Amazing Angkor Wat!

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Pagngna Angkor Guest House

Flag of Cambodia  , Khétt Siĕm Réab,
Friday, December 2, 2005

Cambodia had long been on our list of places we wanted to see because of the amazing temples of Angkor. Cambodia is a nation that is struggling to rebuild itself after 3 decades of civil war and years of terror and trauma, including the four year reign of genocide terror that Pol Pot inflicted on the nation. Tourism is about to take off for Cambodia in a big way as its developed neighbours cannot compete with the treasure Cambodia has in Angkor.

Our trip to Siem Reap, the closest town to the amazing monuments was a long arduous bumpy journey. The first stretch from Bangkok to the border was comfortable on sealed roads but at the border things changed dramatically with the bus a crowded school bus type with very bad springs and a rough unsealed road. the journey from the border can take anywhere from 6 hours to 10 hours and it is anyones guess what it will be! We were lucky and did it in the 6 hours but others at our guest house had the 10 hour horror 2 days later due to rain making the roads treacherously slow.
SCAM ALERT: travellers using this border crossing need to be alert that the bus operators will take you to a money changer to convert your cash to the local currency Riel (with a big commission to them which you pay by the poor rate given) on the premise that other currencies are not accepted and the banks are most likely to be closed in Siam Reap. The banks, some with nil commission, will be open (Not Sunday) and US $ are accepted nearly everywhere and Baht a lot of places.
We were ever so grateful to have a meal and a comfortable bed (and hot water!) after our journey, in a guest house for only $6 US a night. We were partially caught by the scam and had changed some money into the Cambodian currency (Riel) at the border, as a safe guard, but found when we arrived everything is priced in US Dollars and it is expected you will pay in US$. We find this very annoying but have to go with the flow. There are NO ATMS at all in Cambodia which posed a bit of a problem for us as it has been our method throughout our whole trip of obtaining the countries currency. The only method available is to go to a bank and fill out an application for a cash advance and take the money in US Dollars.

Next day after breakfast at our guest house we eagerly set out to start our exploration of the temples of Angkor. They are very spread out and the method we used to get around was to be towed in a trailer hitched to the back of a motorbike! We had the same driver who worked out of the guest house for the three days we spent exploring the temples and he would wait out the front for us, at each site, until we were ready to move on again.

It was a whopping $US40 each for a 3 day pass but worth every bit of it. The pass has a laminated passport photo (we supplied), all very flash for a country that is just getting the feel of tourism.

The first glimpse of the main temple, Angkor Wat, is breathtaking but you very soon become aware that the temples are ALL breathtaking and all very different and require a lot of exploring time.

The mighty Khmer Empire, which during the 9 nth to 14 nth centuries ruled much of what today is Vietnam, Laos, Thailand as well as Cambodia, built many extraordinary temples and monuments unrivalled for scale and grandeur in any parts of the world we have so far seen. The hundreds of temples that remain are only part of a huge administrative city probably the size of New York. The rest has long since decayed because only the temples were made of stone.

What is so fascinating about the temples of Angkor is that the jungle has taken over and they appear to be slowly swallowed up by nature. There are some major restoration efforts afoot(including tree felling) so we feel very privileged to be seeing it the way it is now.

Over our three days we saw about 10 temples of the 100 or so, including the amazing Angkor Wat, which is the worlds largest religious building. It has been described as "one of the most spectacular monuments ever conceived by the human mind". well it is mind blowing to see it!

We had some favourites though other than the main one. The Bayon with its 216 huge carved faces that seem to be watching over you with a gentle fatherly smile was one. The temple that really sent shivers down the spine as being something truly special was Ta Prohm. This was recently the set for the movie "Tomb Raider" with Angelina Joile. The jungle that has encroached on this temple has not been cleared and you feel like an explorer discovering it for the first time as you wander through tumbledown corridors with huge tentacle like tree roots wrapped around stone carvings, and pushing through walls. According to inscriptions that have been found describing day to day life of this temple it took 80,000 people just to maintain the building!

To cap of the whole experience, we took a hot air balloon ride to view Angkor Wat from above. We both feel that visiting the temples of Angkor rate up there as one of the best experiences of our travels.

Footnote: Angkor Wat, Angkor, Cambodia is an official Finalist in the New Seven Wonders Of The World listing and is UNESCO World Heritage listed. The site also featured in the book Unforgettable Places To See before you die.
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