When I was 18 and in my first semester of college I took this art history course. There was a 3-hour credit fine arts credit to fill and I decided this would probably be the easiest way. I was over playing the flute — which I had been doing since I was in the 7th grade.
The course was really broad and touched on all forms of art from every era, time and place in the world you could think of. To this day, my favorite part was the architecture section of this course — particularly when we learned about the Angkor Temples.
And no, my interest had nothing to do with Angelina Jolie dressing up as Lara Croft and being the bad ass that she is. I didn't even see Tomb Raider until well after I had developed a rather unhealthy obsession with the idea of Angkor and Cambodia.
Honestly, I was just impressed. Each and every temple is perfectly symmetrical. Considering how long ago they were built that aspect in itself is impressive. Then you consider the materials used (and how they are either humongous or ridiculously tiny) and you realize you can't even begin to wrap you head around how there came to be 1000 square miles of temples interwoven with citadels in the middle of the Cambodian jungle.
I'm not sure if I ever mentioned it, but one of the things I promised myself when moving to Taiwan was that I wouldn't leave Asia until I had been to Angkor. Of course, it makes it a little silly that I went to four other countries before I ever made it to Cambodia, but I knew I'd make it.
I had no choice. I made myself a promise.
I spent three days trekking through temples and saw some of the most amazing buildings and sculptures ever. It's almost indescribable... which is why I'm going to let the pictures do the talking. Here are some of my favorites, but you can always see the whole album on my Picasa Web Albums by clicking the link in the right sidebar.
|These aren't even the steepest steps I had to climb.|
|All I could think at this temple was, "Yeah, Kingdom of Cambodia!"|
|There were so many beautiful and intricate carvings.|
|Unfortunately the Khmer Rouge went through and beheaded all the Buddhas.|
|Angkor Wat just after sunrise from the Eastern side of the Temple.|
|I love the colors here.|
|This was my absolute favorite temple — Bayon.|
|The faces bear strong resemblance to King Jayavarman VII who commissioned the temple. Coincidence?|
|Baphuon was taken apart and never put back together again because the archeologists lost the key they had made that told them how to. It's now considered the world's largest jigsaw puzzle.|
|Ta Prohm — the Tomb Raider temple. There are all of these massive trees everywhere growing in, around and on the temple walls.|
Despite time and war and the Khmer Rouge the Angkor Temples still lived up to all of my expectations and very possibly exceeded them. Sure it's probably one of the most touristy places in the world and there are small children every two feet who speak more languages than I do and insist on trying to sell you things, but I was still able to lose myself among the temple walls and my thoughts.
Don't be discouraged by the other tourists — or the hawkers for that matter. Go. Get lost. You'll never forget it.