Wonder number 7?

Vanessa diving in at Angkor Wat

Walking up to Angkor Wat

It’s monumental–imposing– and its limestone walls are carved with battle scenes and Buddhas, concubines and monkeys and graceful Apsara dancers. “You’re obsessing,” I teased Bethany, as she paused in our journey through Angkor Wat to do yet another pan over a carved group of the dancers. “They’re so pretty …” she pleaded in response.

We visited four ancient temples and a royal palace yesterday. In one temple, the roots of massive trees strangled the stonework. At another, very young Buddhist monks peered down as Bethany (lugging the heavy video camera) and I picked our way up the steep and narrow stone stairs. (Midway up, the Russian tourists who sneaked ahead of us in  line at the Cambodian border, shoved ahead of us again.) Everywhere we went, people looked not up, at the intricate carvings, but down at the screens of their cameras to see if their pictures were any good.

Students from our group climbed the front facade of the royal palace and clowned around by the gigantic pools inside Angkor Wat. Several took elephant rides.

We watched the sunset from Phnom Bakheng, whose steps are so narrow, you have to climb up sideways. We climbed down the stairs in the gathering darkness amid a crowd of people speaking every kind of Asian and European language. “Okay, everybody from Calvin, smile,” yelled Alexandra, holding up a camera. “Well, actually, everybody smile,” she corrected herself, and everybody–all the Koreans and French and Americans– paused in their descent and smiled and waved.

The Cambodian monuments are not well conserved. Many of the huge carved stones from the buildings are piled up in corridors and half buried in the ground outside, and their surfaces are blackened with lichens.

Stationed all over the ruins are vendors selling scarves and t-shirts and jewelry and musical instruments. And they say, “Hey lady. One dollar, only one dollar. You buy from me scarf. I make you nice price. You buy from me two for five, and you press it on a friend. Nice lady, only one dollar …”

I talked to one, a little girl who gave her name as what sounded like “Som.” She said she sold in the morning and went to school from 1 to 5. I asked her, “What do you like better? Selling or school?” and she smiled at me as though I had caught her out–a beautiful smile–and said, “I like school.” Then, not missing a beat, she said, “Now lady, you buy from me, two for five, so I can go to school… .” The patter is rote among the vendors, old and young, and the children deliver it as well as the adults. Even the ones who are three and four years old.


2 comments so far

  1. Ann DeRooy on

    Oh Myrna,
    For me, the lover of (many) words, it would be a terrible assignment to ultimately have to condense this experience into one article. Thank you for your insights and descriptions. It helps me visualize your experience!

  2. myrnaanderson on

    Hey Brian, we were joking around …

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