Remember those great '40s movies about a fabulous lost city half eaten by the jungle? Temples hiding incredible treasures are engulfed by vines and the knotted roots of Banyan trees.
Clever Tinsel Town filmmakers were probably inspired by Angkor Wat. But the real treasure here is not chests of gold and jewels, but the art and architecture of a civilization that thrived one thousand years go.
At sunrise the forest is anything but silent. The songs of the birds and insects are almost deafening. The air is lush and filled with the fragrances of jungle flora. The handsome new friend who accompanied me from Phnom Penh has shed his city clothes in favor of a colorful cloth wrapped around his waist. In the magical morning light he has become a Khmer prince.
Yesterday we visited the Bayon, a walled palace complex of incredible proportions (the courtyard is larger than all of ancient Rome!). Gigantic sculptures are everywhere, and my imagination has run wild with scenes of royal pageantry. Was I here in a past life? Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples, is probably the largest religious monument ever built. Signs of the Khmer Rouge's short-lived occupation are everywhere.
In the nearby town of Siem Reap the beer is cold and the food is cheap. The unpaved streets and garish colored lights give it the flavor of a frontier outpost. The guys at
Purple Dragon have done a fantastic job of planning this "adventure in paradise." I'll be back! Why don't you come with me next time?