Coming back from Borneo and Singapore, we visited the Angkor Temple Complex in Siem Reap, a UNESCO World Heritage Centre site measuring 400 sq. km. (154 sq. mi.), including the famous Angkor Wat structure. In the 12th century, this capital was home to 1,000,000 Khmers.
Words cannot possibly describe this temple and others we visited for 20 hours over a 3 day period in the heat and humidity. Angkor Wat alone was built over a 37 year period, using 20,000 laborers, 6,000 sculptors, 9,000 elephants and 30+ million tons of stone. We returned to this temple on our 3rd day for the sunrise, approaching on the West causeway in the dark, facing East, with shadowy figures slowly filtering into view, feeling much like a religious pilgrimage, accented by the sounds of cicadas interrupting the silence of the dawning day.
Every temple site was completely different from the last. The most uniquely different temple was at Beng Mealea which was only recently opened up after a 6 year effort by Princess Diana’s NGO to remove land mines, completed in 2008.
We loved coming back each day from our “rode hard, put away wet” excursions to our lodging (appropriately named The Golden Temple), being greeted graciously with a cool, moist and jasmine-scented cloth for our faces, along with the customary sompiah (slight forward bow, hands together in front of heart, fingers pointing upward).