The Angkor What?

Trip Start May 07, 2003
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Trip End Sep 05, 2005


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Monday, May 16, 2005

Today I spent the entire day scooting roond the vast Angkor Temple complex. My moto-guide, the fastest man in Siem Riep, managed to get me round all the main temples within a day which was pretty amazing seeing as most people traipse around in the steaming heat for three long days. Angkor is the heart and soul of the Kingdom of Cambodia and all Khmers look back to those heady times when the great Angkor Empire ruled all of Indochina and Thailand, even parts of Burma and China, as a source of inspiration and national pride as they now struggle to rebuild their shattered country after years of terror and war, and now having to contend with one of the most corrupt goverments in the world. You will find references to Angkor everywhere in Cambodia, it's on the national flag, the money, the beer and many hotels, restaurants and streets are named after it. I suppose it's the one thing here all Cambodians can look to as a rock of hope and solidity in a world of lies and despair.

It's a pretty daunting place, with hundreds of temples stretching far and wide, some over 40ks away. The main temples I went to were deemed to be the most impressive and many say Angkor Wat, the most famous of all, is one of the most masterful creations the human mind has ever produced. It's a massive edifice, ornate throughout with stone carvings, 6 huge stupas tower from the centre and it is ringed by two high courtyard walls, many smaller out-temples and an enormous moat surrounds it. This moat was part of the complex hydro system that provided the Angkors with all their power. By harnessing the water during the wet season, they were able to continue irrigating the whole country during the drought-like dry season and could produce rice at optium levels throughout the year, surpassing all their neighbours and therefore taking control of the region. This unfortunately is what Pol Pot tried to recreate by consigning the masses to a life of extreme hard labour in the misguided belief he could simulate the might of an Empire so unparalled. The only thing he did manage to recreate was the slavery the Angkors must have employed to construct such a huge city of temples.
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