Burning Through the Clouds – Angkor Wat in the Morning

Morning at Angkor Wat was a very cool experience. It was very muggy — the kind of muggy that makes you just give up and give in to being covered in sweat. I wasn’t going to any dinner parties, so I figured it was okay. Moving around the complex to get photos from many perspectives was a lot of fun… this place was a treat to compose.

In vaguely related news, a friend of mine in Shanghai just opened a new spa and used my images throughout. The one that is linked here at “Spa City 5.5” is another from this area of Cambodia. It’s not the highest quality photo of a high quality photo, but you kinda get the gist… If you want to see the original of that photo of the Angkor Wat Temple, just clicky click there!

Burning Through the Clouds - Angkor Wat in the Morning

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Documenting the Pilgrimage

The temples sprawl all around Cambodia. This is quite the holy spot for Buddhists who travel here from locations all around the world. You can tell what sect they are from based on their robes. I was able to sit with one for a few hours and we watched dozens of monks walk by and he could tell me exactly where each one was from based on the slight color variation in their robes and the way it was folded.

Also, if you all want to see some of the behind-the-scenes activity here and see the book-cover selection process for “A World in HDR“, visit the Stuck In Customs Facebook Fan Page, where we have a discussion forum. Once you are in there, just click on “Discussions”, and you can see the four images we were considering for the cover. Feel free to give your opinions in there… I put one of the other favorites here below!  These were all designed by the great Fabian Barral, who I feel very lucky to work with on the book.

That FB Fan Page is also a good place to have “General Discussions”. The only bad thing about the blog is that each discussion is tied to a single post. That’s great, and people always seem to have interesting ideas and experiences to share. But I wanted you to know that you are more than welcome to start up any discussion you wish inside the FB Fan Page Discussions area…

The Guardians of the Temple (by Stuck in Customs)

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The Ancient Library

This is an old library found in a remote temple complex in the wilds of Cambodia.

It’s hard for me to imagine what a library was like back then.  A library in the 12th century must have been very interesting.  Almost 1,000 years ago, I imagine it was probably filled with all sorts of fascinating scrolls and documents.  Without the Internet, it must have been the most interesting thing to do on a boring day.  I wonder what it would be like to rip back in time and show them the iPhone and then show them some ancient-scroll app from the App Store.  I’m pretty sure the AT&T connectivity would be about as good as it is in 2009.

The Ancient Library

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When a Temple is Forgotten

These are the kinds of places that are too cool to be true. I think these are called “banyan trees” (no doubt one of my smart readers will correct me if I’m wrong!), and their seeds fell centuries ago on top of these old tombs. Although not part of the main complex, the temple of Ta Prohm is still considered part of Angkor Wat. It’s a distance away, but, in many ways, cooler than the main temple.

Maybe I was lucky, the the days I spent there hardly had any tourists around. There were a few monks, but most of them were not Cambiodian and had traveled there from other monasteries all over the world.

Probably the coolest thing about the place was the ability to go anywhere and do anything. No little chamber, passageway, doorway, or underground mystery was off limits. It was definitely one of the best places for spontaneous adventure that I have ever been.

Note this was made with Lucis Pro 6.0… a few months ago, I did Lucis Tutorial, in case you want to know more.

When a Temple is Forgotten (by Stuck in Customs)

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Meditation

It’s sort of hard to find time to meditate nowadays, eh?  I mean, there is a lot of stuff going on.  I wonder if the old-school Buddhists would be as good at meditating if they had broadband.  It’s quite easy to distract yourself online.  By the way, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for distracting yourself with the blog!  I guess I’m happy to be a source of distraction for you.

And, should you find the inspiration to meditate a little, maybe this shot from Siem Reap, Cambodia will help.

Meditation (by Stuck in Customs)

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The Lotus at Sunrise

Thank you for all the feedback yesterday. I appreciate it very much; indeed the negative feedback was quite constructive and helpful. Thanks for taking the time, as usual, to share your thoughts.

Now that we are getting back in the normal groove of posting beautiful places and beautiful things, here is a nice one for your Sunday!

This is Angkor Wat in Cambodia at sunrise. I think I went there every single morning around 5 AM to see the clouds and light in different formations. I got to know some of the locals there. A small girl from a family would see me in the dark by the lake, and come over to say hello. She would then bring me a chair and some Vietnamese coffee (quite thick and sweet with condensed milk). I would pay her just a few dollars and she was thrilled… I paid extra to keep the coffee coming in dangerously quick intervals. The sunrise lasted for several hours, and I was in no hurry…

The Sunrise in Siem Reap (by Stuck in Customs)

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Evening Storm Approaches the Temple

This is an old temple near the main complex of Angkor Wat that sits high on a hill.  At the bottom, a man gave me an option of riding an elephant to the top.  I don’t know why I didn’t!  I think I might have been in a hurry to see the sunset and the elephant looked old and ponderous.

It was a bit sketchy up there with the storm, but there was nothing metal so I didn’t feel like there was much danger of lightning.  I was used to Texas thunderstorms with big lightning, but maybe they didn’t have those sorts in Cambodia – who knows?  Not me.  Anyway, it was too cool to stay up there and watch the storm as it rolled in…

Evening Storm Approaches the Temple

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The ruins of Angkor from across the moat

Angkor Wat was really more of a fortress than it was a temple.

There is a massive moat that encircles the complex.  I can only imagine how long it took peasants to dig a thousand years ago.  I also wonder how they all drank fresh water back then.  I know I couldn’t go more than 10 minutes walking around the area without needing a drink.  The massive heat, humidity, and standing water was a perfect recipe for cavalcade of bacteria to rise up and fight back.  I don’t suppose they all boiled their water.  Maybe everyone was just more hardy back then…  Luckily, when I was there, there were plenty of little children running around selling me bottled water.  Which, upon further reflection, I probably should not have drank.

The ruins of Angkor from across the moat

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Young Buddhists about to endure the rites

Away from the main temples of Angkor, this temple rests about two hours from Siem Reap through thick jungles and a sketchy road. As I made my way through the stone halls and entrance ways, I emerged onto this scene of a bunch of young Buddhists preparing for the next phase of their rites.

I think I ended up talking to almost a dozen different monks in and around Angkor. It was very interesting to hear their version of what happened with the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot, and that whole mess. They killed over 1 million Cambodians after the US pulled out of Vietnam, eliminating anyone with “involvement in free-market activities”. I was a little afraid to tell anyone there that I sometimes speak at Libertarian conferences, in case there were a few rogue Khmer Rouge agents roaming the jungles!

Some of the stories are a bit sketchy to be reprinted in this format, so if we ever meet for coffee some day, I’ll be glad to tell you… but there is some messed up stuff around there.

On a lighter note, I’m headed to Vegas next week for just a day and a half. I have a little speaking engagement, but I’ll be spending every spare waking moment living with my right brain and seeing what bits are appropriate to capture for you all! :)

Young Buddhists about to endure the rites (by Stuck in Customs)

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This is an Avout

I found her after taking a few wayward turns in some confusing corridors in the main temple of Angkor Wat. She was a Buddhist bolt, but lighting incense at the foot of a statue of Shiva, the Hindu god. It turns out that she, and others like her, are from an interesting sect that bridges two of the big religions. I always enjoy talking to people about this sort of thing. It doesn’t really bother me one way or another, but I just find all the thought processes to be interesting.

She’s one of the billions of people alive (and possibly re-alive) that draws into the splinters of the original Vedic Brahminism. She didn’t speak a lot of English, so there were a few pieces missing in our conversation, but I filled them in later after talking to many other monks and worshipers throughout the complex.

This is an Avout (by Stuck in Customs)

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