Saturday, December 24, 2005

Siem Reap. Cambodia

It’s not often one gets to tick something off the list of things to do before you die, or settle down, which for my iredeemingly puerile mind amounts to the same thing. It’s even rarer that this item lives up to one’s expectations.

The item that I can now tick off as “done” is a visit to the temples of Angkor. I have been wanting to do this for a while and, now that I have, I find myself in a bit of a bind.

It’s easy to convey fury and anger as my post about the Cambodian Genocide shows. It’s trickier to convey awe and amazement. I don’t think I can actually pull it off so the following post is for my own sake. I will use in later years as I reread this blog and wish to trigger memories. So as I write to my future self I reckon I will simply answer a question about me.

What did I do in Siem Reap during the last few weeks of 2005?

I’ve seen the sun rise on Angkor Wat.

I’ve walked around its walls in the dark seeing only the few feet of stone in front me that my torch lit up. I’ve sat myself down on the grass and waited for the sun, seeing little but hearing much as the creatures of the surrounding jungle started to awake. I watched in silence as the dark looming silhouette of the temple slowly began to show itself in all its glory. As the nearly menacing hulk morphed into a lacelike intricate wonder I congratulated myself for making the effort to ensure that I would first see Angkor Wat at dawn and not glimpsed from afar over the head of a Tuk-Tuk driver.

Once the rotation of the earth had finished to provide me with one of the greatest shows on earth, I backtracked and caught sight of what had been for me had been but shadows. I saw the great causeway that leads up to the temple. I saw the ponds filled with blood red flowers. I saw the nearly endless reliefs of the lower walls where gods and demons, once feared or revered by people long dead, fought their epic battles.

I’ve gazed into the giant stone faces of the Bayon of Angkor Thom and returned their frozen smile. I’ve wandered around its chaotic jumble of chedis from which strayed whispers of incense smoke. I strode atop the terrace of the Elephants. I watched as the descendants of the builders of these marvels, knelt and prayed to the statue of the Leper King.

I lost myself in the ruins of the monastery of Ta Prohm. A place where, once humans and their meddling left, the living wood of the jungle tried to conquer the carved stone of man. I saw the giant trees erupting from buildings and striding over partially collapsed walls as if trying to break in. I saw the roots entwined over the roofs of temples as if to seize and crush them. I ducked into dark corridors and found myself blocked by the vast piles of rubble that were testament to this colossal battle that went unseen for centuries.

I’ve climbed temple mountains. I’ve sat down on the banks of the vast moats of these once lost cities. I’ve paced along the commemorations of great battles. I’ve seen Vishnu riding Garuda into war. I’ve seen rows of gods wrestling a serpent to form the balustrade of a bridge.

I’ve seen what all should see once in their lives. I’ve been to the temples of Angkor.

So there you are dear future Me. This is what you have done in the past days.

For any other readers, I will do another post later today.

Take care,



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