Angkor. It is a name that stirs the imagination and peaks your curiosity. It is a place that I have long wanted to see. The mesmerizing part of this place is its history. Most of the temples built in the “Angkor Zone” were built around 1,000 AD and were Hindu temples for the large population that lived in the area. In its heyday, Angkor boasted more than 1 million people. At the time London was the second largest city at 30,000.
Then all of a sudden they vanished and all that was left were the stone temples that they raised to the Hindu gods and later to Buddha when that religion swept the country around the 10th century. Many speculate that the disappearance was due to a chronic food shortage. In order to feed that many people the Khmers created an elaborate system in which to irrigate three rice crops a year. It was essential that they get all three crops in order to feed such a large population. Others have a theory that war was the cause of the decline. It’s hard to know for sure since they didn’t write their history down.
When the driver asked me what time I wanted to be picked up for the temple tour, I replied “around 10.” He responded with 7:00 a.m. We settled on 8:00; seems everything has to be negotiated here. Our first stop was the famous Angkor Wat which in reality is only an entry point to the vast city beyond its walls and moat. There are five entrances in total.
We next visited Angkor Thom and Bayon Temples. Both of these sites, while smaller, were more impressive to me for their sheer beauty. During the rest of the day we went to Baupon, Elephant Terrace, Leper King Terrace, Ta Prohm, and Bantaey Kdei. It was a long, hot, and spell-binding day. Some people spend a week visiting all the temples. While I would have liked to have more time here, a week of climbing on these rocks would surely do me in.
Around 40 people a month are killed by leftover landmines in Cambodia. These are some of the injured. They were playing classical Khmer music at the entrance to one of the temples. The music is great and I bought one of their CD’s. It’s really sad though.