Our third day in Angkor Archaeological Park, we are early to rise once again. Leaving the hotel with breakfast boxes in hand. We make the dusty, bumpy ride out to the park along back roads, entering the west gate, right next to Angkor Wat. Winding our way through the blissful, cool forest, the sun sprinkles us with its early morning glow. Ta Keo Temple, the sandstone temple-mountain, greets the morning sun as it’s done for almost 1100 years, since being started by Jayavarman V in 975.
Although never “completed” after being struck by lightening during its construction – a bad omen, apparently – it remains a significant accomplishment and an impressive structure, even if considerably less ornate than some. Unlike the sanctuaries and citadels of Banteay Srei or Banteay Samre, Ta Keo dominates its location. It screams monument to a king as it rises 7 stories into the sky.
We have brought our breakfast with us this morning. Mr. Sim, our trusty tuk-tuk driver, smiles his lovely smile and waves us along into the temple. Active archaeological digs dapple the eastern forest floor. The scene is silent save for the scattered call of early birds and possibly chattering monkeys in the background. All is still when are happily greeted by a very friendly mama chicken and her older chicks who wonder what we might have on offer. We can’t help but giggle that we could have this all to ourselves. It’s hard to believe that thousands and thousands of visitors descend into the park every day, yet we’ve seen only a handful by taking advantage of the early morning hours of the park.
As we enter the inner walls, the central pyramid appears to reach straight up to the sky. Our son can barely restrain himself when he sees that we’re allowed to literally climb the “stairs” up. Based on the geometry of the stairs, I think the ancient Khmers were giants with tiny feet. Of course, our son is the first to the upper terrace. Six stories up, looking out at the tops of the encircling trees, we have the perfect breakfast location. Dazzled by the silence, mesmerized by the tranquility of it, our tight little family savors another Angkor moment and relishes that we are together at this time, at this place, in this moment.