Dateline: Siem Reap Province, Kingdom of Cambodia. October 25, 2016.
My wife and I awaken at 4:30 AM. Outside, it’s dark and showering, we hear the rumble of thunder. Lightening strikes. At 5:30 our mini-bus departs the hotel for a 20 minute pre-dawn drive through the forests and farmland to the sacred temple ruins at Angkor Wat – the 7th Wonder of the World.
We arrive on the grounds just before sunrise. The rain has let up and a pink cast appears in the sky as the sun rises in the east. A relatively quiet crowd of a thousand or so are scattered around, heading on foot from the west gate to the temple grounds. IDs are checked.
We see the temple ruins at a distance – five lotus shaped towers of Angkor Wat backlit by the rising sun.
We have set foot in the lost city of Angkor, the capital city of the Khmer empire, which flourished from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Situated in northern Cambodia and consisting of 154 square miles with over 100 intricately carved temples and shrines, the temple ruins are centered around Angkor Wat, an imposing temple complex and largest religious monument in the world. Many of the temples at Angkor have been restored, and together they comprise the world’s most significant site of Khmer architecture.
Constructed in the 12th century, Angkor Wat is the principle temple of the region featuring the central towers representing Mount Meru, home of the gods, the outer walls, the mountains enclosing the world and the moat, the oceans beyond.
The previous evening at sunset, we visited a sister temple, Angkor Thom, the Bayon style temple with face-towers at each of its entrances or city gates.
Our native guide Leap mentioned Angkor Thom is his favorite temple site since its carved sandstone walls tell a story, its rich tapestry of bas-relief displays depicting the gods, goddesses, and other-worldly beings from stories and poems of Hinduism modified by centuries of Buddhism. Mingled with these images are animals such as elephants, snakes, fish and monkeys in addition to dragon-like creatures that look like elongated serpents with feet and claws found in Chinese art.
After seeing the towers and wall carvings up close, we floated down the Angkor Thom moat in a rooster gondola, sipping wine and nibbling on hors-de-oeuvres with the setting sun mirrored in the rippled water.
In popular culture, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider features several characters visiting Angkor Thom during their trip to Cambodia to recover the first piece of the Triangle of Light. But that’s fiction. Up close and in person, Angkor Thom is even more spectacular. And Angkor Wat, a sight to behold.
I am not a professional garden designer, landscape architect or horticulturalist. I am, for the most part, self-taught.
I don’t garden for a living, I live for gardening.
I came to gardening late in life, so I am making up for lost time.
I hope to share my insights, resources, and gardening experiences. My aim is to educate, enlighten and inspire gardeners to take chances, break new ground, dig deeper and stretch themselves.
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