Like everyone else I too wanted to visit Cambodia primarily to check out that gorgeous sunrise over ‘Angkor Wat’ and then the ‘Ta Prohm’ walls wrapped up in gigantic trees from the surrounding rainforests attracted me even more or may be it was the Lara Croft Tomb Raider effect. Now who doesn’t like Angelina Jolie here !
Movies always have inspired me to add places to my ever expanding bucket list. My husband calls it infinite ☺
So in 2014 winter when a euro trip could not materialise and a cousins trip popped up to the island of Bali, we decided to add 3 days of Cambodia to it to let that bucket list ticking.
Little did I know this small country would steal my heart and 3 days would seem far too less.
We landed in Siem Reap around midnight and I was in for some real bad mood. I had lost my beautiful hand picked paintings from Bali ! For someone who loves wall art, this was a real dampener. Trying hard all night to explain Bangkok airport authorities over phone and shooting my phone bill to new heights, eventually I failed every attempt made to make them understand what was lost and being referred to as paintings. Cursing people for not speaking enough English, the language barrier hit me hard for the first time during my travels. Until then I thought of myself fondly as a profound communicator. But Bangkok authorities proved me wrong. It’s called a ‘Reality Check’ !
Moving on to our Cambodia itinerary , this is how we spent 3 days there.
Reaching Siem Reap late at night through an Air Asia flight from Bangkok, we headed straight to the hotel to fetch some sleep and catch that spectacular sunrise over the Angkor Wat Temple the next morning. I am obsessed by the Sun god and can never get enough of Sunrises and Sunsets.To make things easier we booked a tuk tuk for full day with our hotel reception for 15$. One could choose , a tuk tuk , a car , a bicycle , whatever suits the pocket and time off course. Early morning, heading straight to the Archaeological park we chose a 3 day pass for $40 each.
I recommend visiting all sites marked in red below known as the small circuit if time permits. My favourites in no particular order were
- Banteay Srei
- Angkor Wat
- Ta Prohm
- Preah Khan
- Angkor Thom
- Ta Keo
The Angkor Archaeological park extends over 400 square kilometres and consists of scores of temples , hydraulic structures, basins, dykes, reservoirs, canals as well as communication routes. It’s a total delight for architecture & photography enthusiasts. That’s my verdict !
So, if you fall into any of the above my advise would be to give yourself 3 full days to admire the beauty of these structures , examine the intricate carvings and learn about the religious and cultural influences it held in various centuries. It’s highly advisable to hire a guide and buy a book to understand and identify things that resonate with the depictions on the walls, pillars of these structures better.
So grab your sturdiest pair of shoes, slip into breezy clothes, apply shields of sunscreen, adorn that hat and sport those Ray Bans to get you going through long days of exploring a truly magical man-made wonder.
Little did we expect Siem Reap to offer us anything else beyond Angkor but boy were we wrong. ‘Yes Totally Indeed’. For evenings there was the graceful Apsara dance followed by traditional Cambodian dinner or one could just hang around the buzzing ‘Pub Street’ glistened with Restaurants, Pubs, Bars, Massage Parlours and Street Shops selling souvenirs to hand block printed garments. Booze is less than a dollar so you could drink like a fish unless you gotta catch the magnificent sunrise over Angkor next day. I would go with the latter though !
If I had to sum up my experience there, Cambodian people gave us the warmest smiles, served the sweetest mangoes (that’s my favourite fruit so its important to me), locals invited us for a game of soccer and a 5 dollar tip was acknowledged with the widest grins and a thousand Thank You’s.
I hardly shop during my travels but this was a country where I returned with bags full not because they came cheap or were cotton(that’s what I prefer) but because I realised that Travel is also about giving, giving back to the planet, giving back to the community and it’s people where its most required.A country with a tragic past and 3 decades of war, where still millions of mines underlay farm and forest land and strike mankind everyday, small kids sell stuff only to fund their education, mothers of young infants juggle home and work to build a better future for their kids. It reinstates my faith that we carve our own destinies, that no matter what circumstances strike us, get up , show up , smile and the world seems better.
Before I visited this country , I was just a beach bum, a mountain hiker , a road tripper and travel itineraries and holidays revolved around these.
“Cambodia changed my perspective for ever and only for the good”