Angkor Wat

Trip Start Apr 01, 2008
Trip End Jul 15, 2012

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Flag of Cambodia  , Khétt Siĕm Réab,
Monday, February 20, 2012

Ankhor Wat...

What can one say?  You've either been there or you haven't.  If you haven't, I'd say you should probably go.  If you have, you'll probably agree. 

We bought the seven day pass so as to avoid feeling any pressure to race around the vast site.  Over the course of two weeks, we rode our bikes around the ruins, watching the sun rise one day and set the next.  It's not just ruins either.  In and around the expanse of Ankhor, entire communities continue to live, work and play, adding texture to the experience.  One can enjoy the sleepy sites of early morning village life along the banks of the reservoir one day and join in the dust-cleansing daily swim at dusk the next.  To what extent they are really able to live a traditional life, with the onslaught of tourism and the inevitable restrictions on the use of land around the site, I don't know.  Though the children provide some insight, often coming up with hands outstretched and saying simply, "hello money".  A sure fire way to dampen ones spirits if it wasn't so funny (and true to some extent).

Unlike so many ancient cites, Ankhor is accessible...with every sense.  Not that I was licking stone, but being able to walk or even climb around the ruins was for me the element that is missing from so many other sites.  It enables a person to really feel a place, get a sense of it's history.  This is probably controversial as I can see that having thousands of people clambering over these amazing ruins will inevitably lead to their continued demise, but I feel that the connection one gains with the past through physical touch and interaction is worth the sacrifice.  It was a city after all, not a painting or an art piece.  It's what it was designed for and whilst it's no longer in it's heyday, it was built well enough to withstand considerate exploration.  Which I did and it felt wonderful.  Adding my footprint to the dip in paving stones worn away from so many feet and sitting on stone windowsills that had the shape of an untold number of bottoms subtly etched into them, every one of which with it's own forgotten story.  Scaling staircases, so steep they were basically walls on a slant, couldn't help but stir images of a time and a culture that at once feels less removed from our own reality.  You don't get that from just looking, definitely not. 

And it won't stay this way for long...such small freedoms tend to be lost as the greater freedom is gained and Cambodia is fighting hard to put the recent dark past behind them.

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