July 13, 2016
Early this morning, I made my way up to Koulen Mountain, considered the birthplace of the Khmer Empire, a sacred mountain to the Khmer people where the earth is a deep burgundy after a night of rain and where boulders and ancient temple ruins appear haphazardly.
It is also where the trail is decorated by colorful butterflies and the smiles of many children. Because of them, the gorgeous Phnom Kulen Waterfall, and the lively stream coursing through its path, the mountain seemed so alive that it felt right to be there this morning. It felt right to be amidst the animate before standing in awe of this kingdom’s inanimate wonders. (The Traveling Minstrel Journals — July 4, 2016)
The 12th Century gave birth to Genghis Khan, the Second Crusade, and the Teutonic Knights; somewhere along its tapestry, Abelard and Heloise fell madly in love. Here in Southeast Asia, construction of Angkor Wat began.
We are in the 21st Century, and yet, it stands, outlasting centuries of tumultuous history, even religious fickleness (it was erected as a Hindu temple and later transformed into a Buddhist temple); and perhaps because it has been forgiving, its devotees have multiplied — they are the wanderers, the curious, the adventurers, the explorers, the tourists, the travelers, who, all the same, wait for the sun to rise and illuminate its majestic intricacies and render pilgrims speechless. (The Traveling Minstrel Journals — July 6, 2016)
Seeing the temples in Siem Reap is almost like reading a bestseller. Most people already know how it goes; and just like most bestsellers, I am always one of the last people to read it. On the other hand, it is not entirely like reading a bestseller because you have the ability to alter the plot. You don’t have to be herded into the temples only to breeze through them after having your photos taken.
By all means, sit under the shade of a distant tree overlooking the architectural marvels as much as you want to. Do a lotus pose in a corner of your favorite temple and read, write, breathe, and take in the order and symmetry through osmosis. Yes, read! I realize that it is important to choose a book as a traveling companion wisely, because the ideas you read about become more beautiful when they are superimposed upon what you are seeing and experiencing.
Reading Alain de Botton’s “The Architecture of Happiness” during this trip heightens my experience. I don’t think it’s a bestseller but it is making me more sensitive to what these edifices convey. And when buildings talk, it is never with a single voice, buildings are choirs, reveals de Botton. He also expresses, “As we write, so we build: to keep a record of what matters to us.”
Being here. Being alive. Being free. This matters to me. (The Traveling Minstrel Journals — July 7, 2016)