Sharing in the Wonder of Angkor Wat
Candace Rose Rardon is an American writer, photographer, and artist who recently returned to the United States after years of living and traveling in Europe and Asia. She sketches as she travels, and these sketches, combined with the stories behind them, charmingly capture those fleeting, layered moments that are the stepping stones of travel. Wanderlust will be presenting her on-the-road sketches-and-stories–her sketchbook of serendipities–in the months to come.
In the pre-dawn darkness of a still-cool Thursday morning, I hit the streets of Siem Reap, alone on a rusty yellow bike.
Behind my decision to cycle to Angkor Wat was a desire to feel, for even a few seconds, a sense of exploration, to try to channel the sublime thrill French explorer Henri Mouhot must have felt in 1860, when he pushed through dense jungle overgrowth to discover the largest religious monument in the world.
As I near the ticket gate, I revel in being the only bike on the road. Later, two turns before Angkor Wat, I pause by a river to soak up the explosion of dawn, a streak of red at the horizon as vivid as a cracked-open pomegranate, its jewel-like seeds spilling over onto the water.
And I soak it up all the more knowing that soon I will catch up to the crowds already at the temple.
So much humanity gathered in one setting often overwhelms me, but as I arrive at Angkor Wat in time for sunrise, I’m reminded that there are certain settings where I’m actually okay with all this humanity: world wonders.
The part of me that yearns to traverse the globe alone switches off at the sight of such universal icons, is able to embrace the jutting elbows and the craning necks and the cameras all pointed in the same direction. I’m able to accept these because we’ve all come together to worship a place that is wholly deserving of our wonder, and our very communal presence here is a testament to that.
When I return at 10am to sketch the temple, the crowds have all but dissipated. Once again, I’m alone–but funnily enough, it’s the crowds I’m thinking of as I start sketching: the elbow-jutting, neck-craning crowds, and what it meant to share in the wonder of Angkor Wat aglow at sunrise with them.
Explore Angkor Wat and other treasures on a GeoEx journey to Cambodia.