My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

BANGKOK, Thailand (Delayed)—Thanks to the government of this most hospitable country and cooperation of the Cambodian authorities, several members of our delegation to the meetings of the World Federation of United Nations Associations were able to go to see Angkor Wat. It is one of the most impressive monuments I have ever seen.

You fly in over a fertile valley and in the rainy season, which is at present there is water everywhere in near-flood proportions. From the air we had our first view of the two most notable temples, Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.

If one had the time one could make a careful study of the wall carvings and get a good idea of the whole history of this part of Asia. But we did not have time for real study, so we had to be content with a general impression and getting as much understanding as we could of the inspiration which made these people build these tremendous religious monuments.

The stones used are very large and placed without any cement to hold them together. In the long galleries the roof has a Gothic effect, the stones being fitted together and coming to a point where they join at the top. The whole great mass is built in three tiers to give an effect of great height.

When you approach from the outer gate, which is placed at some distance, you have to approach on foot so there is an opportunity to inspect the carvings all along the way, as well as the animals that stand guard. On the first steps that you climb at the corners on each level there are statues of Buddha, and on two levels at the very center an important shrine with a central figure and several smaller ones.

We climbed to the very top up the narrow and well-worn steps. Our guide was most considerate, crossing the steps that he thought we would find easiest to climb. For in addition to being steep they are very high, and you surmise that this was always intended to be a test for the faithful.

The view from the top of both monuments was magnificent, the plain stretching out below for miles.

Now I must tell you some of the incidents of this trip which added to the interest for me.

As we were to be at the airport at 6:45 a.m. to start our flight I thought we would have very little time there. But there was some delay and a Thai air force officer offered us tea and then said to me, "I have long wanted to meet you to thank you for your husband's kindness in making it possible for me to attend West Point. I was the first to be educated there from my country and your husband signed a special bill to make it possible for me to go there and I have always been very grateful."

How small the world seems when little incidents like this occur.

Breakfast was served on the plane and would easily have been enough for lunch as well. In fact, I was tempted to take my particular box along in case anyone became hungry before our morning sightseeing was over.

We arrived at our destination about half past eight and went at once to Angkor, never noticing that the last car behind us got stuck in a large puddle of water. It was finally pulled out but much delayed while we went on without them. I think they must have been very annoyed with us but they were good-natured about it.

E.R.
PNews, NSJ, 22 September 1955