Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Temples Of Siem Reap

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, CambodiaImage by victoriapeckham via Flickr
It is impossible to truly convey the wonders that I have witnessed in the last two days. The temples around Siem Reap must be felt as much as seen.
The first visit is to Angkor Wat, the grandaddy of them all. Built in 1180 or thereabouts, it was once a canal city, home to tens of thousands.

In some spots the carvings on its walls and towers are so detailed and ornate, it is as if the each inch is trying to outdo the previous, in an unimaginable frenzy of miraculous detail. Yet there it is, the impossible fact of this place, undeniable to my own eyes.

The temples of Siem Reap rival the most monumental accomplishments by humans. The Pyramids. The Colisseum. Machu Picchu. The Great Wall. Angkor Wat.

My guide (Pov, pronounced Pow) and I visit several other temples over two days. One is a temple overrun by giant trees, whose roots have enveloped the temple, like a mother that cannot let go.

At one point Pov leads me into a small self contained chamber, sort of like a large chimney. He motions for me to stand in a specific spot and indicates that I should make a fist and bang it against my heart. I do so and am gobsmacked at the result.

A reverbation emanates from within me, creating a sound like a low octave gong that goes off for several seconds. My jaw drops and my knees buckle at the complexity of this acoustical magic. This is a moment that will not soon be forgotten.

Pov also shows me a spot where tree roots have enveloped a wall, but in a small gap between the roots a randomly placed carved face peeks out, as if the roots had purposefully grown around the face, so as not to obstruct its view.

The face seemed to wear a grin and had a twinkle in its eye that seemed to say "I know things that you'll never understand, and it is very funny to me".

Indeed we are standing on the shoulders of giants.