The morning is black and I have no sense of what is around me. But the traffic has stopped so I stop too. A man motions me toward proper bicycle parking. I follow the stream of other visitors in the dark, thinking of trivial things. Is this coffee too hot for this plastic cup? How many other people rode bikes in for sunrise? Should I have worn a belt today? Voices are all around, speaking many languages, people clutching cameras and tripods and plastic bags of snacks. I cross through the first gate and wafts of sweet incense onto a long stone walkway. People have spread out and finally it's quieter and the towers of Angkor Wat are just visible in a dark blue outline.
Like any place you've always wanted to see, it is more than a collection of the stones. It breathes a majesty and sacredness that nearly makes me cry. Not at the beauty, or the exquisite architecture; not at the sense that there is something larger than myself, though all these things are true. It's at the passion and devotion embodied in these structures, and at these people of all faiths whose faces I can't even see who make this tourist pilgrimage of sorts. At our modern grappling for things in our lives with a fraction of this meaning and creativity. At our loss for words as we snap photo after photo, trying to bring a bit of its soul home with us. At my no one to talk to, even if I could find those words. At my vague satisfaction that I find in being here anyway, as I take my photos and get back on the bike to pedal toward the next ruins.