It’s time for the real real Angkor Wat. We saved it for the very last day and we got there very early, while it was still dark. By now, we were already fairly familiar with the grounds and surrounding area and there wasn’t much more in the way of surprise.
Everyone likes to observe this massive Wat with the glowing pink sunrise as a backdrop, and we were no different; it was hard to turn down the scenic appeal. To be honest, though, the sunrise wasn’t quite as spectacular as we had hoped (I think by this time we’d been a little spoiled when it came to stratospheric displays of pigment). It was also very crowded, as expected, so we actually hurried away from the little pond where several hundred people conjured, utilizing all variety of cameras and tripods and stands.
Thanks to the crowd’s seemingly collective need to capture that perfect shot, we got to explore Angkor Wat in complete peace for a good while.
The scale of Angkor Wat is quite grand indeed and I had the opportunity to scale the sides and the edges up high before large gatherings of people had entered the temple; they were all caught up in capturing that perfect sunrise shot. We pretty much had the place all to ourselves for a good half hour, or at least, the expanse of it compared to the scatter of people who ventured inside as early as us made it feel that way.
There’s little I can say about Angkor Wat that probably hasn’t been said already. I’d rather show you what we got to be a part of for just a little bit. Again, running out of adjectives, and it hardly matters. For us, it was about much more than words, descriptions, and labels. It was about the essence of a culture, captured in unspeakable magnitude, that will hopefully live on and be appreciated forever more.
We walked around the back of the vast temple and worked our way beyond, coming to a series of stone palisades and a massive wall that cordoned off quite a large area. It was only about 6am and the temperature was steadily rising once again.
As I go through the dozens upon dozens of images that we captured during this three day expedition, I realize that towards the end, we were taking less and less of them. I suppose we figured that after all of the hours spent amongst these ancient ruins, the more it was becoming ingrained in our mind. We probably concluded that we didn’t need to take any more pictures because a) how could our minds ever relinquish what it was we were witnessing and b) the architecture and stonework was starting to feel somewhat like a pulpous mélange, not necessarily indistinguishable from one another, but certainly similar enough where we decided that enough was enough. I truly think we captured as much as we needed to in terms of digital imagery; if you’ve read this far and seen all of the pictures I have posted up until now, then I’d say you ought to have gotten the idea of Angkor Wat and how we experienced it for ourselves. But I will also say that in the midst of writing about my experiences, I can never have taken enough pictures, or written enough about it while it was happening. Because despite the repetitiveness of some of what we were doing, I will always wish I had more details, whether visual, verbal, or written, to work with and to draw from.
When I write about past experiences, I’m lucky enough to live in a time where I can draw from visual imagery in addition to memory. But my writing is a reflection of the nostalgia I am feeling now, in addition to what I felt during the actual experience itself. In that sense, it’s sort of a hybrid of multiple experiences and feelings; a sum or conclusion of what was, what is, and what I hope for. But to write in the moment, while I’m sitting on top of that mountain as the sun rises, or as I relax on a beach, watching the waves crash onto the shore and preparing to dive in myself, I am better able to capture a moment in time where, to some extent, I can shed the baggage of past experiences and future yearnings.
Of course, I would argue (and I’m sure those who are really into meditation would disagree) that it is near impossible to shed these inescapable variables, especially those defining moments that shape who we are, and the dreams of the future that some of us still dare to conjure up in our minds. But I do believe that my best chance of accomplishing this is to do my best to capture the essence of a single moment as it happens while detaching myself from such temporally-based affections. That’s why in all future travels, I will have something to write on at all times, whether a journal, a pad of paper, or even just the Notes app in my iPhone.
How is this the real Angkor Wat? I guess it’s more the real Darcy Alexander Shillingford when he visited Angkor Wat, and everything he did before that and everything he did and will do after that. And everything he, I, will dream about, whether here on Earth, or up there, beyond it. Did I mention I write sci-fi?