Tag Archives: Film

Angkor Wat-What.

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In almost direct contrast to the atrocities and sheer hell described in the last post, our next stop in Cambodia was quite literally heaven on Earth. Angkor Wat, the ‘City of Temples’, is both the largest Buddhist temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world.

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Walking to Angkor Wat at sunrise

The temple came into being in the early 12th century under King  Suryavarman II and is the earthly representation of Mount Meru, the home of the ancient Hindu Gods. (Note: Angkor Wat was first Hindu, then Buddhist – as it is today) The Khmer King and his successors were known as the ‘God Kings’, and each strove to build enormous tributes to both honour the gods as well as illustrate their own power and strength to their subjects and against their predecessors.

We’ve heard that the first glimpse of Angkor Wat is one of the most breathtaking and stunning experiences of the modern world. They are completely right. As we rounded a corner, we saw the temple come into view, silhouetted against the pale streaks of the dawn sky and reflected in the enormous moat that surrounded the gates. To actually get to the temple, you walk along a wide stone pathway, always with the impressive structure ahead of you. I have never been to Agra, but I can imagine that perhaps there are echoes of the Taj Mahal in Angkor Wat – both stunning in their architectural riches and religious devotion, both modern wonders of the world.

Our rather unorthodox sunrise crew

Our rather unorthodox sunrise crew

As you enter the temple you can see the extensive intricate detail on the stones, illustrating the time and devotion that was spent on every little detail. There are four towers which surround one large central tower, standing 31m above the rest. This gives the whole structure a sense of symmetry and unity, the height of the towers emphasising their closeness to the gods. What really strikes you about Angkor Wat is that despite the hoards of tourists (it was packed at dawn!) the whole area is just so peaceful. Although it is one of the world’s most renowned tourist attractions, it has retained it’s original ambience of calm and religious devotion, something that has become few and far between in the modern world.

The temple walls - decorated with 800 m worth of bas reliefs depicting King Suryavarman II's victories

The temple walls – decorated with 800 m worth of bas reliefs depicting King Suryavarman II’s victories

The intricate detail on the walls

The intricate detail on the walls

Inside the temple complex

Inside the temple complex

Sunup

Sunup

Equally as impressive, if not more so by it’s diversity and size (10 square km) is neighbouring Angkor Thom. To enter, you drive through terribly imposing gates, made all the more foreboding by the pregnant clouds that hovered aggressively above. The gates are flanked on either side by stone statues that depict a tug of war between 54 gods and 54 demons – The Churning of the Ocean of Milk.

The first temple you come to is the Bayon, which I perhaps wouldn’t recommend if you’ve got any sort of easily triggered paranoia issues. The whole temple, majestically dilapidated, comprises 54 Gothic towers that are decorated with 216 faces of the Hindu God, Avlakiteshvara. Word on the street is that the King (Jayavarman VII) who built this was more than a little off his rocker, and as if the feeling of constant surveillance wasn’t unusual enough, the faces are said to bear a strong resemblance to Jayavarmann himself. The whole place is eerie yet fascinating;  you clamber over piles of rocks and peer through darkened archways only to find that at every turn you are once again face to face with the coldly smiling Hindu deity. It is mesmerizing, enigmatic and very very weird.

The faces of Avalokiteshvara

The face (one of 216) of Avalokiteshvara

Cel's getting paranoid..

Cel’s getting paranoid..

The labyrinth of archways and entrances

The labyrinth of archways and entrances

 

The fallen archways

The fallen archways

More temple decoration

More temple decoration

Contemplating the crazy faces

Contemplating the crazy faces

There’s plenty more to see at Angkor Thom – the Terrace of the Elephants, Prasat Chrung, the Terrace of the Leper King. Each equal in beauty, each with it’s own story to tell. As we moved through, however, the blue-black sky which had been threatening us all morning finally broke and we were caught in a torrential downpour. Rather than a hindrance, it was a welcome cool from the closeness of the morning. Although photo-taking was now a no-no, the heavy clouds and sheets of rain only added to the ethereal atmosphere of Angkor Thom and Ta Phrom (our next stop).

Everyone knows Ta Phrom. It was in Tomb Raider, it might as well have been in Indiana Jones, it’s that world-famous image of temple against jungle; human against nature. Ta Phrom has been completely left to the mercy of the jungle which, as we know, is merciless. The temple emerges from thick jungle, barely distinguishable from the dense foliage and layers of dark greenery. Nature has run riot and tree roots hug the crumbling walls, emerging at incredible angles from the once beautiful stonework. Foundations have been overturned, and stones and piles of rubble lie everywhere, interspersed with lopsided gateways and broken steps. Some roots look like serpents, their corpulent bodies gradually choking the building and bringing it to the ground. It seemed so apt visiting this natural playground in the pouring rain, as though we were trespassing on a jungle secret that served to remind us of the power of nature against the relative impunity of humans.

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Growing THROUGH the temple foundations

More roots...

More roots…

...that look like something from a sci-fi movie

…that look like something from a sci-fi movie

One of the desolate courtyards

One of the desolate courtyards

 

And that was that, our experience of Angkor Wat. We only had time for a one-day pass, but it’s possible to have three- or (for the hardcore) seven-day permits. All we have to say is DO IT – this ancient site will inspire, impress and instill a sense of wonder that will last for a long, long time.

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Haere Ra Aotearoa

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So ends our little sojourn in Noble Zealand; six months and one week since we arrived, and 22 hours until we leave.

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And what a time we’ve had. No car crashes, no thefts (touch wood), no more tattoos, two birthdays, one lost wallet, one submerged watch, two pierced ears, a lot of pies, and a fair few hellos and goodbyes. Although we’d like to think we now understand the meaning of life and we are fully qualified to impart our VAST knowledge onto others, we’re pretty sure this is not the case. So instead of a ‘here’s what we’ve learnt’ polemic, we thought a little summary of the best and the rest might be more palatable…

HOSTEL

Best: The Tree House, Hokianga, North Island. Exactly what it says on the tin, a hostel in a tree house. Remote, quiet, beautiful.

Worst: Any Base X hostel. Only suitable if you’re 18, enjoy listening to Journey and Bon Jovi on repeat and don’t mind the reek of adolescence. 

The Tree House, Hokianga - for some reason the only picture we took here was in the garden. Duh.

The Tree House, Hokianga – for some reason the only picture we took here was in the garden. Duh.

CAMPSITE

Best: Gillespie’s Beach, Just outside Fox, South Island. Camping at a beach on the wild west coast with the Southern Alps a seeming stone’s throw away, this was unrivaled in terms of scenery.

Worst: Donegal’s, Kaikoura, South Island. The campsite is a car park. Have you ever tried putting pegs into gravel? It DOESN’T WORK.

Dawn at Gillespie's Beach. Told you it was good..!

Dawn at Gillespie’s Beach. Told you it was good..!

OK.. Base X might’ve been terrible, but we did manage to make lasagna.

DRIVE

Best: Miford Sound, Fjordland, South Island. There are few drives in the world where the scale and beauty of the scenery makes you stop, drop your jaw on the floor, and release a volley of expletives at every turn. But this one will. You have been warned.

Worst: Wairariki Beach, Golden Bay, South Island. As if driving alongside a sheer cliff drop isn’t terrifying enough, much of the road had crumbled and caved in down the hillside so you had to crawl along the wrong side of the road hoping desperately that it would hold. Not the most relaxing of drives.

Milford Sound

Milford Sound

Doing a victory handstand because the scenery was SO GOOD!

Doing a victory handstand on the Fjordland / Milford drive because the scenery was SO GOOD!

FOOD

Best: Anything at Blue Carrot Catering – especially the pork belly, savory muffins and RASPBERRY CHEESECAKE. Nyom.

Worst: Packet noodles and processed cheese sandwiches. Our stable diet for about 2 months. When everything you eat is yellow, there is something SERIOUSLY wrong.

PUB

Best: The Mussel Inn, Golden Bay, South Island. Quaint, homely, eco-friendly (standard), brews it’s own beers and serves seafood. What more could you want?

Worst: The Queens Street Tavern, Auckland, North Island. You know when you arrive in a new city and you don’t know where to go and you somehow end up in a dodgy pub with evil stares and pokie machines? Well, that about summarizes our experience in the QST. Bad shout.

The Mussel Inn

DRINK

Best: A Porsche Margarita – a sparkling tasty treat given as a free birthday offering after our shift at Flying Burrito Brothers.

Worst:  Michelada – Another FBB concoction but this time they didn’t do so well.This Tex-Mex mix of Sol, lemon juice and salt is about as far from the bona fide Mexican drink as you can get. Don’t try this at home.

PINT

Best: Macs Ginger Brew – delicious alcoholic ginger beer. Crabbies better watch out.

Worst: Boundary Road Lawn Ranger – Beer with lime added in the bottle. Tastes like an alcopop gone wrong.

BOOK

Best: The Gods Drink Whiskey, Stephen T. Asma – a somewhat irreverent yet highly informative study on the application of Buddhism in Cambodia. Maybe not the best ‘relax-with-a-good-story’ read, but stuffed with facts and ridiculously well written.

Worst: Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps, Barbara and Alan Pease. Don’t. Just don’t.

FILM

Best: The Intouchables – Yes, yes, we know this is French. But it’s still AWESOME.

Worst: Lymelife – Another depressing American Beauty spin-off starring Macaulay Culkin’s brothers. There is a reason why they aren’t famous.

MEMORY

Best: Starting off Christmas day with a glass of bubbles, a Bavarian sausage and the paddling pool. There’s a first time for everything…!

Worst: Being really hungry and having no money in Dunedin but consoling ourselves in the knowledge that there was a packet of cookies on the back seat of the car. However, what we didn’t know was that there was actually both a bag with cookies in it and a bag of rubbish on the back seat of the car. Somehow, SOMEONE had managed to mix up the bags earlier, and we ended up with no cookies, smelly rubbish and A WHOLE LOT OF ANGER.

Dunedin - site of the cookie fiasco

Dunedin – site of the cookie fiasco

 

TOP 3 TRIP TUNES

(please note how it sounds like the lyrics are, ‘tidy as a sunbed’. See also if you can find the part that sounds like ‘shit job, thriller’. We never tired of this)

We may still be unaware of the meaning of life and path to follow and so on and so forth, but what we do know is that our trip would not have been what it was without all the people that we met and helped us on the way. They know who they are, but just in case they don’t, we would like to thank them…

Hobnob, Carl, Fiona, Anita, Jacqueline and all the extras at Prospect Terrace – home from home; Bart and Lucy, Parker, Tux and Boots; Randolph, Laura, Helena, Ira and Aly and the AIR BED; Miss Alice Mahy and Josh, Clover and Sabbath; Rosie Bates, her lovely housemates and the soft grass in the back garden; Gordon, Nicole, Aidy, Mark, Stefan, Kir, Hayden and everyone working at Blue Carrot; Dawie, Rahul, Bernie, Kuldeep, Joe, Josephine and the other Flying Burrito Brothers; Siggy, Marina, Ole, Amy, Sophie, Jostein and Rafa – the dream team; Mama Bilton and Jeffies old, new, future and honorary – Adam, Barbara, Georgie, Igor, Jasmine, Clare, Kim, Tawanda, Jen, Vaughn, Jeff, Oz, Mothership, Tonka and Tinkerbell; Anna and Simon, the brains behind the Masterton Expedition as well as the expedition-eers themselves, Lester, Charlie and other dice-weilding crazies; Joe the photographer who picked us up and managed to score us two free ferry tickets; Tom from the Welsh Bar and his disgusting cocktails; Soren and Thomas – we’ll see you at Rosskilde; Sam the German hitchhiker who was amazing company and knew Quentin in Berlin; Mel and Ollie – laughed so much; Tim Fox intrepid explorer – next time we’ll see you in Cali; All the people who picked us up when hitchhiking and the many that casually offered us a place to stay when we were stuck.

(Some of) The Dream Team

(Some of) The Dream Team

Standard night in at Jefferson…

If we’ve forgotten anyone, we’re mighty mighty sorry and did not do it intentionally (unless you’re the guy who picked us up, drove like a maniac and then dropped us off miles from anywhere.. argughgugh). We’ve had a blast.

Churr.

Get your Hobbit On

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Wellington. Has. Gone. Mad.

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Serious. Don’t tell anyone, but PEOPLE HERE ARE CONVINCED THAT WELLINGTON IS MIDDLE EARTH.

Yes, it may be the site of Camperdown Studios – the sprawling cinematic ‘birthplace’ of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Yes, it is where the Hobbit premiered a few days ago, red carpet and all.

Yes, Peter Jackson comes from here.

 

BUT I’M PRETTY SURE THAT STILL DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY GRANT IT MIDDLE EARTH STATUS.

Despite being surrounded by badly dressed hobbits and hairy wizards, the whole Hobbit-hype has actually been quite entertaining. A larger-than-life-size Gandalf and an equally enormous Hobbit hole have been hoisted above the Embassy cinema, where the premiere takes place. A Hobbit Artisan Market appeared (and in fact disappeared) as if by magic (ho ho ho) complete with stalls selling genuine replica middle-earth trinkets, midday sack races and musical statues, and a nightly showing of each of the LOTR films. Brownie points for effort.

The Market – kind of self-explanatory, really

Giant Gandalf at The Embassy Cinema (giant statues are all the rage.. obvs)

Wednesday, however, was the height of all madness as all the Middle Earth superstars descended on the city. Thousands flocked to the city where a red carpet ran the length of the centre, ready for stylish tootsies to grace it with their owner’s other world-ly presence. Although Celyn and I didn’t manage to find each other in the throng (due to mismatched work timetables and the like), separately we did quite well on the old celeb spotting. Before we get to the photographic evidence (WE WERE THERE) I must make a confession;  my knowledge of Hobbit/Lord of the Rings cast lists is a little hazy, hence there is a number of photos which contain red carpet strutters who could-be-famous-but-might-not-be-I-just-took-the-photo-anyway-because-that-seemed-like-the-right-thing-to-do-at-the-time-and-every-one-else-was-doing-it. If anyone can name the ‘stars’ in the pictures, I will be eternally grateful (and then will gloat that I’ve seen them and you haven’t).

Look closely at the wee guy signing the autographs.. can you guess?

Look closely at the little guy near the front with his head bent, sunglasses, and furious concentration on his autograph signing (I KNOW THIS ONE)

? again

Sorry,but ?

?

Another ?

We know this one.. it's Andy Serkis (Gollum)

Gollum’s lap of honour

Again, he must be famous. Prize if you tell us who he is.

Again, he must be famous. Prize if you tell us who he is.

They look like they should be celebs. So they must be.

They look like they should be celebs. So they must be.

No celebs, sadly

No celebs, sadly

Hobbit plane. Bit weird.

Hobbit plane. Bit weird.

If you know who these dudes are, please tell us, so we can then re-tell you that we saw them LIVE IN THE FLESH.