Okay, don’t get your knickers in a twist. Angkor Wat is great, it’s impressive, I enjoyed my visit and I would visit again. But recently I have been feeling a little frustrated with travel rhetoric and my own contribution to it, and I wanted to write in a more honest way about my experiences. Whenever you read a post about Angkor Wat, you will encounter grand statements about feeling influenced by the weight of history, about feeling overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the ancient city, invariably accompanied by photographs of a sun rising over an ancient temple, perfectly lit, without a tourist in sight. When you read about a beach destination, the writer will often be at pains to demonstrate how white the sand is, how clear the water is, accompanied by that perfect shot of the sun setting over the ocean.
For me, this is not travel. It is so far removed from any kind of travel experience I have ever had, and I want to try something new with this post. There seems to be an idea that travel is something lofty that can take you out of everyday life, transcending the traveller on to some grander plane. Well, that is just complete nonsense. One thing that I continuously feel as I travel, is the everydayness of life, and that a lot of life is really tedious whether you are in an office cubicle, or at Angkor Wat.
So, when I was at Angkor Wat, trying to get that perfect shot for my readers while getting frustrated at myself for not being able to capture an image without a group of tourists in shot, I decided to stop trying and simply to capture what was around me. By doing this, I was able to capture my experience more honestly, because not only were there ruins of ancient temples (that are undoubtedly impressive) but there were other things around me, reminding me that in spite of Angkor Wat’s grandeur, we are all ‘only human’ after all. My Angkor Wat experience consisted of being surrounded by hordes of tourists, all taking pictures of each other in their best poses, of copious security on the premises, of employees taking care of the grounds, of tuk tuks and motorbikes whizzing past, of scaffolding holding up buildings, of kids who should be at school trying to sell me postcards, of red ants biting at my feet, of tripping over rocks, of signs telling me in which direction I have to move and where I am not allowed to sit, of suddenly needing to piss when I’m at the top of a temple ruin.
This is not a diss. I am attracted to the tedium of life – it’s what life is. In the setting of Angkor Wat and all its grandeur mixed in with this everydayness, I felt the fallibility of human existence all the more acutely. Here are some photos that represent my Angkor Wat experience.
Do not exit.
Spot the scaffolding.
If you ever needed proof that humans are imperfect, here is a trouser/trainers combination I spotted at Angkor Wat.
Spot the crane.
Spot the crane, again.
Taking a photo of a guy taking a photo of a kid selling postcards. He was sweet, sad looking, and far too good of a salesman for his age.