Siem Reap was a great place to spend a few days and soak up inland Cambodia. The temples of Angkor Wat were an awesome (well worthy of the word) place to roam around in and let my imagination run wild. I visualised this ancient civilisation thriving in the dense jungle, cultivating the land and living in harmony with nature.
I especially liked the smaller, more detailed buildings, the intricate patterns, the garudas and the war elephants, the five headed snakes and the beautiful women.
A memorable part of the larger Angkor Wat complex was Ta Prohm, a temple which has purposely been left (to a certain degree) to show how nature interacted with the structures. Towering trees, chirping insects and creeping plants gave that OG jungle temple atmosphere. Indeed, this was the main temple where ‘Tomb Raider’ was filmed. We explored dark galleries and climbed over pillars straddled by massive roots. Celestial nymphs peek out from beyond vines and carvings fell away into huge piles of block constricted by natures relentless growth.
Ta Prohm by morning.
Sadly, under the egoic whim of a totalitarian dynasty my imagined ecological harmony did not extend to other human beings. Like the rest of what we think we know, the beautifully carved bais releifs of fierce warriors and gory battle scenes show that history is in the eyes of the victor. Ironically, on the same temple were peaceful images of the Gautama Buddha.
Though most of the temples are dedicated to Theravada Buddhism, most of the buildings in the Angkor Wat surroundings are founded in Hinduism. Reminding me of the crusades between Christianity and Islam, I wondered at this great epoc of ideological discovery, questioning whether it was a foregone conclusion or not. Conscious that this happened thousands of years ago, the possibility must exist that the current ideological climate is still evolving at the same speed, if not faster. Are the more peaceful religions and cultures being trampled by those more violent? Or could it be that with the information age comes understanding, and therefore more tolerance? Indeed, it is hard to accept that the modern age has reached an acceptable level of cultural relativism – and I am by no means advocating for the status quo – but I feel a sense a balance. As the west separates church and state and replaces god with the dollar, I feel globalisation has regulated the decisions once made by a single human emperor or king. Such balance is easier seen when confronted with this history of conversion or worse, eradication of entire nations such as I saw at Angkor Wat.