Apsaras, Angkor Wat

I loved visiting Angkor Wat and the other ancient Khmer temples near Siem Reap, Cambodia. I hired a motorcycle driver to take me to the temples every day for six days. I would go before dawn to watch the sun come up over a certain temple, stick around for a few hours, then go back to the guesthouse to sleep through the hottest part of the day. In the late afternoon, I would go back and stay till after sunset.

These beautiful apsaras, female spirits famous for their kick-ass dance moves, adorn Angkor Wat itself, the largest and most impressive temple.

When I was there I met this guy whose family owned the English-language newspaper published in Phnom Penh. He himself wrote for the New Yorker and had just published a book of short stories. I was soooooo impressed. One day I bumped into him at one of the temples and he confessed he thought his mom had bought a decorative piece from an ancient Khmer temple at a New York antique shop. So many decorative pieces and Buddha heads from Cambodia – hence all the headless Buddhas in the temples – have been sold illegally to antiques dealers abroad. He felt bad and said he was going to have a talk with his mom about returning the piece to Cambodia.

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