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My first journey to Cambodia in 2001 was very brief. I had entered from Aranya Prathet in Thailand to renew my passport in Poipet, Cambodia on the border. That 1st journey to Cambodia became a special journey and prompted the short story "Listen to the Chanting" written March 31, 2001. Unbeknown to me, a little over a year later I would be taking the same train, entering from the same border crossing, but my intentions and quest would be completely different. However, I have to admit that the thoughts, which I had entertained from that 1st journey, were very charged with wanting to find solutions to the many problems the world was facing. Little did anyone know that on September 11, 2001, over 5 months later, the world would change appreciably as a result of the attacks on American landmarks from terrorists cells based in Afghanistan.
But now, with a new understanding of the transformative forces effecting human civilization through the "galactic alignment", and with a keen interest in the lost Khmer civilization, my trip to Cambodia takes on an entirely different meaning for me.
The windows are all open on the train today, and the wind is warm and never changes the way it feels on the body. Water buffalo can be seen outside in the fields lazily lying in the wet rice fields, and the train stops regularly for small towns along the way to Aranya Prathet. Ban Phrom Saeng was the last stop and the one about to appear is Kabin Buri. The sun is not beating down as harshly as it could because the sky is filled with clouds. I think it has been raining quite a lot in this part of Thailand, as the rice fields look flooded. There is about 2 hours left before I arrive in Aranya Prathet, and then Cambodia is just a short distance across the border. Water is everywhere in the fields, and the land is green and it seems endless. Once in Cambodia it will be another 5 hours until I reach Siem Reap. To imagine that over 1000 years ago this was totally unpopulated, for the most part, and yet the most fabulous empire in the entire world was flourishing in Cambodia.
The train has stopped in Sala Lam Duan, and it is getting hotter. There is little sun, but the air is filled with a moist heat. The trees are growing everywhere, and I can imagine what an expedition from India would of been like through this country on foot and maybe on elephants.
I finally arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia at about 7:30 PM. The road from Poipet, Cambodia to Siem Reap was a dirt road for the most part that was unbelievable to travel on. It was full of enormous potholes, broken bridges, and littered with trucks with broken axles. The vehicle we were in was a Korean bus made by ASA - model Cosmos, and it was air-conditioned. However, the ordeal had to be similar to a horse drawn cart. Rural Cambodia will remain rural for many decades to come. Filled with tourists, I decided to take a tour bus with others to go to Angkor Wat given my total unfamiliarity with Cambodia. I felt it was the wisest choice. We all arrived safely, after 5 hours of being knocked about endlessly, at the Apsara Angkor Guest House managed by Mr. Saruon, a very pleasant man who went out of his way to be helpful. Apsara was one of the first guest houses in Siem Reap, and was the 1st headquarters for the UN Mission to Siem Reap. We entered Siem Reap nearing sunset, and I could clearly see the construction of hotels of the 21st century lining the streets. I even learned that jet aircraft arrived twice daily at the Siem Reap airport. It appeared that the anonymous little old lady from Iowa, that Robert Casey referred to in "Four Faces of Siva", would have no difficulty getting here. Our bus group had travelers from Japan, England, Canada, and China. Truly it was not the magical scene of the images depicted in "Four faces of Siva". However, according to our tour guide, tourist did not begin to arrive here in any significant number until 1997 as a result of the Khmer Rouge, and the war, which plagued Cambodia for decades.
The journey to Siam Reap from Poipet was through vast open rice fields which stretched onward to the horizon for over 80 miles or 150 kilometers. Again, I could not help but think of the original travelers who came here over a 1000 years ago to build the Khmer Empire. Tomorrow I will finally see my 1st World Heritage site. Tomorrow I will see history frozen in time.
It is now 10:30PM, and I came back to the Apsara Angkor Guest House at 5PM just before the rains came. It is the rainy season, but today the sun was out and the atmosphere was extremely hot but otherwise perfect. Conversations with the people I came here with on the bus from Poipet confirmed that we all had a most enlightening experience. I should say a transforming experience. Truly, and not wanting to fulfill any preconceived notions of what to expect at Angkor Wat, I can say it was most definitely a profound encounter with a lost civilization.
Impressions written down at Angkor Wat.
July 28, 2002, 9:04AM - Angkor Wat - Siem Reap, Cambodia:
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After one hour of climbing temple stairs and trying to comprehend what it was I saw, I have decided to jot down a few thoughts as I sit down on a stone in front of Angkor Wat.
The temple is badly eroded, and much damaged. However, the sheer size of Angkor Wat commands a breath taking view in the warm morning sun.
Seeing the bas-relief of the Churning of the Milky Ocean, and feeling the mood in the halls and many sequestered rooms, I can only wonder again what life was like here in 1150AD.
It is very quiet here with the exception of a few tourists who are also walking around in amazement over the stone temple with all of its ornate carvings.
Angkor Wat is now part of my inner memory, forever working its placement in my mind as a temple built to a higher understanding to the stars and the origins of our collective humanity.
Impressions written down at Angkor Thom and the Bayon:
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Standing still and upholding all the temple portals she is there smiling and awaiting the procession of the royal family to pay homage to Siva.
Frozen forever with her eternal smile the Apsaras and Devatas emit grace, warmth and serenity. Her smile is so inviting it is as if she knows the secret of eternal happiness.
Surrounding the entire temple the Apsara guardians are beckoning the viewer to enter this beautiful temple and enjoy the secrets of divine bliss.
Haunting and beautiful she stands everywhere spreading her charm and beauty.
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The Apsaras of the Bayon are the eternal representations of divine grace still here if only you can get close enough to see her, and greet her, with your own smile of acceptance.
Love has been permanently carved into stone, and has been such for over a 1000 years.
I am thankful I have finally found her calling across time beckoning me to see her so that I may feel true grace.
It is as if you can actually hear strange whispers around the temple walls.
There is a very distinct presence of this culture still here after all these centuries.
The quiet of the entire temple ground complex has a very magical air to it.
Impressions of Angkor Wat remembered:
I feel as though I had been abducted by an alien spacecraft and transported to another planet or another world. Now, after a few days have passed, and all I have are photographs and memories I am also left feeling that there has been some sort of psychological transformation which has occurred in me as a result of walking on these sacred grounds at Angkor Wat. I am trying not to let my imagination run away with me, thinking more of what it is I experienced than I really did experience, but I do feel as if I have exposed myself to something I have never been exposed to before which has left me thinking much differently about my place on this planet.
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As I mentioned in Part I of "Stones in the Sky", the work of Graham Hancock triggered within me the motivation to make the journey to Angkor Wat. There are no coincidences in this world, and as I was approaching the entrance to a temple there was a tourist reading a description of the temple he was about to enter. I interrupted him, and asked what the guidebook said. We exchanged the customary information about where each of us was from. It turns out, Ben Elen, was from Israel. He said he had seen the same program Ancient Civilizations on the Discovery Channel in Tel Aviv mentioning Angkor Wat. He said he was going to go to Saigon, but completely changed his travel plans, and made it a must to see Angkor Wat. I told him it was the same program, which I saw in-flight, and we both agreed this was an astonishing coincidence. Here were two people who had seen the same program, and were inspired to go see Angkor Wat.
The grounds are sacred at Angkor Wat, and that means they are relatively free from any mass encroachment of commercialism. However, I am astonished at the number of new hotels, which are being built in Siem Reap. I was told that even with the current number of hotels being built there would still be a 3000 bed short fall. One has to ask oneself about the effects of this growth on Angkor Wat. The world is becoming much like a book. Processing the historical artifacts of ancient humanity is the next consumer industry. People are looking at other people and what other civilizations have constructed. The future of humanity will be crossing between one another, and eliminating the singular identity of a bio- regional area, which is being sacrificed unknowingly by the quest for money under the quise of tourism. Eco-tourism is the worst form of tourism. Coral reefs are being pillaged and trampled, caves are being stripped of natural foliage, and beaches are being lined with bars and discos.
Striving to remove oneself from this growth of population is creating every conceivable way to make money based on the tourism industry. Angkor Wat is a remnant of a lost civilization, and it is calling out to the world so anyone can set eyes on it. And what is it people will think when they see Angkor Wat?Right now it is possible to walk the paths and sense the sacred ceremonies that once were a part of daily life. Restoration is being done by teams from Italy, France and Japan. There is an attempt to keep the memory of this lost civilization alive. It must be protected at all cost.
Angkor Wat is truly so unique that I am utterly astonished over the mood that lingers in my mind. I have been exposed to something that has been super humanly created. This Khmer Civilization had a concept of living that was dedicated to a much more outer worldly awareness. It is an awareness that can not be fully grasped from textbooks or films. There has to be an intuition that there are places on this earth, which have built into their structure energy that supercedes any modern experience that could come close to such an awareness.
Here buried in the Mekong Delta sits the left over stones that once adorned the skyline and still do. But, I can sense that when these stones were in their newest condition, and people or Gods where using these halls and corridors for their prayers and mentations that there was a knowledge here that can only be assumed because there is nothing left of the Khmer Civilization except these stones.
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These stones in the sky at Angkor Wat, which point to the heavens, were seen by the Gods, and even used by the Gods as a way-station to other worlds. Given the right time of day, and with the right light bending around the corners of the temples the Gods still visit, and you just might have a God like encounter.
I know that Angkor Wat has been preserved as a place once used for sacred ceremonies far beyond what we can imagine today. The temple grounds give you the opportunity to re-access your own place in the universe, and an opportunity to enrich the spiritual dimension of the human psyche.
Angkor Wat is truly other worldly. It is a home for the Gods.
Other stories related to the Khmer Empire.
Part I- Stones in the Sky - Before the Journey to Angkor Wat
Part III Section #1 - Stones in the Sky - The secrets of Angkor Wat - March 2003.
Part III Section #2 - Stones in the Sky - The secrets of Angkor Wat - March 2003.
Part IV - Stones in the Sky - Journey to Preah Vihear - May 2004.
Part V - Stones in the Sky - Journey to Beng Mealea - October 2004.
Apsaras and Devatas - Photo documentation of female divinities at Angkor Wat.
Portal Market acquisition:
When entering Angkor Thom I could here music floating through the trees. As I got closer to the music the sweetness of the sounds were very haunting. When I reached the ensemble playing this music I could see the many prosletic limbs set beside the musicians on the ground. Here were men from the khmer Rouge days who had suffered the hell of war. And yet here they were playing beautiful stringed instruments. On closer inspection the instrument was much like the Saw-U I found in Thailand. However, this instrument has a cleaner pitch and a lingering quality much like a violin. It is called a Tro. There are no frets, and the hollow chamber to create the resonance is covered with snakeskin.So now, the Portal Market is offering this an another World Music Instrument as a constant reminder to the temple grounds, and the spirituality that still lingers all over Angkor Wat.