Numerous weighty tomes have been published on Angkor Wat, but a new book, Wandering Angkor, takes the reader on a tour of the temples in an informative yet engaging fashion, complete with lighthearted asides and quirky cartoon style illustrations by author Sophie Lizeray.
Combining facts and humour, with a chatty accessible tone, Lizeray’s debut publication invites readers to hop on a little purple moto and join her, the guide, to “cruise through the bustling town of Siem Reap,” “bump through the forest” and “be awed by the majestic Bayon and Angkor Wat.”
French-Malaysian Lizeray, a Siem Reap-resident landscape architect and keen artist who has been visiting Cambodia since 1999, decided to produce the book after working on temple conservation at Angkor.
“I’m a landscape architect by training and I was working here a few years ago, so I had lots of opportunities to go visit the temples and draw them,” she says. “And when I left Cambodia I thought, why not use all the material that I have? I enjoy drawing, I enjoy writing, so I thought I’d compile it. It’s like a road trip to Angkor and you follow this little guide who’s fun and gives you some easy information on the temples.”
The slim book contains over 30 colourful illustrations, not only of the temples but the journey to reach them, from drawings of busy National Road 6 – complete with moto driver transporting two pigs on the back of his vehicle – to a close encounter with a buffalo, the guide skidding to a halt in front of it with the caption, “Buffalo crossing!” (Based on a real-life experience, Lizeray says).
The book is cartoon style says Lizeray, adding, “For this work I wanted to render it in very bold colours, so that’s why I chose a cartoon style, very freehand.
“It is really an invitation to travel through a couple of temples in Angkor and some interesting, easy-to-digest facts that come with it, without going into scholarly descriptions.
“It is as if the character’s talking to you, that type of language. The facts on the temples are definitely facts – my book was checked by an art historian because I wanted it to be accurate. I hope it is a fun, engaging read – that’s the intention.”
Some of the facts include tidbits like the information about laterite, a type of soil derived from weathered underlying rock, which forms not only many of Siem Reap’s unpaved roads but also some of the temples.
Lizeray writes, “But wait! Laterite is more than just dirt tracks. In ancient times, blocks of laterite were cut and sun dried for construction purposes. Such blocks, along with other materials such as bamboo, timber, bricks and sandstone, were used to build Angkor’s temples. Look out for their distinctive ochre colour during your visits… Makes you wonder… The temples of the gods are made from the same material as these dusty tracks!”
Lizeray, also a yoga teacher, is working on a quirky cartoon -style story of a yoga journey called, Oh My Yoga, that she publishes weekly on her website, http://fissosworld.com/.
Wandering Angkor is available on Amazon and at Monument Books in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.