tucked away in Cambodia is one of the man-made Wonders of the World. although out of loyalty i like the Taj Mahal better, Angkor Wat was incredible. adjectives fail me here- it is immense. it is intricate. it is really, really neato. i don't know how to write about this...
but i can try.
Angkor Wat is actually one of dozens of temples\wats\shrines that were commissioned by 24 different kings from the 9th to the 14th century. Angkor Wat is the most famous one. it was built in the 12th century by a king named Suryavarman II, and it is the size of Manhattan. it really is. this includes the oceanic moat, the never-ending causeway, the second never-ending causeway, the gardens and the fields etc. it is a city within itself. and it is fabulous.
all of the temples of Angkor, or many of them rather, have a long entrance that has statues of 50 or so demons on the right side, and gods on the left- these statues are involved in a tug of war using a serpent. it is a rendition of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk, which is a Hindu myth. look it up, it is interesting.
we saw many different temples, like the Bayon, which has 54 towers, each of which has a gigantic carving of the face of the king it was created for. the faces are huge. much larger than a person. we saw things with funny names, like the Terrace of Elephants or even better, the Terrace of the Leper King. We got out of bed at 4 a.m. to catch the sunrise at one of the temples and trudged out after a long day to catch sunset at another. My favorite temple, apart from Angkor Wat itself, was Banteay Srei.
Carved from pinkish stone, the detail at this place was astounding. at times i even liked it better than - gasp! - Angkor Wat. it was just astonishingly intricate.
anyway, though, Angkor Wat itself is built to impress. you walk over this long causeway, over a huge moat that seems more like a lake, and through a very carve-a-licious gateway and around several bas-reliefs showing several different stories from Hindu mythology, and then along another causeway and through another gate and finally you are there. the temple itself. it is one central tower with four smaller towers around it in a square, and the inside of all of this is a maze of turns and twists and windows with amazing views.
all very grandiose. to reach the top you must climb the steepest flight of stairs i have ever encountered. it took three times longer to climb down them than it did to climb up, and the whole time i was sure one of us was going to end up falling on our head. but you see, Angkor Wat is modelled after the universe. the central tower is heaven. the grounds are continents. the moat is the ocean. and to reach the gods you must put in at least some effort. hence the rather dangerous stairs.
i immersed myself in this place and found a lot of details that were worth exclaiming over. i took a lot of pictures that will never do the place justice. but i saw it and digested it and have come away in awe of a masterpiece. i might not be able to make something like that, but i can stare at it with the best of them.