To me, Cambodia’s real treasure is its people: they’re warm, buoyant and content with their simple way of life. Though there’s generally only one reason why travellers are drawn to this wonderful kingdom.
Cambodia is notably famous for the temples of Angkor – namely Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument on the globe. It’s even been added to the eight Wonders of the World list.
Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor Wat. Each city-centre boulevard is lined with trees and its architecture distinctively French colonial. It’s full of countless bars and eateries, where you’ve the option to fine dine or to get a true flavour of Khmer culture by making a pit-stop at one of its street food stalls. If it’s good enough for the locals…
The temples of Angkor are scattered across a four-hundred square-kilometre site. Although many come far and wide to purely admire the 1,200-year-old jewel in its crown.
Angkor Wat is many things to many people. To me, it’s majestic, inspiring, captivating. And you can’t begin to imagine just how many painstaking hours went into crafting the intricate detail of its wall carvings (30 years, apparently). There’s no way you could take it all in in just one visit, and that’s why one visit simply doesn’t cut it for some.
The monument was constructed roughly between A.D. 1113 and 1150, and was originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu. Today, its Buddhist conversion from the 14th century is still evident, owing to Buddha-clad structures on every turn.
Sunrise is said to be the best time to visit and for three reasons: to watch the magic unfold, to avoid the throngs of tourists and to escape the midday heat!
The other temples dotted around the site are much more ruined than that of Angkor Wat. For me, their disrepair adds a certain charm; a charm that lets your imagination run wild. Walls bound by the roots of trees, slowly taking more and more control over time; monkeys swinging from branch to branch. I felt like I’d been thrown into a scene from the Jungle Book.
I’ll most definitely return to Cambodia and the temples of Angkor during my lifetime. It’s my mission. If you want to make it yours too, check out Trafalgar’s Highlights of Vietnam and Cambodia trip.
This post was written by Ross Barnard, a writer for Trafalgar who loves to travel beyond the expected.