. And only a few steps from Brown Shade Khmer Food. Lots of sauces. 
Jan 27 - I made it to the 10.6km mark yesterday. 

FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #370 - 'Angkor Wat Virtual Challenge - My Virtual Mission' - www.myvirtualmission.comIt's a slow trip, but I'll get there. Forecast is for warmer weather. And that rowing machine reminds me of it's availability every time I squeeze by. I could have bought a model that folded up against a a wall, but then it would be hidden under clothes, right?
I did plant a tree  - they have a program that works with a group called Eden Reforestation Projects - they replant in deforested areas, using local people and local resources.  
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #372 - 'Srah Srang - Google Maps' -, starting off from the reservoir, Srah Srang, I meandered east, past some locals and their boats (for tourists?), then north, past a sunset viewpoint. 
East again, back onto a road, of sorts, and past some a rice paddy fields. A redudant term, I guess. Apparently the word "paddy" is derived from the Malay word padi, meaning "rice plant", which is itself derived from Proto-Austronesian *pajay ("rice in the field", "rice plant").  So it was just a paddy. Not to be confused with the famous Irishman Paddy O'Lantern.
FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #375 - 'Krong Siem Reap  Siem Reap Province - Google Maps' - paddies, then it's to Pre Rup, a Hindu Temple. According to Wiki:  

Pre Rup (/ˈprɛ ruːp/; Khmer: ប្រែរូប, Prê Rub [prae.ruːp]) is a Hindu temple at Angkor, Cambodia, built as the state temple of Khmer king Rajendravarman[1]: 116 [2]: 73–74 [3]: 361–364  and dedicated in 961 or early 962. It is a temple mountain of combined brick, laterite and sandstone construction.

The temple's name is a comparatively modern one meaning "turn the body". This reflects the common belief among Cambodians that funerals were conducted at the temple, with the ashes of the body being ritually rotated in different directions as the service progressed.

FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #376 - 'Pre Rup - Google Maps' -, taking a sunset photo from here is a big thing. MY route continued north, less paddies. more trees, still open areas as opposed to dense jungle.


FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #377 - '810 - Google Maps' - point was near some small restaurants, as well as some hat shops. Lots of hats. 



Jan 31 - 19km mark.

FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #482 - 'Preah Khan Temple - Google Maps' - FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #482 - 'Preah Khan Temple - Google Maps' -'s been a few days - distracted by the protest convoy that is disrupting much of Ottawa life. I've included an image with terrain added. so that you can see the forests vs paddys. 


FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #487 - 'Eastern Mebon - Google Maps' - FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #487 - 'Eastern Mebon - Google Maps' - headed north, past East Baray a now-dry baray, or artificial body of water. In the centre is a temple, East Mebon. It was dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and honors the parents of the king. Its location reflects Khmer architects’ concern with orientation and cardinal directions. The temple was built on a north–south axis with Rajendravarman's state temple, Pre Rup, located about 1,200 meters to the south just outside the baray.

FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #490 - 'Krong Siem Reap  Siem Reap Province - Google Maps' - FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #491 - 'Ta Som - Google Maps' - then, past more paddies, then across the mighty Siem Reap river. North, with the waters of Jayatataka Baray on my left. Next, on the right, Ta Som, a small temple only recently reclaimed from the jungle.


FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #494 - 'Neak Poun - Google Maps' - FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #494 - 'Neak Poun - Google Maps' - FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #494 - 'Neak Poun - Google Maps' - along the baray, then a sidetrip to Neak Poun, on an island in the middle. Neak Pean/Poun was originally designed for medical purposes, the ancients believed that going into it's pools would balance the elements in the bather, thus curing disease. 

FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #500 - 'Preah Khan Temple - Google Maps' - FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #500 - 'Preah Khan Temple - Google Maps' - the baray, then headed east through Preah Khan temple, built in the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII to honor his father., with which it was associated. It was the centre of a substantial organisation, with almost 100,000 officials and servants. Then west to the main 'road'. 

FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #483 - 'Angkor Wat Virtual Challenge - My Virtual Mission' - www.myvirtualmission.comAnd here's where I ended up. 



Feb 8 - 32.2 kn, 21 days. Finally I arrived, after lots of little steps. I'll put down a few highlights along the way. 

FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #754 - 'Krol Romeas - Google Maps' - Romeas was used as an elephant enclosure, one of the few stone examples left. 



FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #755 - 'Terrace of the Elephants - Google Maps' - south to a group of temples and enclosure, including the Terrace of the Elephants, use by kings for viewing important events. 


FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #756 - 'Bayon Temple - Google Maps' - Temple - Buddhist, 12th century, famous for 200 large smiling faces carved into its walls.  



FireShot Pro Webpage Screenshot #757 - 'Krong Siem Reap  Siem Reap Province - Google Maps' - via the southern gate, then past more temples (same old, same old) and I was done.  



 64254763 I got a final postcard. Here's the text: 

Finally, I arrived at the most significant complex on my journey, Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Everything about this temple was carefully thought out, from the moat surrounding it, the architectural design, the geographical position and its purpose, in one word Angkor Wat is a masterpiece. It is the Khmer Empire’s greatest achievement and Cambodia’s crown jewel.

Built in the first half of the 12th century as a Hindu temple and mausoleum for King Suryavarman II, the complex covers an area of 400 acres, separated from the rest of the city by a moat that is 650ft (200m) across. This beautiful lake-like moat has a very important role in the survival of Angkor Wat. The weight of the water pushes against the earth and structure like a retaining wall, keeping Angkor Wat from collapsing. It is a symbiotic relationship which the architects intentionally planned when they designed this megastructure.

The architects wanted a dramatic and visually stunning structure visible from a long way away. They achieved that with a lengthy causeway allowing the grandeur of the temple to slowly unfold as it is approached.

Crossing the massive moat, I entered the main grounds through the central portal of the outer wall and found myself on the Terrace of Honour with stone balustrades decorated with sculptures of the serpent Naga.

To take in the expanse of Angkor Wat, I took a northbound perimeter walk, heading east and slowly winding my way towards the centre.

Passing the Reflecting Pond, I entered the concentric gallery through a handful of stairs and experienced the first of many wall carvings that formed military, mythological and daily life stories. The most iconic was the 160ft (49m) long relief known as the Churning of the Ocean Milk, a Hindu story portrayed as a tug-of-war between good and evil.

More than 2,000 statues of apsaras (female spirits) can be found in the temple, each one highly detailed showing masterful craftsmanship and the artists’ desire to bring the sculptures to life.
Entering the central terrace, I was met with the exceedingly steep, eye-watering, set of stairs that led to the final terrace. It was made up of five conical towers that represent the peaks of Mount Meru, home of the Hindu Gods. This final climb ended at dizzying heights but was worthwhile for the aerial views of the complex and surrounding jungle.

This brings me to the end of my journey. The city of Angkor is a remarkable testament to the Khmer Empire, its artisans and architects. It is also a reminder of the syncretic nature of its religion, as illustrated by the Hindu and Buddhist elements found in its architecture. The stone temples have endured for over 500 years and although extremely fragile, with ongoing conservation efforts I hope it will continue to endure for future generations.


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What an adventure. These temples look amazing! Maybe I'll visit one day if I'm lucky?


I'm amazed there's that much standing, in the midst of all that relentless jungle. They did an outstanding job of uncovering and preserving it.

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