Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cambodian Memories III

Here we go, the biggie: Angkor Wat. I flew into Seam Reap around midnight, so the following day I explored a bit, went to the National Museum (stellar, by the way), and located a licensed tour guide. The hotel had already provided my tuktuk driver for the week, so I was set there. On day 2, the guide met me at 5:15 in the morning (!) so I would be sure and catch Angkor Wat at sunrise. Then, back for breakfast and at 10 am we were off to other temples. We came back to Angkor Wat in a few days during the morning hours before it got too hot and the tourists became too thick. Angkor Wat is MASSIVE. Over 1 million people lived around and in it. The Wat was used just for worship, whereas Angkor Thom is where only the nobility lived. The 4 reservoirs were constructed over 1,000 years ago and are fed by natural springs so they are still in use. Children swim in them and I witnessed a local wedding taking place on the steps of one. That's another thing: the step risers everywhere were perfect! Something that modern Mongolians still struggle with--and the Great Wall of China certainly did not have even stairs--believe me, this is a killer!
Angkor is constantly being renovated and efforts are made to keep the jungle at bay. So, while it is so very impressive, it lacks some of the mystique of the lesser known temples. Interesting that the surrounding villagers are descendants of the original builders--and now they're employed in the restoration work. Sanskrit tablets are everywhere, so archeologists know just who erected what and why. As my guide, Votah, would say (with an Aussie accent), "Amazing. Stupendous. Mouth dropping. Gob smacking. Incredible..." Truly.

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