There are some things that you must do in a lifetime… climb the great wall of china, swim in the Maldivian seas, sleep in the lap of the Himalayas….and watch the sunrise at the temple of the Angor Wat.
Cambodia’s mystical aura will engulf you long after your trip has ended…and resurface every time you think about it again. What is that mystery you felt while you walked through the temples, stood at its beaches or waded through its floating villages. I wish I knew… and then again the mystery is so much more romantic.
Siem Reap, where we stayed is all about entertaining the tourist in you. From the jovial cab drivers to the courteous staff at the boutique resorts and to the mischievous waiters at your favourite watering hole, each one of them depends heavily on how much you tip them…. ironically, this rich and diverse country is terribly poor and poverty has become a marketing tag-line.
Take a few hours to do some serious digging for a place to stay. There are several little boutique resorts tucked away into the city which are simple but cosy and will give you a more authentic Cambodian experience than any 5 star hotel would. If you are worried about safety, don’t be. Cambodia is very safe, leaving the odd petty pick pocket! We found a little gem with a beautiful pool and a duplex room called The Mulberry hotel where a bunch of smiley faces made sure we were comfortable through out our stay with them.
There is something to be said about not having to dress up to get out in places like this… wander out in your sandals, totter back in clothes comfy enough to sleep (read pass out) in! The pub street is a must go to let your hair down and meet people from all over the world. Every bar – big or small trying its best to lure you in. Hop! that’s the only way to do justice! Like the sign on the Angkor WHAT bar says “promoting irresponsible drinking since 1980”
The pub street is also a very good place to dig into some scrumptious food- yes, you do have the hawkers with the crème de la crème of the creepy crawly cuisine if you are into that. But otherwise, I would highly recommend the Khmer family restaurant for some good “Pho” or traditional Cambodian cuisine. If you are looking for some traditional entertainment as well while you chomp away, try the temple club on pub street. There is no need to worry about drinking at this temple… the only worship that happens here is “all hail the ale!”….
As wonderful as the performance was and the food tasted… and as easily as the drink went down, I was extremely distracted by this one beautiful smile…
A shopping binge at the Angkor night market is a must. A perfect place to pick up your crocodile heads! O yes and also the fake Kiplings!
A pub crawl before an early morning temple trek is a bad idea so make sure you space those two out.
When you wake up at that unearthly hour to make sure you don’t miss the first rays of the sun as they light up that beautiful tip of the Angkor Wat, it will seem to you like you are the only one who woke up… until you reach the temple grounds… that’s when it all sinks in… people from far and wide travelling millions of miles to see this same sun that rises in their country and yet that same act made so magical by the way each tier of the temple gets lit… bathing in golden rays the temple comes to life giving out so much positive energy as if it were a storehouse of everything you needed to recharge your tired mind….
The temples of Angkor is a day long trek and its not till I got to my room, did I realised how much my feet hurt. Walking through each of the temples, strewed a few kilometres from each other was like discovering a different world, reliving a different era, imagining a world where such beauty was conceived, carved, erected and brought to life.
Walk bare feet on the cold stone that holds the foundation to a rhythmic repetition of columns and go back in your mind to a world where life had no responsibility…where the monkey king in his broken down temple in the Jungle book sang…”I’m the king of the Jungle… the Jungle V.I.P…”
There isn’t much left of the economy and Cambodia is very dependant on textile trade and tourism. This to me seems like a real shame seeing the works of the artisans, the sculptors and the artists at the Angkor artisans museum. A little soci0 and eco friendly tourism goes a long way… So do stop by and understand the arts, appreciate the hard work and support the cause. God is in the details as the famous quote goes- after you see it in the temples, you cannot but appreciate the people who keep it alive today.
If you enjoyed the sunrise at the Angkor Wat… make sure you catch the sunset at the floating village or Kompong Khleang. I can assure you as you reach the banks of the river that will take you to the open sea, the sheer chaos, smells and ocean of tour guides will make you want to run for your life. But stick it out… buy that ticket and wait your turn. The world that floats is a world that is difficult to conceive.. where ice cream boats replace ice cream trucks, dogs swim from one house to another, children wait for their ferry to take them to school… a school without play grounds and yet laughter rings from the classrooms!
We were lucky to get a sportive ferryman whom we persuaded to allow us to take the wheel for a bit and sit on the tip of his boat’s deck while we watched the beautiful sun that bathed the temples melt into the sea…
…..and melt it did….
While you are at the pub street look out for the guy on the cycle that sells tickets to the “smile of Angkor” show or book it online, but make sure you catch it before you leave. An interesting musical theatre into the history of Angkor, passionately put together and beautifully curated by the local talent, reminds you that art does not need language to speak or be understood.
….be warned… the smile of Angkor is contagious….