This month I re-visited Siem Reap in Cambodia. The first time being earlier this year when attending a conference. Such was the schedule we had barely a couple of hours to visit the temples. A contemptuous allocation of time for such a grand spectacle. I promised myself I would return and did so with some of the family. We had 3 days and whilst a week is perhaps a more appropriate this gave us sufficient time to get a good feel for the geography of the place.
At the end of the visit I asked each of the family member as to their favorite. Unanimously it was Bayon in Angkor Thom which left the lasting impression. To be contrarian I will eschew the obvious; Angkor Wat, Bayon and, the ‘tomb raider temple’, Ta Prohm. All magnificent and wondrous but the experience for me was detracted somewhat by the ‘throngs’ to which we ourselves were contributory part.
Alas if only to have experienced Angkor as Henri Mouhot. Incidentally he himself never claimed to have ‘discovered’ Angkor Wat. It was never ‘lost’ in the first place and indeed a working monastery at the time of his 1860 expedition. His sponsors, The Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain (ironically he could find no support in France), however were keen to exploit and sensationalize his findings and it truly was a sensation to the western world.
Don’t get me wrong crowds notwithstanding it was all enthralling. There is a good reason why there are so many visitors.
On our last morning however we found ourselves at Angkor Thom and walking along the elevated sandstone walkway leading to Baphuon from the Elephant Terrace. The crowds miraculously dissipated. In fact we had the Western side of the complex pretty much to ourselves as we wandered through the cool shaded woods amongst silent ruins and then happenstancing upon the royal bathing pools; Sras Srei and Sras Bros. Peace and serenity for a wonderful hour. An entirely appropriate ending for our tour for the Angkor kingdom which itself rose and fell upon its engineering of water.
If I win the lottery I certainly know the design of my swimming pool.