Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The epic of 'Siam Defeated' and the eternal legacy of Jayavarman VII...

Snort the salt, lemon in the eye and furiously slam that Tequila. Those are the rules and we all know and live by them, at least so long as your local Cambodian/ Mexican restaurant owner says so. Luckily for most reading this there are, surprisingly, few of these said owners within any distance from anywhere. The Mexican food is incredible and the subsequent Tequila hangover just as much so.

Happily neither the hangover nor the aforementioned Mexican Tequila fiend exists, which wonderfully has resulted in two of the most delusionally beautiful and photogenic days since records of such things began.

Siem Reap is an oasis in the sand. A town named by the very gracious victors of a battle long since forgotten (at least that's what the Thais will tell you), it translates to Siam Defeated. Simple yet to the point, no nonsense etc. It's surrounded by paddy fields and cows all the way 'till your soiled red feet set down in the madness of Phnom Penn.

If you've ever watched Indiana Jones or spent endless months, square eyed and enraged playing Tomb Raider you will know of the incredible Temple ruins. Lost to the world for countless centuries, overrun with an army of monkeys led by giant ginger cats riding stray dogs. Not sure which movie I am recalling. Back to the point, the ruins, yes. Well the point I am trying to make is this, they exist, minus the giant ginger cats.

Yesterday morning I woke up, thankfully this happens most mornings.

After a breakfast of Khmer Lok Luk and a healthy dose of moving, my friend Natalie and I were comfortably seated on our motorised hire armchair whizzing through the red dusts of the Cambodian jungle, the sight of which put 'Paint It Black' ringing in my ears.

First stop, Ta Phrom and the most incredible example of Man conquering Nature only to be brutally slapped back into place. A building so at one with its surroundings its surroundings have decided to move in. Trees are the master of this jungle palace, they twist and twirl their way over sacred statues, immense archways and just about everything else that just wasn't designed to sustain the enormity of their bulk. I was told Angelina Jolie shot a movie in this particular temple, she has since vacated the premises, I looked hard.

Back in the moving sofa, next on the agenda was an amalgamation of temples built by a man rather over zealous in his efforts to be remembered, King Jayavarman VII supposedly the greatest king of Angkor. He managed to build eight vast temple masterpieces in his life time, including the gargantuan Angkor Thom which is a monstrous 3km from side to side. What's wrong with writing an autobiography?

I once built a small clay pot in a sink, is that enough for my legacy to be remembered?

So, my journey to see the 7 Wonders of the World has now hit a serious high point. I can now officially tick off the mighty Khmer legend that is the epic Angkor Wat.

At 5am this morning I watched a red Cambodian sun burst through purple clouds to engulf the temple of Angkor Wat in liquid gold. Can something, a moment, so beautiful truly exist? Well now I know. The magnificence of it defies words so unfortunately this is a bad medium to express it. Maybe the pictures will help but I doubt it. As the plump Australian girl sitting behind me aptly put it "This is probably, like, one of those life experiences".

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