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JOURNAL OF MY TOUR BY JEEP OF THAILAND, CAMBODJA AND VIETNAM

NOVEMBER, 1956 , page10



Large and artfully worked hard sandstone constituted the banks of this pond. In some places, terraces descended into the water. The stones were weathered but the rim was fairly well preserved. A stone causeway of some 15 meter width and 200 meter length led to the artificial island on which is built the entire temple complex of Angkor Wat. The balustrades along this causeway represented the body of the mythical snake called Naga, which is often used with five or more heads to decorate stairways and railings.
At about 7 in the morning, a long line of monks in orange gowns walked along this causeway with their begging bowl under their arms. This looked so photogenic that I ran to get my camera and took several photographs. Unfortunately, because it was so early, the colors did not show very well on the resulting pictures.
Sometime later, a group of children collected around my tent which I left up till 8 to dry out. While I had my cornflake breakfast, they followed all my moves intently. A fight ensued when I discarded an empty milkcan. When their school started, it became more quiet, and in the distance I heard the well known recital of an alphabet or poem when everyone tried to put out the maximum soundlevel. As far as that is concerned, kids of all nations are similar!
When I had broken camp, I took the jeep to a small police post and went across the causeway on foot. It started with a terrace with a number of well preserved stone lions, then followed the Naga's which I mentioned before.
The quietness this morning was most impressibe and satisfying. There was nobody around, so I had the entire complex to myself. Nobody came to offer guide service, which I had certainly anticipated. At the time, I knew almost nothing about the history of the temple, and only absorbed everything I saw, smelled and sensed. I was so sorry about this that on my return to Bangkok I studied several books about Angkor and decided to visit the place again one half year later; together, these trips gave me some more understanding, although the second was hampered by an unbelievable throng of pilgrims visiting that day, when Thailand celebrated the year 2500 (Cambodja appears to be a year ahead in its count?) and floodlights were used to illuminate the temple that evening.
For my description of Angkor I will supplement my own experiences with information from the Angkor guidebook. Photographs and films proved disappointing because of lack of light, color and depth (and expertise). Especially this first morning was too drizzly to get any good photographs.
However, I was very much impressed by the ruins of Angkor, even more so after my second visit. So what the Japanese say did not apply: "He who never climbs Mount Fuji is a fool, as is he who does it twice." – I could have said that based on the abominable roads from Bangkok to Angkor, but certainly not on the merits of Angkor itself!


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