Once upon a time the tiny country of Cambodia was the seat of power of the Great Khmer Empire.
Khmer influence resonated throughout South East Asia where Khmer Ethnic populations are found (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia). The word Khmer is associated these days with the “Khmer Rouge”, the genocidal regime (birthed out of Mao Tse Tung’s China during the cultural revolution) that resulted in the killing of one fourth of the Khmer population in Cambodia.
But Khmer history has a long tail of artistic splendor and Angkor reminds us of this pre ancient culture. To get a sense of how massive this archeological site is, consider that “the huge city of Angkor is one of the world’s foremost ancient sites, with the epic proportions of the Great Wall of China. the detail and intricacy of the Taj Mahal, and the symbolism and symmetry of the pyramids, all in one.”
Angkor which was a fully functional urban center of over a million people, a thousand years ago ….. is the stuff of legends. Absorbed by the Cambodian jungle for several centuries, only to be rediscovered in the late 1800’s by a French archeologist, it is difficult to describe Angkor without the use of superlatives. Size alone gives just a mere hint as to the massive architectural site: Angkor is twice the size of Manhattan.
Angkor Watt having considered by many the “eighth wonder of the world” is a wildly popular global destination with hordes of tourist tramping the grounds for most of the year. There is however a SHORT window when tourists are scared off by the terminology of “rainy season” which evokes torrential downpour. So in the rainy season, i.e. now, there are about one tenth the number of people found the other nine months of the year.
The tuk tuk is our chariot of choice to get around Angkor. We first visit Bayon. Bayon, famed for its enormous head sculptures of Buddha facing in all directions. It is majestic and magical.
Giant Buddha Heads, facing all 4 cardinal directions.
(reminder: make sure to double click or expand to view… must be seen in large format)
Scenes of legends and life 1000 years ago.
Next we visit Ta Prohm, which is reminder of nature’s ultimate triumph over human civilization. The jungle has “reclaimed the land” once tamed by the mighty Khmer.