(Note: Henri Mouhot was a French naturalist, who was famous for re-discovering Angkor Wat during his travel. With his drawings and journals, he brought Angkor Wat back to the Western’s public eye.)
I have written these few notes on Cambodia, after returning from a long hunting expedition, by the light of a torch, seated on my tiger-skin. On one side of me is the skin of an ape just stripped off; on the other, a box of insects waiting to be arranged and packed; and my employment has not been rendered easier by the sanguinary attacks of mosquitoes and leeches. My desire is, not to impose my opinions on any one, especially with regard to the wonderful architectural remains which I have visited, but simply to disclose the existence of these monuments, which are certainly the most gigantic, and also to my mind display a more perfect taste than any left to us by the ancients; and, moreover, to collect all the facts and traditions possible about these countries, hoping they maybe useful to explorers of greater talent and fortune. For, I doubt not, others will follow in my steps, and aided by their own government and by that of Siam, advantages denied to myself, will gather an abundant harvest where I have but cleared the ground.
But after all, my principal object is natural history, and with that study I chiefly occupy myself. I have written, as I said before, in leisure hours, when resting from my fatigues, with a desire to implant in the breasts of others a love for the great works of Nature, and to benefit those who, in the quiet of their homes, delight to follow the poor traveller; who, often with the sole object of being useful to his fellow-men, or of discovering some insect, plant, or unknown animal, or verifying some point of latitude, crosses the ocean, and sacrifices family, comfort, health, and, too often, life itself.
But, it is pleasant to the man devoted to our good and beautiful mother, Nature, to think that his work, his fatigues, his troubles and dangers, are useful to others, if not to himself. Nature has her lovers, and those alone who have tasted them know the joys she gives. I candidly confess that I have never been more happy than when amidst this grand and beautiful tropical scenery, in the profound solitude of these dense forests, the stillness only broken by the song of birds and the cries of wild animals; and even if destined here to meet my death, I would not change my lot for all the joys and pleasures of the civilised world.
Henri Mouhot, Travels in Siam, Cambodia and Laos, 1858 -1860 , London, 1864.
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