Making our way through the rainforest and coming upon an ancient, collapsing temple fighting a doomed battle against the encroaching jungle, it was easy to think we had just discovered a lost city. Indeed, Angkor Wat once was a lost city. At its peak it ruled over the vast Khmer Empire and was unrivalled by any city in Europe. Home to over a million people, it was world renowned for its power and wealth.
Like all empires however, the Khmer empire fell, the city abandoned, forgotten and some say lost for hundreds of years. It must have been humbling for the first Western explorers, now masters of a race that had that had been so great.
Angkor Wat covers an area of over 200 square kilometres of jungle wilderness and beautifully landscaped parkland. Luckily good roads, that outshine Cambodia economic arteries, pierce the jungle and connect the fifty or so temples that have outlived but not outlasted the ravages of time. For $6 apiece we hired guides for the day and quickly sped from temple to temple on the backs of their motorbikes. With Angkor being so large, isolation was easy to come upon, but the more popular sites had armies of vendors who greeted us with a ruckus like chickens at feeding time. This was competition gone mad; with so many touts shouting, no one message could be understood. If it wasn’t for their underlying sense of desperation we would have felt like so much prey.