Treasured memory

Ta Phrom, Angkor, Cambodia

For something different, today I decided to post some of my dad’s photographs and a short extract from my memoir of Angkor.

It was so still, there among the giant trees that were consuming the ruins of Angkor. A careless mosquito whined past my ear and I swatted it. I may have been but nine years old, but the immensity of the ruins and the jungle that devoured them were stunning, even to a child.

We had driven from Phnom Penh out to Siemreap, the closest city to the famous ruins of the ancient Khmer Empire. Even on today’s roads, it’s a journey of about 5 hours. I don’t remember specifically, but I think we must have overnighted at a place called Kompong Thom, on the western side of the huge Tonle Sap Lake.

The many faces of the Bayon, Angkor Thom. Bas relief at the Bayon, the ever-encroaching trees.

In the larger towns there were bungalows, run as hostelries, left over from French colonial times. They were quite adequate for a short stay. We may have stopped in one of the other towns. I expect we drove up one side of the lake and returned via the other. Those hot, dusty, sleepy towns were very much alike.

Our eventual destination was not much different, although slightly larger. Siemreap was the capital city of the Khmer Empire of Angkor. We stayed there in an old bungalow-style rest house for a few days.

How impressive it must have been, in its heyday, from 802AD through 1431.

To stand in the forest, amid the ruins of Angkor was an unforgettable experience. My father, a photographer, spent endless hours waiting for the light he needed for the perfect image, and while this at times became boring in the extreme, in Angkor it gave my mother and I time to explore and take in the amazement of what we were so privileged to see.

Some parts of my childhood were very special. This was one I will always treasure. It is etched in my brain, the smell of must and bats, the dense humidity, the sound of the silence…I feel them still.

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