‘There are few emotions about places for which adequate single words exist’ – Alain de Botton
As we near the close of another year and usher in a new one with many promises to be made and lived up to, I would like to share an experience that involves, quite literally, a new dawn. This was in summer 2014 on my second trip to Asia. Destination: Siem Reap, Cambodia. The plan: to see the sun rise over the temples of Angkor Wat, a once-in-a-lifetime experience as recommended by all the guide books I came across. Sounding clichéd and yet another ‘tourist trap’ I decided to go for it, hook, line and sinker. The worst that could happen? Waking up far too early only to be disappointed. Needless to say, I was not. Otherwise I would not be writing this. First of all, it was free (or at least part of the entrance fee to visit the temples during the day). Secondly, it was not far off from my hotel. Lastly, it was incredible and the one word that describes the emotions de Botton mentioned: sublime.
I read somewhere that authentic experiences await at the dawn of a new day. And so it was meant to be. Setting out on a tuk-tuk from the centre of Siem Reap, it took not more than 15 minutes to arrive at the recommended spot where before long throngs of people partook of the sun rising over the temples. We had prime seats (albeit standing) to witness a natural, daily yet magical occurrence. After being transfixed for what seemed such a long time, I turned around and was amazed by the hundreds of fellow travellers who had kicked themselves out of bed at the ungodly hour of 4.30 am to congregate in peace and silence. This ‘event’ that likely occurs on most days in the same location prompted me to think of how we seek different forms of spirituality, such as one that kindles the feeling of something primordial, is awe-inspiring, and can be communally shared. A similar feeling was achieved on waiting for the sun to set the day before. So here, to symbolically represent the end of the year that was and the beginning of a new one, are photos taken to capture those moments. I have added some more to share the beauty of the temples. Happy New Year!
Where the dragons meet – the sun setting over Angkor Wat:
Finding serenity and peace on top of
the world Angkor Wat:
Waiting for sunrise; the crowd congregates; monks’ morning prayers
Some of the highlights – of temples and Buddhas:
Impressive stonework that has withstood the passage of time: