|Fig.1: The Who Temple of Angkor Wat, located |
behind the Why Garden and the I Don't Know
Costello: Which temple did you see in Angkor?
Abbott: Angkor Wat.
Costello: That's what I'm asking you.
Abbott: I'm telling you: Angkor Wat.
Costello: Yes, Angkor what?
Abbott: That's right.
And then it goes downhill from there. Well lost in the hilarity is the fact that Angkor Wat, the object of confusion, is considered the largest religious monument in the world: at over 20 million square feet, it is 12 times larger than the Temple Mount in Israel, can fit about 800 Christ the Redeemer statues from Brazil within its walls, and is approximately 3.8 billion times holier than that Celtic symbol you got tattooed on your lower backside. On top of that, it is the largest tourist attraction in Cambodia, as well as its national symbol, making it akin to the Eiffel Tower in France, the Taj Mahal in India, and practically any old marble piece of crap in Greece. It is still considered a holy place of worship by Cambodian monks to this day, which I'm sure the million visitors per year does absolutely nothing to diminish.
|Fig.2: Vishnu gives the best |
Angkor Wat continued to serve as a Hindu temple, even when Khmer kings decided they didn't fancy the place anymore and moved the capital further north (their loss, as their new capital didn't include the luxury of a moat). Then in the late 13th century, Buddhism began to overtake Hinduism as the preferred religion of the empire, thanks to their trade links with South Indian and Sri Lankan merchants who started every transaction with, "Excuse me, sir. Do you have a moment to talk about our lord and savior, Siddhartha Gautama?" Eventually Angkor Wat made the switch as well from a Hindu to Buddhist site, which prompted Vishnu to give the Khmers multiple rude hand gestures. It remains a Buddhist place of worship to this day, although meditating monks need to be roped off in order to prevent tourists from constantly asking them where the gift shop is.
|Fig.3: Order your moat in the next ten minutes, and we'll throw in the |
crocodiles and shrieking eels at no extra charge! Just pay shipping and handling!
|Fig.4: Yeah, Cambodia is pretty |
aware that Angkor Wat is about
all they have going for them.
Which is kinda a problem for the 900-year-old building. From the eroding sandstone steps, to the fading bas-reliefs, to the toaster oven that should really have been cleaned out years ago, tourism is taking its toll on the grand structure. Not only that, but the Siem Reap province that the Angkor temples call home isn't exactly the Coruscant of Southeast Asia. The constant industrialization to keep up with the region's popularity is destroying the character and general hominess of the area; plus, the widespread usage of the ground water supply is compromising the integrity of the land, and could feasibly bring Angkor Wat crashing several feet below the Earth (which would, of course, bring in even more tourists, cause who doesn't want to see an underground Medieval Buddhist temple?). Several solutions for his issue have been proposed, the most extreme being a complete reconstruction of the temple in India (with it actually being a little taller, just to give Nelson Muntz "Haha!" to the real Angkor Wat) so people can experience the grandeur of the site without the fear of defacing the building or getting the yummy typhoid that Cambodia is renowned for.
Despite its struggles, Angkor Wat stands as a testimony to Khmer ingenuity, Hindu and Buddhist devotion, and the inherent practicality of installing a moat within your property. Suyavarman II intended his temple/capitol/mausoleum/photo-booth to be a national monument, and nearly a millennium later, it still retains that status. Hopefully the grand structure can continue to amaze and astound worldly tourists for centuries to come, even while they use it to belittle other families' humble vacations to Ocean City.
|Fig.5: "Oh, you played in the sand? That's nice. Well, I contributed to the slow decay of a |
historical landmark! No big deal."