Siem Reap, Cambodia and the temples were by far the highlight of my trip. I have never seen anything like them. It is virtually impossible to either capture or describe both the scale and the intricacy of detail of all of the temples. They are all both massive and imposing, yet delicately decorated with beautiful reliefs and details. The temples vary in their state of preservation. My favorites were actually the least preserved, the ones more in the jungle.
Everyone in Cambodia was extremely friendly and gracious. We acquired a tuk-tuk driver the first day, Mr. Sophea, who was our reliable chariot driver throughout our stay in Siem Reap. He was so cute – when he learned we were American, he put a little American flag on his tuk-tuk for us. He was always there whenever we needed him, waiting just for us. Sadly, we did not manage to pose for a picture with him.
I wish my pictures could do these sites justice, but alas, I am quite the amateur photog…
Angkor Wat: Angkor Wat is obviously the most famous of the Angkor temples, but it was personally my least favorite, and I thought the least unique. Stay tuned for my faves.
Ta Prohm: This is known as the jungle temple – made famous in the film Tomb Raider, which I have yet to see. It is overgrown with trees, and now the roots have managed to grow throughout the temple ruins to where they have become one. For this reason, I think this was the coolest of the Angkor complex, and I believe the most popular temple.
Beng Melea: Beng Melea was the most unique of the temples we went to in that it was the least preserved. There were literally blocks just stacked everywhere, looking as if they’d tumble at any time. Even more terrifying is that you can climb all over the ruins (lawyer me is screaming in my head “lawsuit! lawsuit! liability! help!”). To get here, however, you do have to go out of the city about 2 hours, but it really gives you a chance to see the rural way that people live… seems like most people have no running water or electricity. Babies totter barefoot alone down the barely-paved road and farmers wobble by on bikes stacked with reeds and leaves. It’s really another world.
Kompong Phluk: Although not a temple, this was a side trip that we took out of Siem Reap. It is a village on a lake inlet that is entirely on water. All of the houses are built in the water on stilts and the only form of transportation is by canoe or drop-motor boat. Well, we the tourists had a motor in our boat, the locals did not. I have never experienced such rural poverty before in my life. This was also my first encounter with a USAID project – a water purification station since there is no running water, electricity, or any kind of sanitation that I could see.