Sunday, November 3, 2013

Angkor Wat

Rising out of the misty jungle surrounding Siem Reap, Cambodia, three immense arched towers dominate the immediate landscape. The towers of Angkor Wat are imposing, mysterious and awe-inspiring.

Having done some research, I figured I knew more-or-less what I would come upon when I visited Angkor. As I imagine is often the case when visiting a wonder of the world, my expectations were blown away.

Walking from the road to the Wat itself took a good 20 minutes of meandering along an immense, half-mile-long stone corridor that crossed a huge man-made moat and passed under the thick wall surrounding the perimeter of the temple. And this was just the walkway!

Angkor Wat is the most impressive structure I’ve ever seen, and my awe only increases when I think about how it was constructed hundreds of years ago, by hand. The temple is covered inside and out by intricate, beautiful carvings, and the architecture is awesome. It blows me away to think that humans are capable of such incredible feats.

Walking through the second wall and into the temple, I climbed the stairs up to the heart of the temple from which jut the three towers of Angkor that loom ominously, powerfully above visitors who are dwarfed by their size. Their effect was made more dramatic by the fact that it was a drizzly day; the towers appeared almost black against the wet gray sky, the contrast adding to their formidable appearance.

The final stone staircase to the tippity top of the Wat was slick and impossibly steep. Clutching the rickity handrail, I dragged myself to the pinnacle of Angkor. The view was incredible. Looking out over the misty forest, I tried to imagine how the surrounding land would’ve looked like hundreds of years ago when Angkor was surrounded by a thriving city, and what it would have felt like to be the god-king of such a civilization. No wonder he felt like a god, keeping an eye on his kingdom from such a staggeringly impressive structure (that was, no less, covered in gold leaf at the time of his rule). I let the humming strength of the structure wash over me as I leaned out of a stone window, breathing in the cool fresh air, soaking in awe.


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