When I descended from the lofty spheres of high galleries, I had developed an astonishing appetite. Fortunately, there were a few eating houses along the road, where I acquired a crispy stick of bread and one of the various colorfull and overly sweet drinks. I also treated myself to the luxury of a chicken. While I pulled it apart and relished it, I thought of her career after death. Probably she was killed by a car a few years ago, so her owner removed the guts, inserted and stretched the pre-flattened remains in a bamboo holder and hung it out to dry for a few months to ready it for preservation. Upon demand he could then select a dried specimen from the pile
stacked like books on a shelf, then hang it over a charcoal fire for a half hour to give it a smoky aroma. Finally, he would cut the whole thing minus the burned off feathers in small pieces, and serve it to the customer, bones, head and feet included. One half of it would accrue to the customer, the other to the flies... But I would not want to miss this adventure for a measly 20 reals.
I found two small boys who offered to go along for a ride and serve as guides on my further tour of the ruins. From Angkor Wat, a road leads due North to Angkor Thom, the second large group of ruins. "Angkor" means town or city and is derived from the same root as the Thai word "Nakorn"; consequently, the Thai talk about "Nakorn Wat".
|To the left of that road, just before the entrance gate of Angkor Thom, lies the Phnom Bakheng, a hill which once upon a time was the "Center of the World", till the next King repositioned the capital and established his own Center. In a square of 3 km2
enclosed by a wall, lies the Capital of the Leprous King, , which can be reached through any of five gates, one in the center of each wall, the other, the "Victory Gate", on the East side slightly North of the "Gate of the Dead" which lies precisely on the axis.
Undoubtedly, this irregularity was a thorn in the eye of Jayavarman VII, but out of respect to his ancestors
|he had to maintain the old entrance to the Phimeanakaso; after Phnom Bakheng, that had become
the Center of the Universe and the Capital of Rajendravarman (944-968).
The original Angkor, which had been expanded throughout the years, was destroyed by a Cham fleet in 1177. This led Jayavarman to select a new Center, which still stands as the present Bayon.
The gates are particularly impressive, consisting of high, Gothic arches underneath the four faces of Avalokitecvana supported by elephants of which only the heads and trunks are visible on either side of the arch.
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