In and Around Angkor Wat

posted by Crissinda Ponder

The morning of the first temple visit, I really wasn’t feeling too well, but I at least wanted to participate in the tour, since I had to miss class for a trip to the “pharmacy.”

The tuk-tuk trip over to the Angkor temple complex was a bit rocky and unconventional. We rode up on bumps, humps and mounds until we reached the flat, uneventful road that led to the entrance.

After snapping photos for the three-day pass each of us would receive to visit more temples, which I unfortunately had to forfeit for rest, we were on our way to Angkor Wat.

For every two or three students, there was one tour guide. My tour guide for the morning was Mr. Sen Santhou, but he likes to be called Santhou.

The first thing I saw was the moat that surrounds the temple. It almost looks like a flowing river, because I did not see where it ends or begins.

When we approached the outer wall, which corresponds to the mountains at the edge of the world, according to tourismcambodia.com, I initially thought it was Angkor Wat.

That’s what I get for halfway paying attention to the guide. My attention span was short circuiting. I wanted to ignore the pain in my throat and ears but it was impossible at times.

We walked on the bridge across the moat and stopped just outside the outer wall to hear some more history. I snapped some photos and we kept moving.

I learned that the destruction evident on the columns attached to the entrance of the galleries were bullet holes, from the civil war. I also saw the places on either side of the entrance were lion statues once stood.

I found it amazing that Angkor Wat and the structures around it are still intact, even with a war. But, Cambodia obviously didn’t have the weapons of mass destruction we were packing in the States back in the day.

Inside one gallery, we briefly admired a statue of Vishnu, the Hindu god, who was dressed like Buddha.

I was curious to why he was dressed as Buddha, but I guess not enough to ask why.

Carved in the stone on the outside of the wall were apsaras. Santhou called them “dancing girls,” but I’m sure they were much more than dancers. Their purpose was to entertain the king and gods.

Their stomachs were revealed, as part of their costumes, and if an apsara had no lines across her stomach near her belly button, she was a virgin. If she had one line, that meant she was married; two lines, married with one child, etc.

Outside, on the other side of the wall, I laid eyes on the largest religious monument in the world. And I might have been sick, but I believe I was more in awe than pain.

The Angkor Wat temple is the most visually appealing structure I have seen to date. It is massive, intricate—original.

And apparently, never fully completed. The main temple took 37 years to construct and is made of sandstone, which is easy to carve.

Santhou pointed out examples of where the architecture wasn’t finished, like on the backside of the temple at the “Churning of the Sea of Milk” gallery. The serpent that the devils and gods were tugging back and forth didn’t have all its scales.

I wish I could explain every ornate detail about this wondrous construction, but it would take me days to elaborate. I really enjoyed my visit to Angkor Wat, and I plan on visiting some other temples before my departure to Atlanta.

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