As a child, like many from my generation, I explored the world through the pages of my father’s National Geographic magazines. I combed through countless issues, reading cover to cover, indulging even in the minutiae of the classifieds.
In one of those issues was a Steve McCurry photograph: a monk wrapped in burnished orange, standing under the archway of a Cambodian temple that was crumbling under the weight of time, all the while being devoured by an ancient thitpok tree. It was a fascinating image that, at the time, gave me hope for the idea that far-away lands of untouched mystery still existed in our world.
So, it’s disappointing to be at Angkor Archaeological Park with the mysterious nowhere to be found. There are throngs of tourists from all over the world ‘exploring’ the ruins. Luxury buses stand parked next to 4WD’s outside the temple complexes. There are Cambodian men, women and especially children stationed at every hundred or so meters, waiting and anticipating for every possible need of these modern-day adventurers. Tuk-tuk? Cold drink? Postcard? Pretty girl?
But then again, I suppose these fellow travelers were like me at some point, with their own issues of National Geographic, hooked under the same spell cast by our imaginations.
They probably share my sentiment.