Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Underwhelmed by Angkor Wat, Believe It or Not

I'm jaded, sure. I've seen so many magnificent antiquities in Asia, Europe and South America that when I finally got to Angkor Wat I didn't quite say, "Ho hum," but I realized it just couldn't live up to the hype for me. I think a lot of the lure and the romance of the place has to do with it having been a "lost city," rediscovered in the early 20th century, when so many antiquities were rediscovered. It became the stuff of dream and legend, like Machu Picchu, rediscovered at nearly the same time.

Sure it's magnificent, beautifully proportioned with many spectacular carvings and bas reliefs, and the scale of the place is impressive. But for pure aesthetics I've been much more moved by the Hoysala and Chola temples of South India, roughly contemporaneous with the major Cambodian sites. Also in India, I found the massive temple complex of Hampi in the south and the ghost city of Fatehpur Sikhri in the north more atmospheric and enchanting. But it could have a lot to do with the fact that Angkor Wat is positively crawling with tourists while the antiquities of Karnataka (Belur, Halebid, Somnathpur and Hampi) are quieter and much more peaceful to wander through. The great monuments of Java, Prambanan (Hindu) and Borobdur (Buddhist), also give the Cambodian sites a run for their money. None of those places, however, have the cachet of having been lost and found or the name recognition of Angkor Wat. At some point I'll digitize my photos of all those places and post them on this blog.

But it's not all about Angkor Wat. The region around Siem Reap hosts a multitude of antiquities of great beauty, some in their way even more impressive than Angkor Wat. I've already posted photos of the Buddhist Bayon temple at Angkor Thom (Angkor Wat was originally Hindu), and photos of other sites will follow.


Blogger jeremy said...

Oh I believe you, I'd love to see it someday. You are getting a fair amount of traveling done, that's great. I hope all is well.

6:18 PM  
Blogger Viswanatha Thalakola said...

I have been to many of the places you mention in the post like the Hoysala temples, Chola, Pallava, Vikayanagara styple temples and last week I was at AngKor wat. I was bowled over by the scale of the Angkor wat, definitely way bigger than many of the Indian temples.The bas reliefs depicting stories from Mahabharatha and Ramayana were pretty long. The sculpting style is different from Indian style temples. Although, I am fond of Indian style, I think the Khmer artist decision to sculpt the way they did on the walls was the right decision. Otherwise, there would have been many broken limbs and heads on the relief depicting the stories from Indian epics. I also went in there fully aware that it is a ruin and so came back with being more impressed than underwhelmed.

4:02 AM  

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