After several days of working inward from the most outlying areas of the Khmer Empire, it was time to experience sunrise at Angkor Wat itself. Why not? I tried to not have expectations. “It will be crowded.” “We have to get there really early to have a chance.” “Many people who go end up disappointed by clouds and do not see much of a sunrise.”
Whatever about all that silly negative self-talk. It was full moon and I was going to the largest religious building on Earth, even if it was torrentially raining! My whole heart was into it and I would have a powerful experience even if I was the only one. I told Kinseng to pick us up at 5:00 am.
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He is waiting as we walk out the door at 4:55 am. It is a very dark and almost chilly 20 minute ride. Stars shine brightly through breaks in the junglescape. Occasionally, a bit of moonlight filters through. Inside the park our passes are checked. A few vehicles share the checkpoint and subsequent ride.
We arrive outside the west (and only) entrance. Kimseng tells us where he will meet us later. There are perhaps 50 visitors scattered along the outside of the moat waiting. “We’re going inside,” I say to Anna. Flashlight in hand, we walk the long and dark bridge to the outer gate. I stumble slightly on some uneven paver stones but quickly recover my balance and we continue.
Once across the wide moat we navigate a few dark steps and enter the first courtyard. It is beginning to happen! The shapes of the towers are slowly appearing out of the blue-black darkness. As the first light appears we look back at the totally visible full moon.
This has to be the most incredible full moon either of us have ever witnessed and we are deeply in awe and appreciation. Now we just find a nice spot to sit and watch the sunrise continue to unfold. Some days one just gets lucky. This is one of those days.
Eventually even the most beautiful sunrise has to end and the (not so large) crowd begins to depart. Well, we are here just inside Angkor Wat. Seems like a perfect time to explore; although I am baffled as to why we are about the only ones who think this way. Maybe they all want to return when the light is brighter? I don’t really know. The light is really conducive to long exposures. As we continue to explore, the light continues to change.
We arrive at the third and innermost courtyard. Stairs lead up to the five iconic towers; however, they are roped off. A nearby security man says they are closed but we can come back at noon if we want to climb. I tell him we want to meditate and hand him a US$10 bill. He smiles, parts the rope, and we ascend.
Whether it is my imagination or the energy of this place or both makes no difference. We find a spot to sit at the top and sink quickly into a deep space of peace.
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Later, we walk around the parapets and then slowly make our way down the steep stairs and back through the three courtyards.
We emerge outside the outer courtyard. As we begin to retrace our steps across the wide moat in the now brilliant light and heat of a 9:00 am Cambodian morning, I have a distinct feeling of passing through a portal between two dimensions, one of spirit and one of physicality and materialism. Yes, I have a vivid imagination.
Across the street, Kimseng is waiting with a smile and ice-cold water. I have picked four additional temples that I really want to see on what may be our last big day of temple visits.