Published: November 9th 2011November 9th 2011
Last friday I wrote about what it was like visiting the Killing Fields site. The next day I boarded a bus for a (near) 7 hr ride northwest to Siem Reap, the town adjacent to Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the seat of the ancient Khmer empire. Growing up, I associated 'Khmer' with Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer empire began early 900 AD. Angkor Wat is really the enormous temple complex you've seen photos of, but really is the catch-all term for the enormous area that encompasses the varied ruins and temple sites here.
I've felt nervous when thinking on what to write about such a place. The scale, beauty, architectural acumen-
One of the multivaried benefits to travel (for me) is the sense of perspective I get from visiting a place that is still standing 1100 yrs later. Another, and more saliently important perspective is the immersion into a society that has an incredibly intimate relationship with poverty. I've experienced poverty in Mexico, to a lesser degree, and will shortly
experience even deeper poverty in India-as such,have found these experiences to be vital to me. Vital in the sense that I remember not only my place in the world, but also to recall that my worth as a human being is equidistant from the irrelevance of
my own life's little dramas and concerns.
The other day, while at at glorious temple complex built for a Khmer king in the 12th century, I recalled the other major architectural wonders constructed for
various rulers. It occurred to me that back then, whether in Mesoamerica, or the middle east, or here in southeast asia, these wonders were built in honor of the local king/ruler. Today the same holds true, except that in lieu of magnificent architectual wonders, our rulers/kings are CEO's (and the concomitant corporations they're beholden to). Same hero worship, different details.
On a different note, am taking a bus from here to Bangkok Saturday. There I will (hopefully) be able to rebook my original flight to Bombay on 12/14 to that evening. If so, will find myself in India in three days. I realized this morning that that the small, growing knot of nervousness I'm feeling wasn't present when travelling here to Cambodia. Have read, been told, and know on a level that transcends thought that India is different. You're either drawn there, and ready, or you're not. I feel the level of insight and experience will not be one that can be wrapped up in lyrical prose. Am thankful to be this close to what will be life-altering. Having said that, I seem to be drawn to life-altering experiences.
With regard to photos-have taken close to 700 in the six days here. I want to be able to share them with you henceforth, but also want them to be worthy of presentation. So shortly I will have the first few posted for you.
Next entry will be from the land of Arjuna, Shiva, Vishnu and Hanuman~