July 02, 2014

Sacred stones



It's all different here. During the first few days, I try to make sense of all the perceptions that cloud my way. The puddles paving the road to my guesthouse, crossing the street jumping from side to side looks like a strange ballet. The smell of rancid meat and fish and overripe mangoes filling my nostrils aggressively as I walk through very dark market stalls. The deafening sound of the cicadas waking up in the trees when the night comes. The road leads me to Angkor Wat after only a few hours spent in the city. The light slowly turns to amber, hitting the majestic stones. Most people have already gone back, and for a moment, I am alone in the ruins, sitting on a gigantic staircase, sucking on the best pineapple I've ever had. Watching a strange sun setting on a strange river. Yes, it's all monstrously different here, and I am thirsty for more.

For three days I am exploring Angkor on the back of a moto-dop, a girl younger than me driving as fast as she dares and telling me about her life. When I tell her I am traveling alone, her eyes widen, half-amused half-chocked, and I remind myself how lucky I am to have the freedom and means to travel, to go anywhere in the world if I please. Prasat Kravan, Sras Srang and its shimmering lake, Ta Keo with the three flights of stairs that would give fear of heights to anybody, Chau Say Thevoda with amazing sculptures and old men humming, lying down on the ancient stones, exhaling dark green smoke that smells like forest rain. The most beautiful temples are, as always, far from the road. You have to ride on dusty paths and through tiny villages to get there. The sun shines hard and the bony, pale cows walk indifferently with me. We stop the motorbike to greet the monkeys, and the giggles dancing on my lips are childlike.

People talk about exotic travel and how the difference is what we seek in going to a new place. How it intensifies everything : the sounds, the colours (everything here looks like it has been dipped in spices, cinnamon and curry and cardamon), the smells. I look around and while that is true, a lot of things are familiar. This is when I realize the contrast there is in discovering a country you've already seen from a distance, through images and tales. It's like the fictional landscape in my head is fading, slowly transposing onto the real world. It feels good. It feels like this trip I've dreamt is becoming true, becoming real, more real every step I take. I have no idea how long it'll last and no idea where I'll go next. But my route doesn't have to be exotic. It just has to be mine.


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