21 August 2016

Cambodia, Siem Reap - Ancient Temples, the Amusement Park

For the first leg of the trip Lizzie and I began in Siem Reap, Cambodia, or as it should be known as, "Ancient Temples, the Amusement Park". Cambodia is an incredibly interesting country, one that rely's heavily on it's history to survive (with tourism now being one of its main sources of income) but also where society is still recovering after many relatively recent events that tore the country apart. For these reasons I was surprised at how developed Cambodia is, compared to my original ignorant view.

With the introduction of Indian religions, namely Hinduism and Buddhism, before the 12th century, the Indian influence in Cambodian culture is very present and at many times I felt as though I was back in Bethapalli. As with most Asian countries there are warm smiles and help everywhere you look. We were greeted by Hon, our Tuk Tuk driver, at the airport, little did we know that he was to become our dedicated Tuk Tuk driver for the rest of our stay, extremely handy for the early rises and the treks between the ancient temples. Speaking of temples...
Wow, there are a lot of Ancient temples in Siem Reap! Each temple has its own unique, awe-inspiring features. A huge photo essay will be posted shortly, once I have sieved through the hundreds of pictures I took along the way.

Going in blind, I had not done any research into the area of Angkor and was only aware of the famous Angkor Wat temple. I was blown away by how many temples there were and after the first temple I made the best purchase of the entire trip a $16 guidebook! I later found out that I got completely ripped off for after Hon laughed at me when I told him how much I had paid.

As mentioned before, the Amusement Park feel comes into play with a separate ticketing office and ticket checkpoints before entering each Ancient Temple's ground, along with Angkor Thom, an ancient city, enclosed by walls with great big gates, Jurassic Park style, in the entrance ways. Also, with temple restorations sponsored by foreign countries, due to the lack of Cambodian prosperity, it was like travelling round Disney World's Epcot world culture exposition. It very much felt like an adult playground for Ancient Temples.
Besides the ancient temples, at first glance, there is little else unique cultural things to do in Siem Reap. Touristic, restaurants, shopping and night life is centred in the middle of town and it is only if you try to break out that you are able to get a glimpse of what real Cambodian life is like. Fortunately with the Temples being far between you have amble opportunity to observe this side of society.
Nevertheless the touristic downtown metropolis is well maintained and offers fantastic food and cheap $0.50 pints, along with free peanuts and wifi in the best places.

On the whole Siem Reap is an unforgettable place to visit and has become one of my favourite places.

Having spent a day in Ho Chi Minh City, it's safe to say that I miss Siem Reap. It has a similar unique atmosphere to Luang Prabang, one where no one is in a hurry and everyone is always calm. It was a huge transition going from that to the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh.

Luke T.

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