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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turning the Pages of Angkor Wat

I have this place inserted inside my head as far I could remember. Was it somewhere I've read as a kid? some documentary on TV that I've seen, I could not exactly pinpoint the source of my obsession to see this place. Angkor Wat for me is like a page from the book I'm reading, as days and years gone by, the pages seems to thicken and the more I feel my chances slithering away.

A lot have happened since, I've grown into a man and was rightfully thrown into the pits of the corporate world. While, I developed such traits as responsibilities and functioning in a hierarchy set up of the business world, my one eye seems directed at my passion for traveling. While being engulfed with the book of travels, the pages where Angkor Wat is written and where I could run down my fingers on its smooth pages, bears something of a cold case waiting to be solved and finally experienced. It was an itch at my back that I have to scratch for good or ill.

Like any obsessed individual, I made plans of visiting this place. I've originally penciled the later part of 2012 as the right time for me to finally uncork the bottle of champagne and pour its content in bewilderment and celebrating marching along its huge walkways and long corridors. However, like all plans are meant to be derailed, mine turned into the opposite and I was able to realize this goal almost a year earlier. One day I just woke up and stumbled upon an airline promo and got myself a cheap flight to make it happen and satisfy a long running obsession with this place.

Fast forward to the 3rd of November at exactly 5:30 AM, I found myself standing at the entrance of the vast Angkor Wat complex, along with my brother and many other tourists, who came from Australia, the UK and the United States. I waited eagerly not only for the sun of the new day to appear on the horizon but also to finally make true of what was once just a pigment of my dream. At last, I was a couple of turns away from finally turning the pages of Angkor Wat.

When the sun finally moved upward and the last remnants of darkness have faded into obscurity, we finally walked and as the tiny figure of the distant quincunx towers of Angkor Wat becomes bigger - the impressive it becomes as we get closer and closer. Climbing up the stairs its easy to imagine being brought back in the early 12th century as one of the builders of this temple or even the man himself, the one responsible for its construction, King Suryavarman II. It was originally built as an offering for the Hindu God, Vishnu and has since morphed into a Buddhist religious structure, making it the worlds largest religious building.

There were many of us who climbed the steps going in, at first I was worried that inside it would look like a concert hall with crowded mayhem. Magically, once inside I found myself wandering in long corridors by my lonesome and walking into open space with almost no one in sight aside from my brother. It was like I entered another world and purposely has gotten myself lost.

The intricate bas-reliefs galleries and the devatas that adorned the walls inside are very hard to explain. It's like the whole history of ancient Khmer was displayed right in front of you and all clues to the past are just right there staring you back as you point your wide-awed eyes towards it.

At one end of the temple I separated myself from my brother and wandered alone towards another section. I remember feeling the wind coming from all sides, with the open windows facing an open field covered with lush trees and a surrounding lake. As perplexing and mystifying as its architectural design, geographical positioning that has scholars forever debating its meaning, Angkor Wat has clearly solved my very own puzzle that has hounded me as far I could remember. 

200 years after it was built, the civilization that flourished around the time of its construction mysteriously vanished. It could be the death of King Suryavarman or the sacking of Khmer by the Champa, an Indianized kingdom that controlled most of south and central Vietnam from the 7th to 18th century. Succeeding kingdoms in ancient Khmer soon moved a bit further thus the existence of many other temples around Angkor Wat. 

Afteward, the whole temple complex with its walls covered with decorations and refinements, that has Antonio da Madalena, a Portuguese monk who first stumbled into Angkor Wat in 1586, wondered about "(what) human genius can conceive of" , was mostly eaten by the dense jungles and was momentarily hidden from view of the Western explorers, albeit remained an open secret to the people of Cambodia.

Until its rediscovery, from the Western perspective, in the early 19th century, renovations has been done throughout the years and along with that are never-ending studies made about the rich and colorful history of Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples and sight of previous Khmer civilizations.

As I cross out Angkor Wat from my life's list of things to do, I will be putting it on a very special place in my memory vault. A return trip is not impossible and does not lay far in the future. At the end of the day while the sun that shone up early in the morning, was then starting to descend, I looked up at the sky and recognized that it was the same set of skies that King Suryavarman II and his people used to see everyday. The only difference now from theirs, is the state of the world we're in. The walls and the strong foundations of Angkor Wat remains the same and still mesmerizes people from all over the world.


morion said...

Ganda ng mga photos! One of the great destinations how i wish na mapunthan q,,,

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