I’ll be the first to admit that we did not carefully plan our visit to Siem Reap, the small town that serves as the tourist hub for Angkor Wat in Cambodia. In fact, the three days we’ve been here have been pretty manic between work, handling the administrative details of life with spotty internet, “recovering” from a trip to Japan made intense by the change in weather, work, and the crazy schedule we were on, walking in excess of 10 miles per day most days. Siem Reap is a trip squished between business trips and the Japan trip, and I know that with only one day of touring, we are not giving the area the attention it deserves.
Impressions of Cambodia:
1. This place is organized like clockwork, at least as far as the tourism goes. We were processed through immigration and visas with NO bureaucracy, and done in less than 5 minutes.
2. We agree that the Cambodians are EVEN SWEETER than the Thais.. no kidding.
3. The currency here is U.S. dollars.. so we are passing actual dollars around, which feels quite foreign.
4. Khmer food is similar to Thai food, but less tasty and not as spicy. (The coffee is NOT good.)
5. With jungles all around, the air outside of town is awesomely fresh and clean (However, the town itself smells more like Chiang Mai.)
6. The temples here are truly incredible, and we’d like to come back when we are less distracted.
7. We both unabashedly and without shame can say that while there are amazing places to see in every country, we are both feeling weary of the developing world. The contrast between Japan and Cambodia (sure, not fair at all) is boggling, and we are big fans of emissions standards, sidewalks, and social services.
Regarding Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure in the world. It is about 900 years old, and took about 30 years to build. It is notable in the “switching” that occurred in the preferred religion throughout its history; it began as Hindu, then when the reigning king (King Jayarvaman VII) became a Buddhist, it was “redecorated,” i.e. ransacked, defaced and re-carved) with Buddhist carvings.. fast forward 30 years and it happened in the reverse when the next King reverted back to Hinduism.
“Angkor Wat” is actually just ine temple on the Angkor Wat Conservation Park, albeit the biggest one. Only a third or so of the pictures in our gallery are of Angkor Wat itself; the others are from two other temple complexes we visited. The one with the trees growing all over it was our favorite and popularly known as “The Tomb Raider Temple” since the Angelina Jolie movie “Tomb Raider” was filmed there. The poverty and people made a big impression on Angelina and as many people know, she has provided large amounts of aid (money goes a long way here) and publicity. Angie is much adored by the Cambodians for her financial aid in addition to the attention she brought to the orphan situation by adopting a Cambodian baby. We were told by our Tuk-tuk driver that Ang stays at the Sofitel when she visits, the swankiest hotel nearest the temples.
The Cambodian Royalty of the Angkor era was said to live a life more luxe than the pharaohs, and based on the structures, I can easily believe that. The giant moat around Angkor Wat is about 12 feet deep and was filled with large crocodiles back in the day. There are no crocodiles here now except for the stuffed ones in the tourist shops, and of course in the fancy shoes and handbag stores. There are crocodile farms nearby sourced by Gucci and other notable designers. (Ugh.)
A highlight of the day was when we wandered into a remote tower of Angkor Wat and discovered a colony of bats above us. We smelled them before we saw them, and their chirps were immediately recognizable. We couldn’t get close enough to determine the species, but since there are many here, it would have been tough to figure out.
Also, the water around the temples was full of an incredible number of tiny frogs, and their high pitched trills heightened the jungleness of it all.
In summary, a great place to visit. We really gave this place only one dedicated day, but it deserves at least three.