All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth behind
is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel:
one knows that the first joy can never be recovered,
and the wise traveller learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time.
Many people asked if I would revisit the temples in Siem Riep on the Intrepid trip as I had already been there previously. While many people would claim that visiting a place for the second time never quite compares to the first visit, I found there are many benefits to going back to special places. On my first visit I was very focussed on the temples themselves and on capturing the images of ancient ruins. On my second visit, I was far more relaxed and enjoyed the surroundings of this special place and the life around it as much as the temples themselves.
We were there for sunrise again and as we watched the sky turn a lighter shade of orange I noticed the hustle and bustle of the actual temple premises to my left. The monks were waking up and starting to complete their morning ablutions and setting about their daily chores. As I pointed this out to Alistair, (one of the fellow Australians in our group of seven) he suggested we stroll over and take a look. It turned out to be a very special experience for both of us. The resident monks were as fascinated to see us as we were to witness what was going on here.
There were a mix of ‘nuns’ dressed in white and monks dressed in orange. The monks were sitting up on the stage starting their breakfast. The nuns were lolling about the floor, and were more relaxed and invited us to join them. I looked into their faces, lined and full of character, and knew there were a few stories there.
I’ve captured a few images even though it was probably a little intrusive to do so. I felt they didn’t seem to mind and we just smiled at them, saddened that our lack of language skills prevented us from having real conversations. If only we knew a little more of this language than the obligatory ‘hello’ and ‘thankyou’, we have now almost mastered to perfection what stories might I have captured.
The temples the second time around were different. It was a brilliant day with cloudless blue skies and the contrast of the ancient temples against the azure blue skies absolutely stunning.
We had a guide this time around and my attention was drawn to the detail of the carvings. Life back then was quite brutal if you didn’t behave and depictions of people being fed to the crocs and barbequed on a stick were gruesome reminders of the price you paid if you did not conform to the norms of the day.
The traveller sees what he sees,
the tourist sees what he has come to see.
- G. K. Chesterton