Angkor Wat, November 2008

Suosdey!  My latest and final travelogue from this briefest of jaunts in SouthEast Asia comes from the land of the Khmers – Cambodia.  I am here on one mission only and that is to see the splendour of the temples of Angkor Wat.  This is where words fail me because there really are none that suffice to decribe the awe and magnificence of this place.  A millennium old, it is a massive complex of temples from the ancient Khmer civilization that reigned over much of present day Thailand and Vietnam.

The architecture is incredible – buildings with inner and outer galleries and on multiple tiers, many surrounded by moats and pools, with massive towers carved into faces of hindu Gods and lotus blossoms. If the scale and complexity of the construction isn’t enough, the intricate stone carving of almost every surface of the temples is overwhelming- every doorway, lintel, corner and eave, every wall and ceiling and cascading tier of roof.  From recurring patterned votives in floral and animal design on the walls, to lotus bloom tiles on the ceilings, scenes of hindu mythology carved into lintels and many-headed serpents and garudas (winged lions) snarling from corner stones. I have been most bewitched by the apsaras (dancing ladies).  Almost life-size there are around 2000 of them carved into the walls of the one Angkor Wat temple alone.  Smiling enigmatically they strike elegant poses, stroke doves, hold flowers and dance on lotus blossoms – and they are everywhere the eye looks!  Probably even more incredible are the enormous stretches of bas relief carvings around the outer galleries of Angkor Wat – just breathtaking to see the elaborate renditions of Khmer daily life, feats of their Kings and scenes from Hindu mythology that stretch for hundreds of metres! I have spent close to 40 hours this week exploring the temples – from sunrise to sunset!


Luckily when the sun goes down Cambodia has some other delights to offer – I am getting closer to the epitome of massage as for a mere $15 per hour you can indulge in a “4 hand Khmer massage”.  Yes two masseuses at once let loose on you to soothe away the aches of a long day at the temples!  (Highly recommended.)  I have also discovered new flavours of Cambodian icecream to be tempted by – Star anise and honey, Ginger and black sesame seeds, and Kaffir lime and lemongrass. Combined with a lively restaurant and pub scene in Siem Reap (the town on the outskirts of Angkor Wat) and good shopping it seems a shame to have to go home.

Alas 2 more days – tomorrow I’m bussing it to Phnom Penh for a quick look around the capital and a sobre visit to the Killing Fields from the regime of Pol Pot. Then… back to the life ordinary again.  It’s been fun sharing the latest adventure with you all.

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