In the words of Chinese traveler Chou Ta Kuan who lived in Angkor for a year in the 13th century: “When the king goes out, troops lead the escort; then come flags, banners and music. Palace women, numbering from three to five hundred, wearing clothes decorated with flowers, with flowers in their hair, hold candles in their hands, and form a troupe. Even in broad daylight, the candles are lit. Then come other palace women, carrying lances and shields; then the king’s private guards; then carts drawn by goats and horses, all in gold. After that ministers and princes mounted on elephants, and in front of them one can see, from afar, their innumerable red umbrellas. After them come the wives and concubines of the king, in palanquins, carriages, on horseback and on elephants. They have more than one hundred parasols, flecked with gold. Behind them comes the sovereign, standing on an elephant, holding his sacred sword in his hand. The elephant’s tusks are encased in gold.”
I am back in Siem Reap, amongst the Angkor temples, just 5 hours by taxi from my front door in Bangkok….and a quick walk through hordes of hustlers and past fading casinos at the Thai-Cambodian border… last leg of my research for the forthcoming Moon Angkor Wat.
My 2010 Moon guide to Cambodia is really quite different from the usual Lonely Planet titles, dispensing with corporate writing styles, based on a decade of personal experiences in Cambodia and including a close look at the country’s turbulent politics and social problems.
Moon Angkor Wat will be out later this year.