Monday, June 7, 2010

My visit to the Angkor Wat

Growing up, I saw tons of photos and paintings of the Angkor Wat and heard stories of it from my parents, but I never realized how significant it was until I was studying about its role in Cambodian history. I read that it is the biggest religious complex on the face of the earth, right here in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It is a symbol of the once powerful Ancient Khmer civilization that ruled much of Southeast Asia long ago. This temple was built secretly by men of the Suryavarman II era in the 12th century (people were killed to keep it quiet. talk about risqueee).  This temple was built for the Hindu god, Vishnu, but was turned into a Buddhist temple as majority of the country converted to Buddhism over the years, and was used by the Khmer Rouge as storage space (can you believe that?) at one point during their reign. I was so excited to go see this crazy place in person.

I was so fascinating to explore the structure of this palace full of symbolic inscriptions and carvings. There were lots of the alphabet characters mixed in with ancient stuff that I wished I could understand more of. It felt so surreal to be there in person. I felt serenity as I lit up incense and prayed. I thought of the ancient of this place, all the people who have passed through over time, the routine, the chaos and its abandonment. It's been through a lot. I was so glad that I read up on the history about the temples before hand because I appreciated it that much more. 

There were so many steps and cracks.  Most of it has been and continues to be refurbished because of natural damage from being abandoned for many years after the great Angkor era as well as during the Khmer Rouge.

I loved seeing how the monks keep the place alive with their bright orange and red robes. I also kind of started to get used to the sound of cicadas. It reminds me of the chants I heard from monks in my childhood (odd, I know). With each new findings of different stories, sculptures, inscriptions, and intricate craftsmanship, I felt a sense of pride that something like this was built for the posterity of the people, which and I'm one of those posterity. It doesn't get better than knowing your ancestors thought of you and created something this magnificent for you.
AJ... my knight in shining armor.  He is the one because of many reasons.  But one of the many reasons he is so is because he is so willing to carry me everywhere just so that I wouldn't miss out on anything.  He always thinks about me, and how he could help me. I'm so thankful to have him!

This complex was definitely not made for wheelchairs. The broken rocks made it difficult to get around in the wheelchair. Eventually, AJ and my friends took turns carrying me on their backs through the hot, hot sun, and carrying my chair.  We risked falling by going up and down the steep, unstable rock steps.  The whole place is made of blocked rocks, which means lots of cracks for your wheelchair to get stuck in.  For the most part, wheelchairs are safe from those cracks but I suggest off-road tires, which I wish I had. Part way through, I had my friends from the group push my chair and finally just park it somewhere we could locate later. It was really tricky navigating the place in my wheelchair, but it was so worth it to see one of the ancient wonders of the world!

We got to see the sun set and my, it was a beautiful sunset.

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