The many faces of Angkor

I’ve been silent for a long time, there’s really no excuse for it, except maybe that, for a while, I have been rendered speechless by Angkor. How do you write about a place so magical everything has already been said?

We spent about a week there – much longer than we had planned – we simply couldn’t leave. Angkor isn’t one temple but the vast ensemble of ruins of what was the capital city of the Khmer Empire (9-15th century), spreading from Myanmar to Vietnam at its peak.

It was progressively abandoned and fell into oblivion, the surrounding jungle reclaiming its rights over the stones, with magnificent trees separating the blocks to spread their roots. It is so vast you won’t even mind the crowds of tourists with their selfie sticks (granted you leave the “classic” itineraries and wake up early enough). It is, in short, breathtaking.

But mostly, what I found so touchingly beautiful are the details: the stone carvings, depicting scenes fro the khmer battles or mythical scenes from the Mahabharata (the Sanskrit/Hindu epic) are so vibrant with details and the faces of the Apsaras – the divine dancers decorating almost every pillar – are smiling and staring at the visitors from centuries apart with a mischievousness that makes time stands still. You recognize the faces of fellow humans, no matter how many years have past and how many trees have grown amongst the stone. And it feels you with wonder, to think of this great empire that once was, and is no more, and of all the people that lived there, danced there, carved stones for generations to come.

Nothing will ever replace a visit there, so book a flight and take your time there (seriously, we didn’t even have a chance to see the city of Siem Reap, we had too much fun and fascination chasing every single Aspara), but here are a few snapshots of the details  (no selfie, of course) to entice you:

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From the Ramayana: the army of Monkeys fighting/biting an army of demons (with seemingly delicious buttocks)

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Some Apsaras chilling out in their fantastic hair dos

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the many faces of the Buddha in Bayon

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