Getting in through Siem Reap International Airport, a really nice local architecture based complex, was a piece of cake. Visa was on arrival, one needs to pay $20 bucks for it and submit a photograph and fill up a form. We did not find that tedious at all. We took a cab into town and the driver was so good that we hired him for the rest of the trip to take us around. The cabs are generally used Toyota’s that are air conditioned. Costs $25 per day and nothing extra and worth it. Budget travelers may opt for the Tuk Tuk, a different version than the ones you’d find in Bangkok.
We went next, to the Ta Phrom Temple, where Indian Archaeologists, still working at the site, have managed to push back the jungle. It is this spot that is featured in movies, simply because of the massive silk-cotton trees that literally grow out of the stone monuments as one can see from the pictures. I’ve seen similar trees growing out of stone “temples” on the other side of the World at the Copan Ruinas in Honduras, those being the remains of an ancient Mayan Civilization. Striking similarities between two different civilizations or maybe it’s my perception and a theory that perhaps ancient civilizations had some contact between them. The aliens from space built all this, in my opinion (Just a joke!!!).
The entire afternoon we spent at Angkor Wat temple, the World’s largest religious complex. This huge edifice was built with a huge moat surrounding it. All Angkor kingdom sites have moats surrounding the temples and complexes. Angkor Wat can be grueling, especially on a hot afternoon. This is perhaps the best time, though, since most tourists are away. The huge complex needs a lot of time, a lot of climbing very steep steps.
Angkor Wat was constructed in early 12th Century (between 1113 and 1150 C.E.) with later additions. The towering temples are massive and the central tower or “gopura” represents the holy Hindu mountain called Mount Meru, symbolizing the centre of the universe in Hindu mythology. Later additions included Buddhist relief’s and a hall called the “hall of a thousand Buddhas”, self explanatory!
I’ve got to continue the rest of the story in the next blog piece. The downside of visiting Cambodia is the street kids and adults who want to sell you everything (except Angkor Wat!) and almost everything is quoted at $1. I suppose that is typical of any developing country. But, the people are very nice, friendly and always smiling and the upside to visiting Cambodia and Siem Reap is far greater than the downside. Actually, I should not even call this a down side.
We had loads of fun in this country and will definitely go back and I will recommend all those with or without interest in history and archaeology, to visit the country, it’s worth the trip, every cent of it. More details of the other sites and our experiences in the next blog piece, I’ll call that piece “Beyond Angkor Wat”.