We generally look for the unique and authentic places for our trips; places where a lot of people have yet not stepped in. Those places give us more realistic experiences and make us feel distinct from everybody else. It enables us to fully perceive the nature of those places. However, there are places that are still unforgettable despite being quite famous among the tourists.
Exactly a place like this is Siem Reap, located in the West of Cambodia, famous for its temple complex Angkor which is one of the World of Wonders. At the same time, it does not necessarily mean that in Siem Reap you cannot explore the lives of the local people. You only need to enter the marketplace to discover the everyday pace of the Cambodians from Siem Reap.
Angkor is the biggest temple complex not only in the South-East Asia but on the whole planet of Earth, which was built by Khmer people and dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu in the second half of the 12th century. Later in the end of the century, it was transformed into a Buddhist temple. Some tourists spend a whole week exploring the temple because of its huge size.
After our arrival we were advised to hire a guide before the start of our Angkor tour. I generally don’t follow this advice and never have regretted it. Also, we were told to see the museum first where the entire story of the Cambodia and the temple is told in details. We didn’t follow this suggestion either. Without further expectations we headed off to the complex with tuk-tuks next morning.
After a half an hour shaking trip we slowly started to see the half-collapsed temples, built with sandstones and mixed with the jungles. Covered with the tropical weeds, the stone buildings leave the impression as if the nature won over once a strong civilization created by human beings. Some of the walls of the ruins are covered with green moss; some of them have the reddish color which reflects the sunshine in a stunning way. There you can see the vast tropical trees onto the temple whose roots are melted down the building walls like candles.
The unique architecture created by the Khmer people is indeed mesmerizing and impressive. The smiling faces of Buddha which seem to be a consisting part of the surrounding jungles fill the visitors with the utmost feeling of spiritual peace. I don’t think there are a lot of places like this in the world.
After getting back full of emotions the locals told us we should have at first seen the sunrise onto Angkor and only after that we should have made our conclusions. Our guesthouse owner suggested visiting Phnom Bakheng where quiet atmosphere and only few people were expected. At 4:00 in the morning we were already ready to greet the sunrise in about one and a half hour. After a short trip, our tuk-tuk stopped. The driver explained to us in broken English that afterwards we should have continued our way on our own. We were using our mobile torches to shed a light on the surrounding darkness. After a while other visitors turned up alongside our group. In the end, with the joint effort, we ended up in a place where we wanted to get, where we were supposed to see a sunrise in a special quiet. We all sat on the ruins of the Angkor temple built on one of the highest peaks and started to look for the first beam of light.
During the sunrise in the jungles we fully felt how the nature was waking up from the deep sleep; slowly it was accompanied by the sounds of different species; sunlight started to cover the temple. If you are in Angkor, seeing a sunrise is a must!
On the third day, we strolled down in the local marketplace. Probably you have no idea what the definition of chaos is if you have never been to a place like this. If you have even slight signs of OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) it is not very likely that you can survive this experience very easily. The whole market is an impressive sightseeing full of vegetable and fruit colors, variety of the sea products, the constant fuss of people and strange aromas.
But what is the most interesting and satisfying to notice is that people are extremely kind-hearted there; they don’t feel shy to smile in front of the camera; they nod and greet amicably. You will notice the same in different parts of the country: Kep, Kampot and Koh Rong.
If you want to see the market you should do it in the morning because it is a sweating heat already in the afternoon; also there are not a lot of products left anymore. Because of this reason we went to the museum in the afternoon.
I would highly recommend visiting Angkor to all those who find history and religion interesting, appreciate the wild beauty and love to see new places. I do believe three days is a sufficient time for all this. If you end up in this place don’t forget to visit the market and buy delicious Kampot pepper. If you feel even braver you can taste a scorpion or a snake. We would suggest the snake though. This is truly a unique experience.
Author: Irina Ghughunishvili Photo: Tornike Shengelia;