An American Abroad

Cambodia: Angkor Wat

On my first full day in Siem Reap, I got up at five and was out the door by six, hoping to beat the tourist hordes. I hailed a passing tuk tuk and, after a twenty minute ride, hopped off at the end of the ancient stone causeway that crosses the square moat surrounding Angkor Wat. The temperature was already at least 85, but I got chills as I saw the 900 year old ruin looming ahead of me. I have wanted to come here for many years. I thought: finally.

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Angkor Wat is as hard to photograph as it is to describe. It’s so monumentally large that a single photo can’t capture the grandeur of it all. Every stone surface is carved with intricate depictions of the Hindu mythos, with trees and flowers and chariots and warriors and wagon wheels and fantastical animals. And from every corner, mammose goddesses look on.

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The complex is constructed as a series of squares within squares. There are long corridors faced with support columns or with windows made of closely-adjacent stone pillars designed to let light in but keep arrows out.

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Once you’re within the outer walls, there are multiple entrances and stairways leading to the inner chambers.

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Inside the temple itself are several shrines to the Buddha, which are still attended to by the faithful.

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Around the temple are several smaller buildings which were used as libraries.

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I spent almost five hours there, after which the heat, the exhaustion, the amazement, and the multitudes of tourists took their toll. I could have easily spent five days. I took another tuk tuk back to the guesthouse and slept for three hours.

That evening, there was a tropical rain storm. I sat on the covered rooftop deck of the Seven Candles Guesthouse and wrote up my notes as the power blinked on and off and little geckos scurried over the walls.


  1. Bev Nathan says:

    We want to hear/see more!

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