Angkor Wat was built in the twelfth century under the rule of King Suryavarman II. Personally, I wonder if this majestic temple has ever been as impressive as it is now, eight centuries later.
Indubitably, at the time it looked more beautiful with clearer details and unworn steps, but it must have been the beauty of a large creamcake, too sweet and too perfect.
But sense the forceful impression of the present ruins! The monotony is broken by the ravages of time and weather. In one place an entire corner tower disappeared, in another a large chunk of gallery slid down and demolished a half a set of stairs on its way down. Rivers of rain streaming down and millions of shuffling feet on their way up eroded the steps of the steep stairs. One shivers with respect for the gigantic work accomplished, as giant a task as building the pyramids. Angkor challenges Time. For centuries to come, spectators will be awed and try to probe the mind or psyche of the Ruler who could not bear being forgotten.
It was a strange experience for me to look out from the highest gallery over the temple and the fields. It was raining gently and everything appeared dull and dead. Suddenly, a ray of sunlight fell over the palms and the galleries and I felt a keen sense of contentment which did not apply to myself proper. Rather, something deep inside me, like a ghost of Suryavarman, emerged triumphant. After centuries, he had succeeded in making an indelible impression on a stranger whose country was thousands of miles away from here. Time and distance were bridged, and he had not been forgotten.
I have seen the sun set over the crenellations of Neak Pean and paint the skies a shade of red which no painter will ever hope to apply on his canvas. I saw the moonlight slide across the bluegray stones of Takeo and Bayon and every shadow became alive; it was so intensely silent that with a single magic word one could make the lions from the top of the terraces fly away into the skies which arched over the ruins as if they were really the center of the Universe and not just in the conception of King Yacovarman.
One could describe Angkor as a guide, consult tomes of history and psychoanalyze the rulers who as absolute tyrants made thousands toil and work for them, but one has to see and sense Anchor in order to realize once and for all that it defies all description with the same mysterious and compassionate smile which looks down on us from each of the 64 heads of the Bayon.