Angkor Wat, The World's Largest Religious Structure
4/23/12 - 4/23/12 93 °F
For my first full day in Cambodia, I took it easy in the morning (finished up my latest blogs from Shanghai), then went to lunch and the largest religious building in the world - Angkor Wat. I'm pretty sure I've told people in one of my blogs that history was never my thing. I can remember many things from my World History class in 10th grade. My teacher was Mrs. Russ and she had a son when I was a freshman. She was on maternity leave the first half of the first semester, so we had a full-time sub for a while who was fresh out of college. I don't remember her name but she had blonde hair and I think a bit of trouble acting as an authority figure for people less than 10 years younger than her. Anyway, when I was a freshman, the Berlin wall came down and I can specifically remember how excited Mrs. Russ was. Excited that the Berlin Wall was down, but also excited that this was happening in her child's first year.
But ask me about my book and what I learned that year, and I'd have to give you a blank look. I've established that I like to read and learn about history now that I know I'm not going to be tested on it, but not all history. In the last 15 years, it's mostly been Chinese history, but I have read the odd novel or autobiography from Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Cambodian authors.
That's a long introduction to explain why when I had friends traveling to Cambodia in the last couple of years, I looked at them with that same blank look I still have about my 10th grade World History class- why are you going to Cambodia? What is there to do and see there? A lot, actually. I don't think anything about this ancient country was covered in that class, but I can't be sure now, can I?
On Monday the 23rd (a belated Happy Birthday goes to my dad and William Shakespeare!), I asked one of the staff from my hotel what would be a good temple to visit on my first day in Cambodia and she directed me to Angkor Wat. It was a great choice for a day when I'd only visit one temple since it's so huge, but I wasn't as prepared for the heat as I'd thought. I may be allergic to sun, I don't know, but I've discovered in the last couple of years that when I get too hot (and very dehydrated), I suffer the rest of the night from pretty debilitating migraines. Traveling through China, you never know how good and clean the toilet facilities will be, so my strategy has always been to drink as little as possible. But that makes things worse, so I resolved that for this trip I would drink as much as humanly possible (also no problem since my guide book says "Angkor is blessed with some of the finest public toilets in Asia"). I've actually found that even though I've drunk enough for a camel (at least 2 liters the morning of Day 2), I haven't really needed to use the bathroom. Turns out all that water just kind of disappears somewhere in my body, but it sure makes me feel better. Live and learn, right?
Well, on Day 1, even though I drank about four bottles of water (2 small and 2 about the size of a Sprite bottle), it wasn't enough. It's good that I had even that. I only brought the two small bottles from the hotel and my tuk tuk driver supplied the two larger (and colder) ones. The walk from the road to the center of Angkor Wat is on a long, unshaded walkway over the moat. Getting to the center of the temple wasn't so bad, but knowing I had to turn around and get back to my driver was something else. Even standing in a shaded hallway before I turned around, I started to shiver a little bit knowing that I had to go down that same, unshaded walkway to get out of there. Not a nice shiver of anticipation, but an uncontrollable shiver of "can I make it back out alive without help?" Well, I did so that's the good news. But I learned some about that experience and have applied it to my second day of temple-hopping. (I took two 1.5L bottles of cold water and carried them around with me. My bag was heavy at the beginning of the day and my right shoulder is a bit sore today, but I don't regret for one moment taking that much water. I polished off one bottle halfway through the morning and had no trouble finding a local woman who was happy to take the empty bottle from me.)
Anyway, I think you're probably tired of my rambling and would like to see some of the pictures I took instead. Like I have in previous blogs, I want to apologize that my pictures aren't as fantastic as I'd like them to be. To be honest, I think my skills are improving, but the finished product is still a long way off from professional. Having given my standard disclaimer, I guess I'll let you see some of the wonders of Cambodia now
I have more pictures to show you from the first day (and the second), but it's been slow uploading them. Rather than wait hours (days, weeks?) to finish adding them here, I'll take a break for now and try again later tonight. There's plenty more coming from Cambodia, rest assured.