Exploring the Ruins of Angkor Wat

I wish I would have been one of the French explorers who stepped foot in the ruins of Angkor during the 19th century. Up until that time, Angkor was a lost city, forgotten and left to decay after the fall of the Khmer empire.

The jungle had covered the ruins in a thick blanket of plant growth, with trees taking roots between the heavy stone blocks, slowly but surely embracing them in a tight embrace.

Walking amongst the ruins, you can’t help but keep asking yourself the question: “How can such a great city vanish like this?” And then you realise that civilisations come and go, nothing is ever eternal. This happened to the Mayan’s, the Babylonians and even the Romans, and who knows maybe there were even more advanced civilisations that vanished about which we know nothing about.

It is a very humbling experience to see the rubbles and what is left and what isn’t. Only the extent of the walls, canals and reservoirs hint at the sheer size of this city, which could have housed up to 2 million people, making it the largest pre-industrial city in human history.

But nowadays only a handful of locals live amongst the ruins, who are easily outnumbered by the throngs of tourists flooding in each day, making it pretty hard to soak in the atmosphere of the place. But you just need to find the right time, when all the Chinese tour groups go for lunch, or the right place off the usual tour routes to find yourself in a completely deserted corner, hallway or temple and feel transported back in time.

The only things you hear might be the distant voices of other people nearby but most of the time any other noises are drowned out by the sound of the animals in the jungle: parrots, monkeys and the rather obnoxious crickets compete for your attention with the latter giving you headaches just by the sheer volume and high pitch. Even after three days of exploring the ruins and revisiting the same temples, you feel that there is just so much more to see. Which is why I am sure that I will return again to this magnificent place.