Unexpected Discovery in Angkor Wat

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Seeing Angkor Wat at the crack of dawn? Of course! Who wants to sleep anyway?

Let me start off by saying that I did not go into our trip to Angkor Wat expecting to be amazed. I was aware of what the place looked like (I’ve built it in the PC game Civ IV many times,) but I didn’t really know any details about it. Also, after the Taj Mahal and the Ganges, I had had my fair share of waking up at sunrise in the last couple of weeks. And I was certainly not in a mood to be impressed after our guesthouse’s front desk called us at 4:30 in the morning to make sure we would leave by five. That call involved the phone ringing, which is one of the most ear-splitting, jump-inducing ringtones I have ever had the displeasure to hear.

Pancakes and kittens tend to make everything better

We were on our way soon enough, and things got much better when:

  • It started to become light out
  • We ate breakfast at one of the small outdoor food stands right next to Angkor Wat, and they had DELICIOUS pancakes
  • We got to feed very, very cute kitties

After our breakfast and watching the sun rise over the main temple, we set off to see the inside of the building.

Our visit begins to earn its title as “worth the trip.”

While walking through Angkor Wat, we came upon a large area made up of two (now empty) pools, separated in the middle by a long hallway with pillars on either side. Around the back side of the pools was a low wall that we could get to by stairs, and Bella decided to sit there for a while. She sat cross-legged at was soon lost in her own thoughts, eyes closed. She often does this lately when we go to monuments, and it seemed like a nice idea to me at this point (especially because it involved sitting down and closing my eyes.)

I stayed near her for a minute or two but then found my own place in between two of the hallway pillars. I lay down and took in the view that this vantage point gave me- I could see the organized, straight lines and angles the walls enclosing the area we were in, but through the gaps made by their pillars and above them was the early-morning sky. The geometric interplay between blue and grey was peaceful to look at, and I spent a while resting and taking it in. I felt a peaceful mood coming on.

Where there is one temple, there are at least four temples.

After resting we headed further into the building, and once inside the inner courtyard climbed up a frighteningly steep staircase to the top of a medium-sized tower-building. With not much more to see we soon returned to where our driver had said he would wait for us, and he began driving us to another temple in the Angkor Wat complex. Bella wasn’t feeling well and we were all tired, but our driver seemed to be personally crushed when we suggested going back at this point- so my small dream of returning to the guesthouse and sleeping was smothered at this point.

Unexpected Beauty

Bayon was something completely unexpected. We somewhat reluctantly agreed to walk through it at the insistence of our tut-tut driver, and it first it seemed like just another stone temple. But soon I found myself up a small flight of stairs and in one of the most inspirational, beautiful places I have ever seen. At this point I was wandering alone, and could take in what I was seeing without being distracted. What I saw were entrances to passages, rooms, hallways, almost all of which were open to the blue sky; everywhere I looked I found myself looking through a window into another. Every passage led to a place equally as beautiful, as filled with a combination of cool, stone darkness and bright sunlight. I walked from area to the next in a spiritual daze, taking all of this beauty in and almost completely oblivious to the other tourists around me.

And unexpected spiritual fulfillment

I think what I’m really trying to say is that if my soul had a home, it would be Bayon. When it comes to life I believe that every passage leads to another passage, every vantage point reveals countless others. One’s soul cannot look through a window without seeing something new, without seeing another window and whatever is behind it. I felt like my inner feelings had room to live within the small, nearly nonsensical corridors and rooms of this place. Let the lovers of the Sistine Chapel fill the space with their souls; mine is at home amongst the worn, leaf-covered, sometimes crumbing stones of Bayon.

After Bayon we visited one last temple, which didn’t quite have the same effect as Bayon or Angkor Wat. Then it was back to the guesthouse, where our normal routines resumed. Even though I am no longer wandering the halls of Bayon, though, I still have the feeling of the place inside of me, and it puts me at peace. I am truly happy that we spent more time than we intended to at Angkor Wat, even with our 4:30 wake up call.

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Posted on: February 28, 2011 | Categories: Archaeology, Primary School- Cambodia, recreation

 

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