Wandering What in Angkor Wat

Siem Reap Travel Blog

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Angkor Wat
I try not to live life with too many regrets as on the whole they’re pretty useless things, however I’m often taken by the notion that life would take on a whole new level of wonderfulness if I looked more like Lara Croft. Regret is perhaps the wrong the word because there’s not much I could’ve done to alter the situation; maybe it’d be more appropriate to call it a grudge… A gnawing resentment that 30 years a go my parents, -both of whom are the wrong side of 5’4- thought ‘Hey let’s hook up!’ thus rendering the unborn me with a zero chance of ever knowing what it is to be ‘Leggy’.

And yet for one glorious unforgettable hour my pigmy-like proportions were forgotten as I gallivanted around the surreal ancient temple of Angkor Wat, feeling distinctly Tomb-Raiderish.


I was lucky; my guide had recommended I buy a 24-hour pass that would permit me to visit the site that evening as well as the following day. (‘Site’ is a totally misleading description as it implies a small place with edges, but actually the area is more like a magical forest that goes on forever, with a network of tree-lined avenues connecting a series of magnificent mystical wonders)

I’d been dropped at the temple entrance a while before sunset. A lengthy stone cobbled road leads across a giant lake to the perimeter walls of the Wat. The approach alone is strikingly beautiful. My mind was playing tricks on me as it kept pushing forth images of English country homes in Austen novels… must be something about the stone walls, the still water, the classic dignity, and Mr.
Aspara (heavenly nymphs)
Darcy in a wet white shirt… no hang on that’s a whole other fantasy….

So with my new Lara legs I galloped up to the vast entrance, madly firing my camera off all around me, as if it were a pistol from one of those strappy thigh-holsters. The light was changing as evening drew in. I’d love to say the skies were streaked with purples, yellows and reds, and in my memory they almost are, but in truth the sky was just getting greyer. None the less, the fading light coupled with my relative solitude (the tourists must’ve all gone to another ruin) amounted to a spookily surreal atmosphere.

The large, solid entrance archways are engraved with dancing aspara’s and praying figures, (more quick-fire photos) and once through I had to pause for a moment to take in the humbling view ahead.
The temple road cut through a grassland scattered with occasional trees, rocks, 2 modest square temples (mini-wats?), and a pretty lake topped with lily pads. There on the near horizon the world’s oldest temple sat with its famous conical spires looking back at me through hooded eyes.

I can’t rightly recall what’s most breathtaking about seeing Angkor Wat up close for the first time. Maybe it’s the sheer bigness, or the oldness, or the way it defies modern civilisation by it’s very being. I suppose one gets a similar feeling at the pyramids and the sphinx. Well whatever the notion, it’s exciting and humbling and the rest of the world just falls away.

With less than an hour remaining before the temple closed I set about my raid. During this time I was truly lost in adventure so I can’t clearly describe for you everything I saw.
All I know is I ran down long, dark cool passageways, passing headless stone Buddhas with joss-sticks and bright flowers at his feet. I climbed up vertical stone steps, hundreds high but only a few centimetres depth, to tiny alcoves from which lead more passage ways lined with small windows, each offering it’s own image of the temple from within. And then there’d be more steps upward, and more carvings, more cold ashes of sacred worship, ribbons of orange silk splashing colour through the cool grey-green stone.

As the sky was turning navy it began to rain, reminding me of the time and of my driver waiting outside. Having no idea whereabouts I was it seemed wisest to find ground level and go from there. This posed something of a problem as I was stuck at the top of one of the cones and the steps leading down looked distinctly lethal.
As I mentioned there’s a gazillion of them and each is only really deep enough to for the toes and ball of your foot. All very well going up, but just one slip going down and I’d be tasha-sandwich at the bottom.

I could hear guards calling out now, rounding up the last stragglers of the day. Still feeling pulses of Lara running through my veins, I figured I’d make it down the jutting death slide, if only I concentrated really hard. So I flung my flip-flops over the edge and flexed my toes on readiness. Just then a guard yelled at me. He was a pin-figure down there on the ground but clear enough to be waving his arms in a clear NO!! fashion, and waving me around to another side of the cone. A few random scramblings later and I found a set of friendlier steps, at the bottom of which stood the guard holding my shoes.


I was the last person out and I sprinted back along the path to the entrance, still spinning around every now and then to get another glimpse of the temple before night took it away from sight and the adventure ended. As I took the last step off the temple grounds my cross-looking driver scooted up on his mini-moped. Lara with her super-bike and super-legs faded back into the film-set silhouette of Angkor Wat, and I was left with a grumpy driver, a bike with the kudos of a hairdryer, and little legs that stop way short of my ears…

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Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
Aspara (heavenly nymphs)
Aspara (heavenly nymphs)
Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm
excuse composition: photo taken wh…
excuse composition: photo taken w…
listening
listening
Bayon face
Bayon face
Bayon Gateway
Bayon Gateway
Siem Reap
photo by: genetravelling