Angkor Wat and the path less taken


Angkor Wat is without doubt the most desired tourist destination in the world. As a Cambodian, I have been there countless of times. But I always wonder, have I seen enough of this massive monument? Have I experience it the way the builder of this temple wanted it to be experience? How much more of Angkor Wat that I need to see?

Taking this chance, I want to take you to my “small adventure” at Angkor Wat this February. It was a chance to experience Angkor Wat like I never did before for I never knew I spent my time away from the main temple complex, the mass and reality.

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Thanks to my friend, a free spirit guy who loves to take on challenging journey, I was introduced to an idea of seeing Angkor Wat from a different perspective. From the moment I hear it, I knew it was hard to turn down such invitation. At first I was not sure how it will turn out, but I had to put my trust on him. I can count on myself when making trust call.

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So our journey began when we walked off the main “Angkor Wat high way” and off to the side gate that connects us to the moat. The aura suddenly changed as I stepped out, making me feel like I had just walked into another world. The air was tranquil, the trees were sleeping, and the serenity of the nearby water body told me that time had stopped there. I gazed at the road on both side stretching endlessly into the unknown, as if its telling me that I could be punished if I take them lightly. I hesitated for a moment, but my desire to see what lies beyond made sure I won’t stop.

While I was still at the site, I spotted this beautiful carving, sitting there all alone. Though this stone was at the same Angkor Wat that is no.1 on many destination lists, it was separated from the main complex and exist in between a small land sandwiched by Angkor Wat’s side wall and the moat. I felt its loneliness, but I also admire its glamorous resolve to remain that way.

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Before I move on, I stood there wondering what was a day like during Angkor’s era at a place like this, do people come here at all? How the people look and behave like? Do they have the same dreams as mine? And so, how would they pursue those dreams? Endless stream of questions came into my mind that I really wish I could turned back the time and witness the granduer of Angkor era.

As time didn’t allow me much to explore, I began to trek along the moat covering a quarter of it. I must admit I was kinda scared walking into the unknown, even when I know there are lives just on the other side the moat, and the wall. There were just two of us, wandering like an old-time martial artists taking on the trial of strength and honor. We made sure our walk was peaceful and safe, so when we spotted a beehive, we did our best to avoid any clash. We are warriors of Angkor, but we are not going to interrupt a peaceful life of a bee community. For that moment, they were the master of this land, and we were the guess. My culture taught me to be respectful to the host.

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The more I walk, the more I began to realize how much I desire to take the path less taken. I recalled the poem from Robert Frost “The road not taken”, and I suddenly feel that there had been many “roads” that I had forsaken, throwing away chance to experience many new ways of life. The walk around Angkor Wat’s moat’s bank is by many ways taken me by the storm.

When we arrived at the corner, we decided to rest there. I sat there watching over to the other side, to the people far away, curious. On the contrary, people were passing by not showing any signs of interest on us. I wish they could see me. However, it made sense. Sometimes, we couldn’t tell who are watching over us, even though they could be in plain sight. Likewise, I believe that Cambodian ancestor is watching over us, even right now, they could be sitting somewhere looking at us while we are not paying attention. I hope I hadn’t disappointed them much, I knew I had a long way to go to deserve their sacrifice.

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From this journey, I could let loss of my thoughts. Life is so full of mysteries and they are all around us. If we take more times to pay attention to things around us, we will get to see more of the world and how we perceive the world will change as well. That is when we begin to understand ourselves more. I wish I could spend more time on those kinds of journey. I want to take up more challenges and sweep through more life’s test. My dream is to witness all the marvels of life.

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Robert Forst once wrote a poem, and I wish to share it here:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

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