• 02 . 04 . 11
  • Sunrise over the remarkable Angkor Wat momentarily spellbinds observers.

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Angkor, Zen

I first decided to visit Angkor Wat as a 12 year old playing the Ocean PC game Pang. Amongst the glorious technicolour bitmap backgrounds that also revealed to me the existence of Chichen Itza and Ayers Rock, even then it was the Khmer temple complex that enchanted and intrigued me the most. Seeing its towers emerge from the dark as the sun rose behind on a pastel sky this morning realised and vindicated that childhood dream.

Despite the light scaffolding which will be in place for another 3 years as restoration work is completed, there is no mistaking the grandeur and elegance of one of the world’s most magnificent structures. In daylight it is striking, at dawn sublime.

Unlike the majority of Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the West, admitting no spectacular silhouettes at sunset. Instead, the magic is at dawn as the darkness collapses into itself and fractured clouds, fuchsia-glowing and purple-tinged, frame five spires modelled after a mythical mountain. Set back against the far wall, reflected in a pool yet untouched by a breath of air and untroubled by insects, still lacking the concentric circles that will later mar that perfect clarity, the edifice looms over its grounds and demands attention. A hundred or so early risers are happy to comply, eager to capture a singular moment. This is no longer an event that can be witnessed alone, but despite the crowds, there is a respectful calm as camera shutters click like cicadas. Awe etched on faces, carved as the stone, mimicking the apsaras that surround. Spontaneous superlatives are ejaculated in numerous languages as appropriate descriptions are sought in hushed whispers.

After about an hour, the sky fades to blue and concurrently the whispers become murmurs, the murmurs sotto voce then audible, vocalised and finally full-throated jabbering, babbling, clamouring, like a radio fading in slowly, crackling and spitting, as the spell is broken and people revel in the power of their regained speech, all talking at each other with the same purpose, defining what they saw, trying to capture it with words and hold onto it for a precious moment longer, but nobody really listening to each other, nodding in mock agreement while still talking, and this place, for a brief moment like nowhere in the world becomes a hubbub like anywhere else in the world.

What a moment though.

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