ANGKOR DINNER DONE WELL
It was indeed a night to remember – the World Monuments Fund Commemorative Evening at Angkor Wat, featuring a superb repast served by the ace team from Raffles.
A group of very lucky people, Manabout included, were treated to a rare opportunity to dine inside the great temple at night, with Angkor partly illuminated for the occasion.
Some of the luminaries present included Benny Widyono, former UNTAC governor of Siem Reap; the outgoing (in all senses of the word) director of Centre for Khmer Studies Dr Michael Sullivan, fresh from his new home in Brittany; mastermind academic Darryl Collins; sculptress Sasha Constable; Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism; Son Soubert, privy counselor to his Majesty, King of Cambodia: filmmaker and socialite Anne Bass , often touted in the US press as America’s richest woman; and Leopard Capital’s Doug
Clayton, the subject of an extensive article in the New York Times on December 27.
The impressive Mistress of Ceremonies on the night was Dr Bonnie Burnham, president of the World Monuments Fund.
She pointed out that the reason for the dinner was to announce that WMF has completed a major conservation project at the Churning of the Sea of Milk Gallery at Angkor Wat, which was undertaken in partnership with the APSARA National Authority.
The bas-relief known as the Churning of the Sea of Milk adorns the east gallery of Angkor Wat. It’s considered a masterpiece of Khmer art and was commissioned by King Suryavarman II in the early twelfth century. The 49-meter-long relief recounts the creation myth, depicting devas (gods) and asuras (demons) joining forces in churning the primordial ocean, in order to release amrita, the elixir of immortality.
Dr Burnham spoke knowledgably about some of the challenges involved in the restoration work. She pointed out, among other things, that WMF began studying the condition of the gallery in the early 2000s, and in 2008 presented a formal project for its restoration. The massive undertaking involved dismantling the roofing system and reconstructing it to prevent future water damage. In the process, each stone was cleaned, and chemical deposits present in the stones were removed.
Guests were then able to walk along the gallery inspecting the newly restored relief, which was lit up by spotlights. All in all, a remarkable and memorable evening.