In Europe you can blur cathedrals until they lose any distinction. In Egypt you’ll forget whether the pictures were from Edfu or Komombo. And in Kenya it’s almost silly how quickly you can take for granted a family of 50+ baboons crossing your path.
And in Asia, it’s the temples/pagodas/wats that you burn out on.
I hope none of this sounds like complaining, or that I’m taking our experiences for granted. I’m not. It’s just human nature, isn’t it? To adjust, to process and adapt, and eventually to move on. So a year of ruins and 5 months of wats have taken their toll on us. Hmmm, 5 tiered pyramid, it’s cool, it’s no 7 tiered pyramid, but it’s cool.–This Buddha statue has his eyes crossed.-There’s more ruins but they are all the way on the west end of the complex? Do they look that different? No, I’m aiiight, you go ahead.
So without realizing it, in my mind Angkor Wat had a near impossible task if it intended to impress me. I dared it to astound me. “Wow” me Angkor, if you can.
Seeing Angkor turned out to be like seeing the Sistine chapel. You walk through a limitless museum with paintings and murals by Rapheal, Bernini, Rodin on every wall and ceiling. And you do this for hours all while following signs directing you to the Sistine Chapel. And your mind can’t possibly appreciate or process everything you’re seeing so you start to glaze over. You want to just get there, see it to say you saw it, and go take a nap. But then you get there, and everything you saw before simply fades. You and the hundred other people staring straight up are silent because however great you thought it was going to be…this beats it. And you need the silence so that all your energies can be directed to the sense of sight. If you could breathe it in, if you could taste the Sistine Chapel, you would. Well seeing Angkor was like that.
It overwhelmed on the macro scale as well as in the minute details, shaking any feelings of burn out from me. Spread out over 1000 sq. kilometers there were nearly 1000 temples built over a 400 year period.
We walked, biked, took motos and tuks-tuks to them over a 7 day period.
And throughout the exploration, the temples remained able to show us each one’s unique nature whether it was climbing through the ruins in Beng Melea, photographing the overgrown trees of Ta Prohm, looking into the stone faces of the Bayon, or walking the endless walls of bas reliefs.
And though they are now ruins, slivers of their past glory, the temples fulfilled their intended purpose for me just as a chapel had done for me years ago; my visit ended not with my feeling burnt out or desensitized but rather renewed and a little in awe.