Thursday, October 11, 2012

The ancient world of Angkor

Several of you have urged me to put up pictures from Angkor Wat in spite of my initial reluctance. I took 287 photos and as you know it takes a while to sort them out. Also to do a post is a daunting task since this amazing place illicits so much energy on so many subjects such as history, art ,religion, architecture and personal feelings. It is one of the Wonders of the World on par with the Great Wall of China or the Pyramids in Egypt.

That being said, it is important to understand that Angkor Wat is actually the name of the largest ruins in the area known as Angkor, sanskrit for city,which is 390 sq miles in size, making it the largest pre-industrial city in the world. It contains over a thousand remains of early structures. Wat means temple and Anghor Wat was built by King Suryavarman II, ruler of the Khmer Empire in the 12th Century as the royal temple and eventually his mousoleum It took 30 years to complete, employing 10,000 workers, hundreds of artisans, and 6,000 elephants. It is a Hindu temple but later Buddhist features were added

My photos don't even come close to conveying its size. Within its outer wall and surrounded by a 2.2 mile long moat, a football field and a half wide, all dug out by hand, are the temple grounds and a three-tiered temple adorned by towers in the shape of lotus blossoms situated on 203 acres. The above photos include a few of the over two thousand different carvings on the main buildings outer walls. If some of the pictures appear to convey a cold bleak building, it is important to remember that much of the structures were also built with perishable materials like wood especially the roofs. The jewels are gone and many of the statues were damaged or destroyed by conquerors and pillagers.

The next photos are from the East entrance to Angkor and to a second temple, Angkor Tom, which the king built 30 years after Angkor Wat.

The last photos shows that forest has buried many old palaces and dwellings. This ancient world falls to the march of nature.

I am leaving shortly on the river cruise portion of my journey down the Mekong River through Cambodia to Viet Nam. I won't have connectivity but I will be thinking of you and will post as soon as I can.


  1. No wonder you felt overwhelmed. I think you did a good job of conveying something of the enormity between your words and choice of photos. The "forest has buried many old palaces and dwellings" says a lot, doesn't it? I love the ones with tree roots!

    It's amazing that we in the West know so little of this place. I learned its name when I read about the filming of Lord Jim about a million years ago, but even after seeing a few photos of it, I always pictured it about the size of two tennis courts. I guess I was wrong.

  2. This must have been a difficult post to write, with so many new and powerful impressions swirling around in your mind at the same time. I imagine it still feels pretty overwhelming, but thank you for sharing these amazing pictures anyway.

    I know you won't have connectivity for the next few days, but I'll be thinking about you too and looking forward to your next post.

  3. Eventually, everything falls to the whims of nature. So, it's good that you have the photos now for at some point in the future some of these structures may be gone.

    I think I would not worry too much about musing philosophically about such a place but leave that for your ruminations when you arrive back home.

    Just drink it all in.

    The "Mekong" brings back a lot of memories of the Vietnam War. Not for me, personally, as for several reasons, I did not have to participate in that mess, but the mem'ries are still here for what happened there impacted many of us on the homefront and still does. For many of our vets, the war defined their lives and continues to do so. They fought and bled on the Mekong and in the Mekong Delta. They lost their youth and whatever innocence they had in those murky waters stained by the blood of their comrades and their enemies.

    The Mekong for me has to do with ultimate tragedy, made the more tragic by the fact that it was all unnecessary and by the irony that now we are trading partners with the very regime we tried to annihilate not so very long ago.

  4. Wonderful captures of an amazing place! The trees in your last shots are mind boggling! Such an incredible adventure! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to hearing/reading more. The Vietnam years hold lots of memories for me and my family and I'm sure they will be awakened by your post about the Mekong River.

  5. Altough I love nature more than human creations, in this case I would preffer that the nature could respect this man made wonders.