my travels around the world

Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

I think I have a relatively expansive vocabulary and, while I know I make lots of silly writing/lack of editing mistakes, I write fairly well. However, I have no words for Angkor Wat. In this post I will write a few things that I thought about and learned while I was there, and then I will let pictures do the rest of the talking.

1.) One of my friends spoke this year to the student body at Gould about the idea of bucket lists. I don't remember if Angkor Wat was on my bucket list before I went, but, if not, I am putting it there retroactively. I think everyone should have a bucket list of places they want to see in their life time. And I now think that everyone should have Angkor Wat on their list. It is that amazing.

2.) A bit of history, not particularly flushed out and somewhat random.

– Angkor Wat is a temple. But it is only one of a complex of temples and cities built by the Khmer empire from the 9th to the beginning of the 15th century. I spend three days in the archeological park (I did get lost for a while on one of those days… You may notice that this is a theme) and only saw the temples in the main loop. There are quite a number of temples outside that main loop that I would have needed another few days to get to.

– There is a mix of Hindu and Buddhist temples. The Khmer swung back and forth between the two different religions as kings with different belief systems ascended the throne. A number of the temples are actually dedicated to both religions or have switched, primarily from Hindu shrines to Buddhist.

– The Khmer temples have had a bunch of damage done to them. A lot done by nature over time. Some was done by looters in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some was actually done by early preservationists. But I think most interestingly, a bunch was done by iconoclasts as the Khmer Empire switched between Hindu and Buddhist and earlier temples were defaced for having the wrong imagery.

– In some ways the area was actually a megalopolis, a collection of cities that form together into one larger metropolitan area. Many of the temples were actually individual small walled cities, each to support the temple in the center. It is likely that the area of Angkor numbered among the largest cities in the world at its height.

– This collection of cities served as the capital of the Khmer empire. Interestingly, it is a major ancient city that is not an any major waterway. The city was fed by a large lake that has cyclical floods each year that allowed/allow for rice production on a massive scale.

3.) I enjoy playing the game of “if you could go back in time for one day, as a ghost with an all access pass and a babel fish (built-in translator so you understand everything), when'd where would you go”? You can be as specific or as general as you want (eg. Renaissance Italy or July 4th 1776 to see the signing of the Declaration of Indenpendence). I have a few that I think I would want to see: the Chang'an at the height of the Tang Dynasty (early 700s), Cordoba during the Moorish period, and now I would love to see the Bayon temple in full glory as the center piece of Angkor Thom city.

When and where would you like to see?


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