The great moat reflected the huge trees that danced on its edge with grace and beauty. The setting, majestic. The temple itself hidden by the jungle that protects it. The symmetry and charm of this wonder of the world unparalleled anywhere. Arguably the largest religious monument man has ever built, Angkor Wat stands alone. A brilliant architectural masterpiece. Awe inspiring. Originally built as a Hindu temple for Vishnu, the Khmer people soon changed it to a Buddhist temple, which it remains to this day.
The bridge that crosses the moat to the entranceway is guarded by Cambodia’s wisest protector, Naga (Snake). Its giant hood flared open with a menacing array of snake heads ready to strike any harmful spirits trying to cross the moat into Angkor proper. The serpent’s body then transitions into the balustrade running the course of the walkway. Naga is everywhere in Cambodia, protecting roads, temples and bridges right across the country.
Making our way across the bridge through the busloads of other tourists, was annoying. We selfishly wanted Angkor all to ourselves. The entrance wall and gate weren’t that impressive in comparison to what lie ahead. Once we crossed the threshold however, there was no turning back. Angkor lay waiting for all those lucky enough to be dazzled by its warm glow. The sun’s orange hues bouncing off the stupas created a magical golden palace. A dream. If there was a god, this would definitely be the place it would reside.
We were lucky enough to afford several days at Angkor so we weren’t forced to rush through it like so many others on a tight schedule. One regret we both had after seeing Machu Picchu was we only allotted one day at the site itself. We vowed if we ever had the chance to see one of the wonders again, we would schedule more time. The Angkor temples are absolutely amazing, with Bayon leading the pack for me. Although not as grand as Angkor Wat, the faces of Bayon starring back at you as the sun is going down, was a moment for the record books. A highlight of the trip.
They were in the distance playing on a crumbled monument that used to be a part of the library at Angkor Wat. We were sitting on the edge of the ruins next to a huge tree, the branches of which tangled gracefully overhead. Ants marched up and down its spine in search of something, dedicated. The beautiful grounds that surround Angkor are timeless. It took some convincing before I gave into the fact that we were just “hanging out” at Angkor Wat, but we were. Simply, glorious. The sweet flesh of the longan is the perfect refresher after a long hot day. It didn’t take long however before the kids playing on the stones noticed our bag of fruit. The two older girls sat back as the little 3 year old jumped at the chance for the longan’s sweet juice. He was an orphan no higher than my knee, with a snotty nose, beautiful brown eyes and the cutest smile you have ever seen. We were both sitting on the ground so our perspective was the same as his. He walked over timidly but aggressive. He was saying something in Khmer we thought it could have been, “Can I have one?” He slowly made his way towards us, his bare feet uninhibited by the rocky soil, eyes fixed on what was to be his prize. He put his hand to his mouth and then repeated the phrase. By this time he stood right in front of us, he was irresistible. How could we say no? We gave him one and the biggest smile lit up his dirty face. It didn’t last long however and he jumped right back in asking for another. Three longans filled his tiny hands. He immediately thought to pull up his shirt and created a make shift pouch. We obliged and filled it up with a few more, and he ran off to show his friends. We assumed that he was going to share his catch but he ate them all to himself. The little guy came back 2 more times, his undeniable cuteness too much for us to bear. We filled his shirt up, same as the last. After the second round of eating them alone, F. went over to the young girls and gave them each a handful since not everybody was willing to share. They were happy not to be forgotten. As we left, the three of them said thank you many times. Our final glances back as we caught the path to the front gate, were of Angkor Wat and little energetic hands waving good-bye. What an end to a perfect day.