The Accidental Tourist: Khmer Notes no.1

sunset over bakheng 1

I have a list of places I’d like to visit before I die. It includes places like the Pyramids and The Great Wall, which are on many people’s lists. I also have places that are of more local interest like Mt. Baektu in North Korea, the legendary birthplace of the Korean people. And on the list are more obscure locales like the Gobi Desert in Mongolia and Cinqueterre, a small cluster of villages hugging the Italian Adriatic coast. And finally it includes utter fantasy like Antarctica and the Earth’s orbit.

Since 2002, when I moved to England, I visited quite a few places on the list, like Paris, London, Barcelona, Kyoto, the palaces of Seoul, which have only recently been opened to the public. And during these travels I discovered places that I’d barely heard of but now count among my favorite places in the world, like effortlessly elegant Lyon, a Catalan fishing village, Sant Pere Pescador, and the beautifully preserved Kamakura.

I really don’t want to sound like I’m boasting. I’m just in awe of the places I’ve been privileged to visit and, like a wide-eyed country bumpkin, I can’t stop talking about them. Before 2002, I didn’t even have a passport. I rarely ventured out of the West Coast of the U.S. I’d never been to Mexico even though it was a few hours drive away from L.A., and I’d only wandered into Canada twice, both into the lovely Vancouver and both times I was harassed by my own country’s border guards on the way back home.

Even though it appears I’m a globetrotting jetsetter, it’s a recent thing. Because I’m living in Japan for only a short period of time, I feel I need to take advantage of the relative proximity to places around Asia. I’m really just a provincial hick at heart. So when I go to a place like Angkor Wat, in a country like Cambodia, I’m blown away by how enormous, complex and mesmerizing the world is.

When T and I returned from Cambodia, we brought back about 1,000 photos. I took about 700 of them. I’d never taken so many on one trip before. But I’d never been anywhere that had so many things to photograph. I’m still in the process of editing and organizing them. I’m also in the process of organizing the notes I wrote about in my journal. I was going to just type the daily journal that I wrote but I wanted to write something more cohesive, charting out the voyage in broader themes, rather than just spew out whatever jumble of thoughts I had jotted down.

So in the coming days I’ll be downloading batches of photos into flickr, and writing about various things about Cambodia. Some topics I’ll write about are:

Chani, a boy who sold books
Mr. Vey, our tuk-tuk driver
The hotels and who profits from the tourist trade
Siem Reap, the city near the Angkor Wat complex
The tourists who visited by the busloads
How I’ve paid my carbon debt
Local food, drinks and restaurants
Lots of Meditating Wind photos
And of course the architecture and history of the various ruins

In the next post, I’ll write an introduction and overview of the complex. Or maybe I’ll just publish the poems I wrote there…

2 thoughts on “The Accidental Tourist: Khmer Notes no.1”

  1. I absolutely love Siem Reap. I’ve visited 5 times thus far. I sometimes think of moving there and living out my days exploring the ruins of Angkor. I know exactly what you mean about there being so many things to photograph.

  2. wow five times! what a beautiful place it would be to live in. i’m sure i could photograph another 1,000 things easily.

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