Saturday, August 4, 2012

same same but different

Sorry for the delay. I had some last minute travel adventures that will eventually surface on this blog...

Cambodian highlights... Angkor Wat or was it Angkor What?!

Angkor Wat is an engineering marvel. I really have to say that I went into Cambodia ignorant.  I didn't know a lot about the culture or the history.  It's history is extremely rich and, at one point, it was the biggest empire in the world before the Industrial revolution.  The Khmer empire was amazing and Angkor Wat is a testament to it's glory.  The marvel that is Angkor Wat and one of the largest temples in the world. It is built on sand....that's right sand! For those that know, sand expands and contracts with water.  Cambodia has 2 main seasons, monsoon (or rainy) and dry (very very dry). It's amazing that it was able to be used as the foundation of such a large structure.  To compensate for the expansion and contraction of the sand, the Khmer engineers utilized a moat. The moat circumference is about 5k. The moat keeps the sand with a constant amount of moisture and the structure won't buckle with the changing moisture.

Another interesting fact, is the king at the time was only 14 years old.  It is the Khmer belief that the structure has to be finished before the king dies or it will be bad luck.  The building will stop. This huge structure was built in 37 years. If you consider the technology at the time and the grandeur of the structure, the feat is incredible. There are comparable structures in Europe around that same time that took 200-400 years. Amazing. I'm amazed.

It's worth it to wake up early and see sunrise at Angkor Wat. I got a good spot next to the lake where you can take pictures of the Wat and its reflection in the lake. I woke up at 4am.  We were at the gates by 5am. The sunrise was around 6am. It was worth it.  It seemed like a small city.  It was so vast and everything was so intricate.  Our guide was soft spoken and unfortunately for him, it was hot and it was early.   The carving was amazing and it was once all painted in gold.

It would have been amazing to be here when it was first constructed and to see the light hit the gold painted on the walls.  We had to wait until 7:30am to actually go to the temple, so we took some pictures and had some fun.

(Just a note: wear a t-shirt - a scarf covering your shoulders won't cover it)

Angkor Wat was definitely the highlight of the day.  Later we visited a number of other temples, including one that was used to film Laura Croft TombRaider.  The day ended as early as it began.  It was so hot we didn't do much after all the touring in the morning and tomorrow we were off to the capital of Cambodia. 

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