Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Temples of Angkor, Part III: Angkor Wat

We saved Angkor Wat, the crowning jewel of the ancient Khmer empire and a symbol of Cambodian pride, for our last day in Cambodia. It’s hard to take in and appreciate a place you’ve wanted to see for years, a place that has gained near mythical status in your plans and daydreams. I remember when Google Earth was new to me, searching for and finding Angkor; the massive rectangular ponds of the West and East Barays and the moat around Angkor Wat visible from such a great height. I imagined what it would be like to be there, what it was like on the ground. And now I was here! And so was the rest of the world!... It was a busy place… but the massive complex was big enough to absorb all of us, and we lingered around long enough that when the tour groups went for lunch, we even had some hallways to ourselves for a while.

As with any structure planned/conceived/commissioned by any King, Angkor Wat was architecturally designed to elicit awe. And succeeds. I can’t even imagine how much more impressive it would have been in its original splendor.

Grand approaches, corn-cob shaped spires building to one central towering spire, palatial corridors flanked on one side by hundreds of feet of bas reliefs and on the other by rows and rows of pillars creating a tunnel of receding rectangles, mesmerizing in their symmetry. Just awesome.

I'm so glad and thrilled that my parents came halfway around the world so we could experience Cambodia together. It was an amazing two weeks, and I'm sad to see them go!

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