01.11.2014 – 05.11.2015 30 °C
The inner walls of the temple depict carvings from battle scenes of the Ramayana and the great churning, the samudra manthan. Large statues of the snake-god Shesh Nag and the Apsaras are positioned at various ends of the temple. There were some unusual sights too, such as statutes of the Buddha meditating under the hood of Shesh Nag. Prospering from the 9th to the 15th centuries, this was a remarkable medley of Hinduism and Buddhism.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Angkor Wat is 5.5 km north of the modern town of Siem Reap which is about 300 km from the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. According to legend, the construction of Angkor Wat, or “City of Temples” in Khmer, was ordered by Lord Indira for his son Precha Ket Mealea. According to the 13th century Chinese traveller Daguan Zhou, it was believed that the temple was constructed in a single night by a divine architect. Angkor Wat’;s rising series of five towers culminates in an impressive central tower that symbolises mythical Mount Meru. Thousands of feet of wall space are covered with intricate carving depicting scenes from Hindu mythology.
The temple complex is so huge that it takes at least three days to see the entire complex. Outside the complex compound flock the usual hordes of tour guides, hawkers selling books on the history of Angkor Wat, picture postcards, T-shirts, handicrafts, soft drinks, snacks and anything a visitor might want to take home as a souvenir.
I was not interested in purchasing any knickknacks as a memory of my visit. I sat outside the complex, shooing away the occasional hawker who came to pester me. The heat of the day was making me feel thirsty. I planned to return to my hotel for a quick shower and a stroll down to the nearest pub for a chilled beer. Then I saw, sitting on the ground in the shade of a nearby tree, a man in a white sarong and an orange-coloured vest. He was ruffling a bunch of pages and humming to himself.
“Why isn’t he hassling the tourists? Why does he look so content?” I asked myself. To get a reply, I ambled across to where he was sitting. He looked up at me. “Sir, I am an astrologer and I can read your future from this collection of ancient Pali scriptures.” He told me to pick up one of the pages before him. I followed his command and handed the page back. “Sir, you have a great future, and for the next five years will keep on travelling and seeing the world.” He revealed some more facts that made me feel content. I dived into my pocket and pulled out a bunch of Cambodian riel notes and handed them over. I no longer needed the chilled beer for now I was cool and content.