Friday, December 19, 2008

The Wat

Today started with a 4:30am wake-up and a pilgrimage to Angkor Wat in the cool and dark of the pre-dawn. We joined a stream of others to the banks of the moat surrounding the Wat. I had a feeling that we would come as strangers in the dark, but come away will a new familiarity by the light of day and the shared experience in the shadow of stone. It was not the case and that is in no way a denigration of the experience. It was a private moment despite the crowds around us. After we were satisified with what we saw of the break of day, we peeled off to explore the ruins and wonders of Angkor Wat.

The Wat is very much in a state of transition as natural does battle with the best minds and NGO's who have come here to stem the assault of time. The Wat, like many of the other sites in the area, is partially under a scaffold and surrounded by many of its own misplaced stones. In some cases, there is clear evidence of the effects of time on one stone as it takes its rightful place from a millenia ago but shows its separate ravages from lying on a lawn somewhere damper or at the top of a pile where it was more exposed to the elements. The stories that each striation, bit of lichen or moss, the extra erosion could tell of each stone and the efforts - good and bad - people have made over the last thousand years are breath taking. The same could be said of every inch of the region.

We definitely got our temples in today. We squeezed in breakfast around 10am and got through the rest of the day in theis heat on a pineapple and a mango. We wrapped up the day at Ta Prohm, which has also been ravaged by the jungle. At the last three temples we visited in the afternoon, trees of the jungle had extended their roots through the stone walls and split the walls and stones in dramatic fashion. In others the roots and trees had just consumed them in a gnarly gulp. In some places the roots even seemed to be wrapping its grips around the inventories of stone that people want to put back into proper order, as if to say, "Do whatever you want, I'll keep these little ones here. Best of luck."

Nadine was in her rapture at Ta Prohm, her favorite from her previous visit here. Normally quite prone to being "templed out"she could not get enough of the place. To my relief, I happened to find the echo chamber that Jack told me about before leaving. We were at the last temple of the day when I realized that I would have to get help if I were going to find it. Just when I was plotting a plan of attack to find it the next day, I'd heard a silly self-flagelattion festival from a Korean tour group and closed in on the stone room they were in. I waited for them to move on and squeezed in for my turn. No matter what sound your try to make or create there is very little acoustic response from the room. The sound is made, but it dies quickly. The strike of the chest, however, creates a resonant echo. An attendant at the temple explained that people give thanks and make a wish when strike their chest in this matter. I was relieved to find it and made note of the synchronity of the occasion. Thanks to Jack.