This past summer, Halie and I and our friend Morgan visited Siem Reap, Cambodia to see the wonders of Angkor Wat. I never wrote a blog about it because I struggled to put into words what I saw. Recently, while reading Anthony’s Bourdain second book A Cook’s Tour, I came across the following passage about his visit there. He said it better than I ever could so I’ll just let his words speak for me. After the quote, I’ll have a link to an album of some of my pictures.
I stopped taking photographs at Angkor Wat. No camera is adequate to the task. it’s too big, too magnificent to be captured in any frame. There’s no way to convey through simple images the sense of wonder when you encounter the cities of Angkor looming up out of the thick jungle. Mile after mile of mammoth, intricately detailed, multileveled temples, bas-reliefs, jumbo Dean Tavoularis-style heads, crumbling stone structures choked in the root systems of hundred-year-old trees. This was the center of the mighty Cham empire, which once extended as far as Nha Trang and the sea to the east, all of what is now South Vietnam to the south, to occasional sections of Thailand and the Indian subcontinent. The work, the time, the number of artists, craftsmen, and laborers it must have taken to construct even one of the hundreds of structures is unimaginable. Looking at the densely populated reliefs, you are utterly intimidated by the impossibility of ever taking it all in. The KR did its best to ruin Angkor for all time, laying mines all over the grounds, destroying statues and shrines. Looters and unscrupulous antiquities dealers knocked off as many heads as they could, stripped the temples of what they could carry, and sold them on the black market in Thailand and elsewhere. But the UNESCO people are there now, painstakingly restoring what they can. The mines have, for the most part, been removed, and you can wander the interior of the dark stone piles, a waiflike Khmer kid by your side, telling you what it all means, pointing out the two-tongued figures in dark corners, urging you to give the saffron-robed bonzes tending to small Buddhist shrines a few riel. The dark, clammy interiors smell of burning incense and go on and on forever. Standing at the foot of a great stone head, I could only imagine what the first Frenchmen who’d stumbled onto the place must have felt like.
-Anthony Bourdain, A Cook’s Tour