Ahhhhh, Cambodia, the “Wild East” at its finest, in my opinion. Thousands of tourists flock there every year for pretty much two things… the booming sex trade and Angkor Wat. I, of course, prefer the latter.
Angkor Wat has been a requisite stop on the backpacker trail for years and I made my first sojourn there back in 2004. In addition to marveling at the splendor of this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site, I also came down with dengue fever and spent a bit more time in Cambodia recovering than I had initially planned. However, I was mesmerized by the ruins, delighted by the people and vowed to return.
My now-husband and I spent our pre-honeymoon there in March of 2011. We flew from Taipei to Phnom Pehn and promptly hopped on a bus for Siem Reap, approximately 300km away. 300Km and seven hours away. Between the vomiting children, cell phone ring tones at jet engine decibel levels, bad Cambodian karaoke, and the constant, persistent, never ending horn honking, I completely lost it. Full blown freak out. No joke. Thankfully I had no weapons with me or someone would have gotten hurt. Badly. If anyone asks my opinion on the journey from PP to Siem Reap, I’d recommend a plane… without question. Or hire a private car.
Of course, we arrived eventually, hired a tuk tuk driver to take us to our guest house, and we also arranged for him to be our driver into the Angkor Wat complex the next day. The entire complex covers about 70sq km and can only be entered by bicycle or by tuk tuk. Typically, your tuk tuk driver takes you to the various sites and waits while you look around, then you move onto the next site, and so on. Depending on how much time you want to take exploring every nook and cranny, this could take days. We only had two, so the main, most iconic sites were all we had time for.
Our second day we arranged an early pick up, as sunrise over the main temple of Angkor is supposedly a sight you’ll never forget. About a thousand other people had that same idea, and it was overcast, so no sunrise and throngs of people. People taking pictures, Cambodian children taken out of school to sell trinkets to tourists, and flag waving tour guides herding their charges to and fro.
However, despite all the people that flock to Angkor Wat, it is very easy to be utterly and completely alone. Alone inside a stone temple, centuries old banyan trees slowly working their roots through the stone and completely free to contemplate the whys and hows of the construction of this marvelous ancient city.
As so many people say about so many places, “If you have the chance, go…”. In the case of Angkor Wat, MAKE that chance, and go. You won’t be disappointed.
See the photos: