Day 265 – 266 (26th & 27th May) – Siem Reap (Angkor Wat)

18 06 2011

Cambodia is a beautiful country with a horrific past of war, dictatorship and genocide. A county of 13.6 million and shadow of its former self, once stretching well into Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. Cambodiawas once a centre of power and trade for the Khmers during the 9th to 13th centuries, however now a market economy with 70% of the population engaged in substance farming on landmine littered land. Most ofCambodia’s population are under the age of 40 and in the last half century have been invaded by several neighbouring countries.

For a country with such a war torn and troubled passed it is incredible to see so many smiling faces and happy people. Everyone appears warm, friendly and very nice. I think our tuk tuk driver for the three days we were in Siem Reap has to be a contender for nicest person in Cambodia.

Siem Reap is a well oiled tourist machine, but is still a nice place to be while not visiting the stupendous Angkor Wat and surrounding temples. It has to be said we were very dubious of the significant hype Angkor Wat receives. Then considering where it is and how hard it can be to get to Angkor Wat we were considering giving this one a miss. Thankfully we didn’t as it very much lives up to most of the hype people give it – they’re always going to be some people who place a disproportionate amount of importance/ excitement on a pile of rocks.

The Angkor Temple complex is huge – requiring several days and a tuk tuk to explore fully. Jen and I found two days, a guide and tuk tuk worked for us without any danger of becoming ‘templed out’. We visited all the major temples like; Angkor Wat, Angkor Tom, the Tomb Raider one, plus several smaller older temples. We have been fairly lucky with the weather as it was only 30 degrees and not the 40 degrees it sometimes gets to! Plus it hasn’t been very busy – at times we have had some of the smaller temples to ourselves.

We also made it to the very small but excellent land mine museum. After visiting the museum and talking to the museum director I wanted to head straight out into the Cambodian countryside and start clearing some of those six million land mines. However, as I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, it was kind of a dangerous job, it was pretty hot out there and it was almost lunchtime. I thought it best we just make a donation and be on our way. The museum was established by a former Khymer Rouge child soldier, who during his time in the army laid thousands of landmines.

We climbed a hill to Phnom Bakheng temple to view the sunset from one of the few small hills aroundAngkor. However like our last half dozen attempts to witness the sunrise or fall behind the horizon it was a complete waste of time. As the sun slowly sank in the almost clear skies a distant storm blew across the horizon to meet the sun at the exact point it was to vanish behind the horizon.

We very much enjoyed our time in Siem Reap and could have spent a day or two longer visiting more museums, temples and markets.

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