I woke early today and put my trip back on track. By which I simply mean that I accomplished my plans for the day. I went to the national museum and the royal palace. In between I purchased some books and spent many hours in bars and cafes taking an epic amount of time over coffees, teas, water snd meals.
I very much enjoyed the museum which features art from the golden khmer age right through to the present. Naturally it consists mostly of Buddhas, carved out of wood or stone. Indeed parts of rhe museum are more like a temple with offerings to the Buddha being made and “guardians” attending to them.
I must say this was entirely to my liking and added greatly to both the liviliness and beauty of the place. The courtyard too was exceptionally peaceful and felt like a much needed refuge from both the heat and the cacaphony of the street. I sat there in a peaceful stupor drinking in the tranquil morning atmosphere.
After the museum I went to Wat Ounalom and stopped into the temple. The monks were warm and welcoming and spoke a little English. I meditated a little in the temple just as they were having their mid day meal. It was lovely to hear their affable, happy conversations as I meditated. I am wary of projecting too much onto these monks however. I know little of their lives.
As a solo traveller I am very much at the mercy of books to keep me company and purchased some new books in a gorgeous book store just outside the monastery of Wat Ounalom. I added Steinbecks Of mice and men and Orwells Burmese days to my collection.
I have just completed Herman Hesses Sidartha and am nearing the end of Eamon Kelly’s book Irelands master storyteller. The latter deserves its own blog posting here which Ill get around to shortly but I will mention that it is a wonderful travel campanion full of humor and insight.
After lunch I went to the royal palace and had a wander around. It was a beautiful tranquil space with many beautiful buildings mixing royal symbolism and adornments with Buddhism. I imagine that after the viscious persecution of Buddhism under the Khmer Rouge the easy marriage between royalty and Buddhism is a soothing reminder of a timeless order for the average Cambodian. But I am only speculating as an outsider of course. As soon as I start speaking of “the average Cambodian ” or ” the man in the street” I have almost certainly ceased to say anything usefull and am drifting into cliche and stereotype. Here are some photos and some music I heard there also performed in the courtyard.
Alan Coakley is a Travel Director with Trafalgar tours based in Ireland.