Headline February 14, 2017/ ''' CAMBODIA'S CHIMES-SS '''


ALL WORLD STUDENTS  -I COULD..... believe,  have  seen  images of ANGKOR WAT, in the pages of travel guides and history books:

The grey ruins a monument of Cambodia's storied past. But maybe it's fatigue of seeing Angkor Wat in so many mediums, maybe it's my own personal distaste- 

In lionising the past, but the capital city of Khymer Empire held no interest for me.

And yet, here I am on  one of Jet-star's many Singapore-Cambodia routes, trying to give the  UNESCO World  Heritage Site the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the dark cloud can yield its silver lining, and then I remember the tourists.

My gut seizes up a little. I read somewhere that this is the airliner's 10th year with a  10-times weekly service between Singapore and Cambodia. I scan the plane, doing a little mental calculation.

That's about  600,000  travellers annually. And that's only from Singapore. Add the rest of the world and I twitch at an imaginary total number of people who'd have visited  Angkor Wat.

Traffic inches forward. It's as though everything moves at a slower pace under a scorching sun. 

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the dry season. The car, an older Mercedes model with an interior wood trim, -that is transferring me to the hotel, feels like a slowly baking oven; the once chilled water in my hand is now room temperature.

Through the window, everything looks washed out, dust-coloured. After the fallout from a civil war, life continues, albeit, at a languid pace. The locals possess a sort of blase affability. I. however, am feeling antsy.

The estimated 15 minutes from the airport to our hotel is stretched. After twisting and turning through byzantine routes, we find ourselves at Heritage Suites Hotel.

The exterior is a French colonial style with certain modern furnishings within: a mirror hangs behind a long bar. Much of the structure retains its rustic-ness: The wood creaks when you walk up the spiral staircase to the second floor; the air feels heavy like time has stopped.

Tropical foliage marks our path towards our suite  -each one is named after a flower  -each room comes with its own garden, and just over the walls, we can hear the passing traffic.

Our comes with its own sauna, which seems like a white elephant, given the weather, but we're told that the temperature  can sometimes drop to near freezing.

There's a tour company on  site, so we make a beeline for their office and arrange for a tour of Angkor Wat in the wee hours of the morning.

Our guide's nametag reads as ''Mr Heng Seng Hok.  He is tan and, when he smiles, which is often you can make out gold-capped bucuspids. He speaks with a  mild-mannered contralto, like he's talking you out of killing yourself, and has the most beautiful eyes.

Throughout the tour, we'll find out more about him: about his kids; how he met his wife; when he revisited the memory of receiving news about his father being robbed and murdered. 

We'd empathize with him eventually, but in the wee hours of the morning, when sleep has not been fully chased away from the corners of my eyes, his cheeriness starts to grate.
We head north, trying to race the dawn.

Angkor Wat,  is a sprawl with vast infrastructure  adding up to at least 1,000SQKM. The city was built from material quarried from Phnom Kulen.
Heng emphasises the logistical nightmare involved in the transportation and the construction of such a structure.

Thousands of workers worked on building Angkor Wat over decades. Imagine, if you will, the layout of the city: surrounding it is a moat that's 90M wide. A sandstone causeway from the west crosses the moat. Most visitors will pas by this way.

Then you come out to the outer wall; further in and you'll reach the avenue that is lined with  naga  [snake deity]  balustrades. the 475M long avenue stretches out through two libraries on each side before it ends at the central complex.

There are three tiers to the place and interlinked covered galleries surround the area. We come to stairway that is blocked off.

''This,'' Heng says as he gestures,'' is the stairway for the King. The angle of the steps makes it less steep.''  The incline is the reminder to adherents that approaching heaven is tough to reach. Apparently, work is being done to preserve the steps.

We circle in and find ourselves at the start of a snaking  line.. Respect is demanded before we can approach the upper echelons. Visitors need to be dressed modestly before entering the Bakan Sanctuary, the realm of the gods.

The climb up is steep with only a rope and handrails to assist you. With the entrance facing west, which is traditionally the direction of death, it's assumed that Angkor Wat is funerary.unfortunately, King Suryavarman II isn't interred in Angkor Wat;  he  died  during a  campaign against the Vietnamese. 

The place is also filled with  apsaras  -1,737 of them carved into the walls. These are the heavenly nymphs, often topless and dancing, which are the equivalent of Valkyries, many of them hoodie to the tunes of the Gandharvas.

They are commonplace, willowy celestial creatures with mysterious grins that rival the Mona Lisa. Each image of an asparas is thought to represent an actual woman of the Angkor court. Heng brings us to the south of a gopuram  [monumental tower] near the entrance.

He points to an apsara outside the window. I climb onto the ledge and peer close to this particular relief is showing her teeth as she smiles.

''It's rumoured,'' Heng says, ''that this aspara is married and her show of teeth indicates her marital status.''

Why are the rest of the apsaras not showing their teeth then? They all can't be not married. Heng flashes a smile.

''Well, some of them are single, and that's why they don't smile.'' And for those who are married? ''There's nothing for them to smile about,'' Heng concludes.

Holy crap, did Heng pulled off a dad joke?

The Honour and serving of the latest operational research on History, Life and Travelling continues. Thank Ya all for reading and sharing forward, and see you on the following one.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See you on !WOW!  -the World Students Society and.......... Twitter-!E-WOW!  -the Ecosystem 2011:

''' !WOW!'s The Word '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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