Angkor Wat Virtual Challenge
The Angkor Wat virtual challenge is a short one. At only 20 miles (32.2 km), it is a nice palate cleanser after the North 500. This path takes me through the magnificent remains of the Khmer civilization in the verdant jungles outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia. The ornate temples are the ultimate expression of Khmer genius and are considered by many to be one of the wonders of the world.
I spent a month visiting Vietnam and Cambodia in 2006. and ever since then, I have dreamed of returning. For a brief moment, I even imagined building a home there, but my complete lack of skills with a tonal language seemed like a real barrier.
Inside the Bayon, I experienced something that was as close to magic as my mind can embrace. An incredible sense of peace and connection filled me, pushing out the endless mental chatter inside my skull. I was connected and quiet in a way that I haven’t come close to since that day, and I really hope I can make it back there one day.
The Bayon was the last state temple to be built at Angkor, and it is the only Angkorian state temple to be built primarily to worship Brahma. When it was first built, it was a Mahayana Buddhist temple, the Bayon was the centrepiece of Jayavarman VII’s massive program of monumental construction and public works, and from each of the four cardinal directions, roads lead to this at the centre.
What pulled me in at first were the outer wall galleries featuring a series of bas-reliefs. Unlike the grand theological stories depict in the main temple of Angkor Wat, here I could see everyday life of the Angkorian Khmer. People were cooking, cleaning, farming, hunting, playing games, and just generally living their lives. People like myself were just doing their thing. Then, after deeply grounding me, rooting me in history, I reach the inner temple, surrounded by those serene faces. Every which way I turn, they gaze upon me as if everything was going to be okay, now and forever. I went from feeling comforted by the home life of the ancient Khmer to feeling certain that everything was the way it should be. I could just breathe.
I really want to get back there, to see if I can feel that one more time.
A New Reward
This challenge is the first one where I had the opportunity to have my distance count towards stopping ocean plastic, rather than planting trees. The Conqueror Virtual Challenge will donate toward planting a tree or stopping 10 bottles from entering the ocean for every 20% of the challenge I complete.
Up until now, the only option was tree planting, so I decided to try the new option for Angkor Wat. By the end of the challenge, I have stopped 50 bottles from entering the ocean. That’s not that impressive on my own, but it will be interested to see what can be achieved as a community.
After this, I’m likely to revert to having my progress markers plant trees, but I think it was fun to have a choice about how I wanted to improve the world while I worked to stay active enough to stay in this world a bit longer.