Saturday, December 19, 2009

Siem Reap, Cambodia

The supposedly five-hour journey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap turned out to be seven hours. This was due to frequent 20-minute breaks, poor roads and a 30-minute delayed start because the driver wanted every seat to be filled. Bus journeys in Southeast Asia can be so tiresome!

Siem Reap is the gateway to the Temples of Angkor, a Hindu-Buddhist temple complex that is one of the world’s greatest architectural achievements. I spent a very full day visiting the main temples, hiring a tuk tuk driver to take me around. The complex is extremely tourist-friendly, with food and beverage stalls everywhere! It is difficult to describe the grandeur of the Temples of Angkor; it probably exceeds all the superlatives available.

I started my visit with Preah Bakeng (on a hill) for sunrise. On top of the temple, I could see vast expanses of forest. Then it was on to Bayon in Angkor Thom, my favorite temple. This complex is known for the gigantic face of a god carved in stone. I was amazed at the intricate details of gods, people and words that were carved all over the place. Another noticeable temple is Ta Prohm, the site of the filming of the movie Tomb Raider. This temple has a rough feel, as many tree roots have surrounded many of the doorways.

The grandest temple of all is none other than Angkor Wat. This complex is surrounded by forest, lawns and water, something akin to a palace. Angkor Wat has three levels, of which the highest one was unfortunately closed for restoration. Inside the temple are gigantic Buddha statues, elaborate friezes and empty pools.

I will definitely be back to the Temples of Angkor, for it is a magical place. In fact, I will be back in Cambodia, as I did not spend enough time there. Even though the country is stifling hot, even in December, the people there touched my heart. They are a very resilient, industrious and friendly people. They have put their painful history behind them and are working hard to advance their lives. One example is the widespread knowledge of English (unlike in Vietnam). Furthermore, even the hassling of tourists is polite, always with “sir” or “ma’am”.

No comments:

Post a Comment