0049 The Coolest Ruins in the World (Cam 001—new)
Siem Reap Travel Blog› entry 21 of 58 › view all entries
Day 037: 14 hours, 16.7 kms
Next day is another long bus ride on partly dirt road, through pure, untouched Cambodian countryside. Angkor Wat is a tourist trap and a bit off the main route drag to Thailand, but I know I can’t be so close and pass it up…
We reach the outskirts of Siem Reap, which is a sprawl of freshly built hotels and tourist oriented shops, laid out in a sloppy fashion-- a stark contrast to the surrounding countryside… I quickly find a place to stay and head off towards Angkor Wat, hiring a guy on a scooter for 5 dollars to get me around to the sites as quickly as possible. Not my typical way of exploring, but I’m on a tight schedule, and I want to make sure I see all I can before nightfall…
Foolishly, I leave my guitar behind, figuring I’ll just focus on exploring… So I miss the opportunity to take some really cool video clips in front of The Coolest Ruins in The World.
For the next couple of hours, I am Indiana Jones, scurrying from temple to pyramid to tree eating a temple… to mysterious pillar with four faces in the middle of the jungle… It’s truly an adolescent fantasy come to life…
I’ve seen some pretty cool ruins in my lifetime… Ephesus in Turkey… Monte Alban in Mexico… Saqsaywaman in Peru… But Angkor Wat easily outshines them all. Why?
First of all, it’s in the jungle, and you don’t generally think of jungle civilizations as great city builders. Then there’s the blend with the natural landscape—in places the trees are literally eating up the temples. And the particular style of the Angkor civilization that from a distance, a temple might look like a mound of rocks… but on closer look, it’s a stunningly complex structure intricately designed.
Finally, just the fact that this civilization seems so underappreciated. We all learned about the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans in school… but never is the Angkor civilization even mentioned in school history books.
And in my opinion, their accomplishments rival those of the better known ancient civilizations.
I save the main temple district, the actual “Angkor Wat” for last-- and it actually feels like a bit of an afterclimax-- it has more the feel of a sprawling tourist attraction… I do enjoy the bas relief carvings and inscriptions along the walls that depict the history of this amazing, under-appreciated ancient empire.
While resting on one of the stairways entering the temple, I’m joined by a couple of Cambodian fellows who want to chat.
Over on the side of Angkor Wat is a monastary complex… I hear chanting, so I go to observe and listen, and immerse myself in the atmosphere…
Finally it’s time to head on back… and bring this extraordinary day to a close.
But I still have a few more pleasant surprises waiting for me. One is an all you can eat Thai buffet-- but this one is a bit different… all the food is raw… you select what you want, take it to your table and on a personal little stove, cook it yourself! I only wish the waitresses were a bit more helpful-- I was afraid that I’m going to give myself food poisoning or something by not cooking the seafood right!
…And then, while passing a store, the uniformed security guard comes over and begs me for a song… I concede, then give him a turn at the guitar-- and he plays a couple of English and Cambodian pop songs… More people gather around, and we soon have a nice little late night impromptu concert going on…
A great way to finish off my too short visit of Cambodia…
Day 038, Bangkok, 14 hours, 7.
For my next day’s adventures, go back to entry 0037, “My Second Visit to Bangkok”