The sun started to coat everything in gold, and lay ahead of me was the enormous structure of the ancient Khmer Empire’s pride, Angkor Wat. A sudden gust of wind came sweeping a layer of dust off the surface, creating a mysterious scene to the monument as I strolled along its stone pavement.
There are just too many extraordinary things to discover in Angkor Wat, and the most glorious time when one can truly see the beauty of the temple is when the sun emerges from behind its iconic structure. Yes, photographers from everywhere in the world all dream of capturing the sunrise at Angkor Wat. I honestly thought that maybe only Vincent Van Gogh would be able to portray that surreal moment through his magical strokes, but even surreal is not enough to describe how it looks like. It is indeed worth the title, “Wonder of the World”.
Through the hallways to a maze of incredibly detailed interior of fine carvings, chambers, and statues that reflect the rich history of the Khmer Kingdom, I felt like the time has rewind itself. It was as if the immense amount of people surrounded me suddenly disappeared and I was left in my own serenity.
And that was only a small part of the cultural exploration that I managed to pack into a limited time in Angkor Wat.
I met up with my tuk-tuk driver for the next journey to Bayon Temple and Ta Prohm. The skies suddenly turned grey, but the temple still had that gigantic silhouette printed on the gloomy backdrop. More and more people slowly pervaded my actual reality, but the holly moments remain unspoiled as soon as I stepped inside the temple.
Bayon is a part of the archaeological site Angkor Thom, the second most visited temple after Angkor Wat. It is also home to the massive stone carved faces and the marvelous standing towers with steep stairs. I read that Bayon represents Mahayana Buddhism’s Bodhisattva, but it’s still a debatable tale. Inside of this densely carved structures are the bas-reliefs that reflect the Empire’s historical events as well as the Khmer’s ancient lives throughout the Hindu king Jayavarman VIII time.
Located only around 20 mins away from Bayon, Ta Prohm is another splendid site to see. Unlike any other ruins, Ta Prohm was uniquely built within the grandiose jungle, and the temple today is cloaked in the solemnness of giant roots defending their home. Seeing it with my own eyes was beyond any written experience in the travel books. And in between the ruined towers and corridors, trees are still rising through many centuries of life. I was actually in search of that magnificent root formation that was seen on Tomb Raider. It’s known by the nickname the “Crocodile Tree”.
In a total contrast of the stillness of its UNESCO Heritage, Siem Reap’s nightlife is like a wild child. The hustle and bustle of the narrow pub street will surely leave you overwhelmed. Cheap beers and dynamic food scene are what make this tiny town a remarkable break from the suffocating office cubicle.It surely lived up the hypes and even more so when I experienced it in a typical tourist trail.
My 24 hours of Siem Reap were well-rounded with a sip of Vietnamese drip coffee (I was surprised to encounter so many Vietnamese in this town).
I still remember the old villages and its dwellers, the Cambodians who don’t have a lot of assets, but they have the thing that this whole world lacks of, generosity. If you ever visit Siem Reap, try not to be occupied by your camera. The moments that you miss between the camera shutters are those that make the whole picture of Siem Reap complete. Blend in more with the local ways of life and you will see greater wonders than just the temples of Angkor.
Till next time.