Siem Reap, Cambodia
Home of the Angkor Wat temple and the Khmer people, Cambodia is a country with a deep history. It is the middle man of Southeast Asia and the country on an SE Asia itinerary you’re probably most likely to get food poisoning in because of its overall poor state.
However, its rich history and humble lifestyle are the reason it sticks out to many travelers. To be honest, I was among those nervous about visiting Cambodia because of the warnings about food and conditions I had heard from others. To my pleasant surprise, though, I haven’t felt unsafe or uncomfortable, and have even felt more welcomed in parts of Cambodia than I did in many parts of Thailand. Granted the guesthouse James and I stayed at was unique in that the owner, Lisa, went out of her way to do anything we needed. But even still I have experienced nothing but wonderful hospitality anywhere I’ve been since arriving. Immediately after landing in Siem Reap, we were greeted by a tuk tuk from our guesthouse who kindly took us to where we needed to be and then we were given ice tea at check-in. It was then I wondered why I had ever been nervous about my visit to Cambodia.
Our visit to Angkor Wat and the Angkor Archaeological Park was incredible. While it was an early morning, starting at 4am, we had the experience of seeing the sunrise at the famous temple. The sunrise was a bit underwhelming since it was cloudy but the temple itself was magnificent. I was in complete awe at how old the structure was, having been built in the 12th century, yet how well preserved it was. The amount of detail still in the walls and rooms still so clearly marked made it feel so alive, despite its age.
We checked out a few other temples in the ancient city of Angkor as well, including the Bayon temple. While not as preserved as Angkor Wat, they each had very distinguishable and unique features. I remember the faces carved in the tall stone at Bayon and how strikingly clear they appeared to me. It was amazing to see how even after the hundreds of years that had passed, the detail of these temples could still make such an impressive impact.
For me, Angkor was a reminder of human potential when we put our minds to something and come together to accomplish it. Despite the hardship of building all of these strong yet intricate structures without any modern day technology, the ancient people were able to create temples that are ageless and still awe-inspiring to the modern day world.
The rest of my time spent around the city of Siem Reap wasn’t noteworthy, mostly because it is small and mainly consists of tourist shops and restaurants, but it was still an eye-opening experience being able to explore a city so poor, yet so accommodating and proud.