Siem Reap: "Angkor Wat"

July 2, 2002

I left early in the morning by boat to Siem Reap -- the city close to Angkor Wat. This three-hour ride was calm and scenic. Beautiful river, beautiful wide Tonle Sap Lake –- so wide that no land can be seen as we traveled north.

Arrival was at a spot in the middle of the lake. No pier. We climbed aboard a smaller boat.

And since I had made an advance reservation, my driver, standing in his long-tail boat, held a clearly lettered sign, “Welcome Jan Polatschek.” In the middle of a lake. In the middle of Cambodia.

As we rode up the river, we passed the Vietnamese Floating Village. Hundreds of families live on boats, work on boats, and buy supplies from shops on boats. Children go to school on boats.

Finally, Angkor Wat. Just astonishing.

One guidebook: “The temples startle with their splendor and perfection, but beyond the emotions they evoke lie complex microcosms of a universe steeped in cosmology. The monuments’ profound beauty touches everyone.”

Another guidebook: “The Khmer civilization (9th to the 15th Centuries) reached the zenith of its cultural and religious activity during the period of Angkor Wat. The Grand Corridor beneath the five spires of Angkor Wat was adorned with graceful figures of dancing goddesses and troops of mighty Khmer soldiers on the march.”

“The Bayon is decorated with fifty-four gigantic sculptures of faces of the Buddhist deity. The terrace of the leper king depicts popular aspects of life during his reign while displaying at the same time the marvelous harmony in the worship of the gods and the Buddha, in the Hindu and Buddhist religions.”

“Angkor Wat has proved itself to be an incomparable treasure of mankind.”

I spent three days exploring and climbing over ancient temples. Truly one of the eight wonders of the world. Temples one thousand years old surrounded and in some cases intertwined with huge trees hundreds of years old.

Angkor is considered one of the three most important ancient Buddhist sites in Southeast Asia. I encourage everyone to visit. I am motivated to see the others. Bagan in Burma. Borobudur in Java. Maybe one day. Maybe soon.

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