So from Thailand I went back to Korea for a week. I think I covered that place enough recently so I will skip the coverage in favor of the trip to Cambodia. I was supposed to go to or at least originally planned to go to Laos, but I decided I want to go to Angkor Wat so I went to Cambodia instead.
As in most places I have gone to I didn’t really know what to expect. I went straight to Siem Reap because that was pretty much the whole reason why I went here in the first place. It didn’t take me very long to realize that I made the right call.
Siem Reap province is located in northwest Cambodia. It is the major tourist hub in Cambodia, as it is the closest city to the world famous temples of Angkor (the Angkor temple complex is north of the city). The provincial capital is also called Siem Reap and is located in the South of the province on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake, the greatest sweet water reserve in whole Southeast Asia. The name of the city literally means Siamese defeated, referring to the victory of the Khmer Empire over the army of the Thai kingdom in the 17th century. Sauce
The hostel was pretty accommodating and almost right away I met some fun people that I could talk and hangout with. Better yet there was a pool too. The hostel had a really relaxed feel. Not only was it possible and easy to meet people it was also a good spot to get things done and really had a good mix between social vibes and letting other people do their thing. What took me off guard was just how under developed it was in the area.
Now Thailand isn’t broke but that was pretty much my measuring stick in these situations. However I just was unprepared to how under developed it was.Driving or walking down the street there would be various building but nothing ever really got going to forming a metropolis or really just a coherent town. It had some areas to be sure but it was mainly some random strip of random buildings followed by long empty strips then another row of random buildings. Coming from the airport made me feel like I was going through a distorted Vegas. There would be massive glittery hotels then absolutely nothing closer to 5 minutes to it. Siem Reap has at its center a French core that unsurprisingly is pretty well kept and is where a lot of activity can be found.
Countless looters have and still come and snatch the heads off of the statues.
Cambodia is cheap, and I mean cheap. Which is great for me, but also mildly depressing for the actual country. Cambodia has had a rough history. What I didn’t really understand before going there was just the extent to which Pol Pot and his regime devastated the country. Now it isn’t purely on his shoulders and problems and the decline of the country started way before him, but what happened under his rule is just tragic.Now I spent most of the time visiting the temples in the area. Apparently back in the day each ruler started building temples under their rule so there are tons of these things around the area. I was lucky enough to meet some cool people so I spent the whole day going around with them.
Either way the temples were all pretty neat. They were definitely different than what I was used to seeing. What is definitely worth noting however is the condition they are in. Yes they have entire families trying to sell you magnets for a dollar, but that’s not what I’m talking about. If you look at the picture below and really look close you can start to make out that the wall on this bridge is actually not a wall. In fact it is lined with a ton of headless statues. This unfortunately is prevalent all around the area. Countless looters have and still come and snatch the heads off of the statues. Here is some more reading about it if your interested.
We nicknamed this the water temple from Zelda. It was actually pretty unique. We had to cross some small walkway spanning a shallow swamp to get here. Then like the picture above shows it was just a small tower in the middle of what is basically a pond.
We spent what seemed like forever waiting at the last temple to watch the sun set. While we were waiting it sure filled up.
The next day I was by myself so I also went to see Angkor Wat which was pretty cool. The amount of area it takes up is pretty massive. I have seen so many pictures of this place. So it was cool to finally see it in person.
There are a few walls decorated like this and they all tell a different story. From fighting brothers fighting demons to the Khmer marching off to fight the Vietnamese.
Looking at all of these temples and learning a bit more about the country of the past couple days the thought of “what happened” kept popping up in my head. These structures all pretty impressive and if you look at the extent to which the old Khmer kingdoms stretched it was fairly large as well. What made it all collapse? Like always there is an answer. Colonization did the country no favors either.
I went to myriad of other temples too, at this point I was totally burned out from temples. However I paid to see them all so see them I did!
Not really sure what was going on here but there were faces on everything. Large faces.
Now I ended up staying a pretty short time in Cambodia. I had some friends returning to Thailand so I went back to see them. In the future I would definitely go to for longer. Not to disparage either country but it seemed like a more relaxed Thailand. The places I would like to visit should surprise nobody. They would be Phnom Penh first. I regret not seeing the killing fields. I’ve heard it is one of the most sobering things out there. Then next is Koh Rong because, well, beaches.
Next up, a quickie on Chiang Mai!