The empty silence, made of the Cambodian Nature’s ringing sounds, echoes through the rooms of the lost and decadent temples of Angkor Wat. While walking around its architectures in a suspended moment, you’re going to be surrounded by the atmosphere of past. Like a modern Aeneas or Ulysses, your journey is starting. A treasure hunt worthy of all the fatigue, to find the five fallen wonders hidden in the jungle.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Your treasure hunt will start a few minutes after 4 o’clock in the morning. At that time, enveloped in the night, you will rise on your buzzing tuk-tuk. Your Cambodian Sibilla will drive quickly through the sleepy streets of Siem Reap, and, at a certain point, she will leave you alone on the side of a deep moat. In front of you, just darkness and a rickety bridge. But never mind. The sound of Nature emerging from the night will win the fear of the unknown.
Step by step, you will reach a big field near to a cosy lake, both waiting for the sunrise as well as you are. In fact, only those who are able to wait will see the transformation of a dark shade into a breathtaking monumental complex. This impressive architecture, devoted to Hinduism, proudly stands in the pink light of sunrise. You will be charmed by a unique scene that reoccurs every day at the same time, always and forever enamouring travellers from all around the world.
The silence of Ta Prohm
While other visitors crowd the path of the touristy “grand tour” of Angkor, you should follow instead the orange shades of the Buddhist monks’ tunics. These spots of colour will guide you through secondary and old routes, and, almost in a hide-and-seek manner, you will finally find the best of the Jungle Temples.
The silence of Ta Prohm is made of the rustling of leaves, the chirping of tropical birds and the monkey noises. Like the mermaids’ voices to Ulisse, these sounds will get you lost in the ruins incorporated in the jungle. You won’t be able to tell what is Nature and what is architecture. In the end, walking on the ficus roots, you’ll be sure about when you came in, and yet you won’t know at what point you came out. Inside the Ta Prohm, you’ll forget everything, even the orange shade of the monks’ tunics.
The Victory Gate
Walking through the Victory Gate, you will be immediately aware of crossing the line of a parallel world, mythical and imaginary, where the Gods of Mahayana Buddhism are still alive and are housed by the complex of Angkor Thom.
In spite of being anchored to the ground, your feet will feel as if they’re flying, guided by the enigmatic smile of the compassionate Buddha towards the group of Deva and Asura that guards the entrance of the bridge to heaven. Like in the myth, you will reach the Mandara Mountain, that is located on the back of Vishnu, shaped as a turtle. Here you will witness the battle of the gods in order to achieve some drops of the immortality elixir made of the Milk Ocean.
Only the sweltering warmth of the Cambodian days will be able to draw your attention back to the reality. Your treasure hunt is not over yet.
The thousand faces of Buddha
Climbing the tortuous stairs that lead to the top of the Temple of the Mountain, named Bayon, your steps will slowly direct you into the darkness, whose gloom is only cleared up by few rays of light that filter from the stone and illuminate the dust. Whenever your eyes will finally find the sunshine again, they will be completely dazzled. The shining stone which houses the thousand smiling faces of Buddha will sparkle, remembering the golden layer that covered it in the past eras. You will feel the power of infinity, and, with your eyes focused on the sculptures, you will be lost in the wonders of the Khmer’s architecture. Buddha’s carvings, like Circe in the Odyssey, will prevent you from leaving their house. Your mind will be connected to their enigmas once and for all.
The sunset from the Elephants’ Terrace
As the light shades become orange and the drowsy sun seeks shelter behind the decorated towers of the Angkor complex, you will understand the clues to reach the last step of your journey. Probably, the last wonder is the most precious after all.
The locus amoenus offered by the Elephants’ Terrace is the perfect spot to admire the sunset while reflecting on the power of time, at the same time able to protect and enrich everything around us. With this in mind, seated with your legs dangling, surrounded by the elephants and with your eyes focused on the vastness of Angkor, you will understand the substance of these jewels: time.
This is the only place where time is finite, and, in the same way, infinite.