Angkor Wat from the Saddle

The night was taking it’s last few breaths before it was suffocated by the heat of daylight. An orchestra of crickets played as if led by an insane conductor. The navy blue that wallpapered the sky was ever so slightly flecked with pale white stars, reminding me of a Baci Perugina chocolate box. I kept waiting for the couple to sweep out onto the stage and dance across the sky.

The procession of people along the first bridge over the moat was slow and tentative. In the scarce light it was impossible to tell that the great temple was ruined. Life-size stone lions flanked the walkway and once we passed them, the twin naga balustrades slithered along with us. The reared heads of the King Cobras were watching our approach through ancient eyes. The crowd crept forwards, drawn to the edge of the lake like thirsty birds after a long migration. Hundreds of people pressed together in the small area, setting up tripods and testing cameras – ready to get the perfect shot of the temple, alight with the fires of dawn and it’s reflection in the stagnant water.

Darkness hid me as I, true to myself, stalked a white image across the gardens. The fleabitten grey coat was hidden under stains of dirt and the slender legs and puerile haunches looked comical next to the thick neck and Mohawk. This horse wasn’t winning any beauty contests. As I gazed at him, he ignored me, tired of rough handed tourists. I let him get a whiff of my hand then gently started to tickle his nose, getting the inevitable response after few seconds. He lifted his muzzle and opened his lips against my palm, langouring under the attention. It took me even less time to convince his owner that I could ride, and kicking off my shoes, I commandeered the beautiful creature.

As we moseyed through the tall grass I could feel the tips tickling the soles of my naked feet. Skirting around the lake, either making or ruining the hundreds of photographs, I nudged my companion into a staccato canter – moving further and further away from the world and stepping back in time. Lights were now dancing in the skies, making the great friezes of the Ramayana appear to come alive. My horse issued a rallying whinny and I glanced at the many horses carved in the stone, half expecting them to answer.  If I closed my eyes I could almost hear the drum beat of my horse’s hooves multiplied as the warriors, led by Hanuman, strove to win back their Princess.

Dark blue paled into a curious purple, then blushed pink like a young lover embarrassed at being caught naked. I tugged on the reins to slow to a stop in a deserted grassy quarter and leaned back in the saddle, ready to watch my very own aurora tropicalis.


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