Cambodia, here I come! Our 27 day tour of Asia hooked us with the chance to visit Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. That was on our bucket list.
When telling friends what the “draw” was, I could only say, “Oh, you know …it’s that place that has those old buildings that were covered up forever, and the trees have all those roots that have grown over them.
It was in that Indiana Jones movie, you’ve seen it!” (I’ll admit, not a very good pitch to fly 13 hours to see tree roots cracking cement, we can see that around here!) BUT it was even more impressive than we even imagined. A little background, please.
A Frenchman “discovered” this temple complex in 1860. At that time the natives of the Cambodian jungle were not sure who had built it. They thought that it could have been built by gods, or even by giants!
Scientists and historians got to work and reported the Angkorian period started in AD 802 and ended in 1432. It was during this period that all those Angkor temples were built.
I say “all those” because Angkor Wat means ‘City of Temples’ and there are lots and lots of temples to see. In fact, Angkor Wat is the largest single religious building in the world with buildings and ruins stretching over more than 400 square acres.
I only wish I could remember a tiny bit of what brilliant guides tell me, but it seems that history kept repeating itself as Kings who saw themselves as gods came and went with each one building a more magnificent capital/burial site than the last.
Most of the temples were built to honor Hindu gods, but Cambodia converted from the Hindu faith to Buddhism in the late 13th century, and the temples were also converted for Buddhist use.
These giant structures, some multi-stories high, have withstood the passing of time being built of local stone although bricks were joined together by vegetable compounds instead of mortar. Information signs offered us insight to what a blueprint might have looked like, had there been one.
The numerous passageways, hundreds of columns, arches, stairways, and that’s before we get into the structures that are there for artistic beauty. Buddha images, faces and bodies by the thousands, detail every surface. History is passed on with walls covered in carved pictures.
I couldn’t help but compare the site to the great pyramids of Egypt. Especially when we learned that Angkor Wat faces the west to preserve the king’s ashes as faced the end of his day.
History also reveals that while the king was using slaves, peasants and resources to build these colossal structures, the country was at war which was taking a major toil on slaves, peasants and resources.
It's mind boggling those structures like this could have even been imagined, yet they were built and have weathered tests of time and enemy invasion. It is a UNESCO world heritage site AND the blockbuster movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed there. Checked off the Bucket List. What’s on yours?
Patti Beth Anderson has more than 20 years of experience in the group travel industry taking people all over the world. Her motto is "I return with the same number of people I left with… not necessarily the same people, but the same number nevertheless. So no 'crankpots' allowed" She may be reached at 918-786-3318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.