After a morning of walking, sometimes stumbling, in the sun-drenched terrain, my mind is flooded with so many thoughts, most of which have nothing to do with the history, the architecture, the beauty. Like how on earth did we tour these same temples 13 years ago with 10 children – 7 of them boys under the age of 8 – without someone seriously injuring themselves or falling off the edge altogether? How did I not have a nervous breakdown anticipating this?
Thought #2: I have so much respect and admiration for the dozens of senior citizens touring. They came with walking sticks, canes, crutches. I overheard one woman talking about how well her two-month old hip surgery was holding up! This is not easy terrain – loose stones, dusty passageways, tree roots rising up through the pavement, up, down over spirit-blocking entrances, stairs where you need both your hands and feet to climb, pathways which abruptly stop, one more step and you’ll plummet 30 feet. Total admiration for those seniors.
Thought #3: So. Many. People. A Krispy-Kreme-just-opened-in-Japan worthy line snaked around an inner temple at Angkor Wat to the stairs leading toward the promise of a spectacular view. (We skipped this view.) Gone are the days when the children could roam unencumbered, finding nooks to hide in (boys) or to sit and enjoy a few moments of quiet (girls). No more losing the boys for a moment, only to find them near the top of the near-vertical temple steps. This area is now roped off. (Probably a good thing.) You have to be quick and sneaky with your camera if you want a picture devoid of dozens of your newest friends.
But there is something to be said for revisiting without children. The watching and the worrying detracts from the actual viewing and enjoyment. This time I just wandered and let it all soak in.
Angkor Wat is still a wonder, even with the multitudes.
But I prefer Ta Prohm, from “Tomb Raider” fame, and Bayon, the temple of the stone faces. The intimacy of the ruins and the jungle, the shadows and light filtering in, the maze of doorways and passages offer a respite from the busyness of our lives.
Images of Ta Prohm
Doorways of Bayon
I toured with the sister of a friend, Linda. Brad is my usual companion, and even though he tends to veer off the beaten path, he is my navigator, hence, I don’t pay attention. Linda had masterfully snatched our airport taxi driver, Chana, to be our temple driver. After he dropped us off at Ta Prohm, he instructed us to meet him at the west entrance. But Ta Prohm is a maze of towers and passageways, entwined with the encroaching jungle, and we may have gotten confused – and lost. After several minutes of wandering around the parking lot – on the east end – a kind Tuk-Tuk driver recognized our confusion (maybe this has happened before?) and offered us a ride to the west entrance, for 100 baht. “That seems expensive.” “It’s a kilometer away.” Oops.