Lindsay and I debated whether or not we should pay a visit to the largest religious monument in the world – Angkor Wat. As you can probably guess from from the title of the blog or some of our Instagram posts we paid a visit.
A few of our fellow divers from the Similan Dive Cruise had been to Siem Reap for the temples recently and gave us some pointers. In fact one of them gave us the name of the guide that we ended up using for our tour. It worked out quite well.
It was a great idea to visit the temples, no doubt. The temples are pretty incredible – their size, age and history are remarkable. When we were going back and forth on whether or not we should actually visit the temples the conversation went something like this:
Jeff: What is Angkor Wat?
Lindsay: I don’t know, but I think that we should go. We’re so close.
J: Are there more temples?
L: Yeah, I think so. People say that we have to go.
J: Well if people say we have to go, then we should probably go. Where are they again?
L: In Cambodia. Siem Reap I think.
J: And what are they?
L: I think temples.
J: OK, we should go.
And just like that. Seriously. We booked our flights to Cambodia. It was very willy nilly and we paid the price for how haphazardly we booked this trip. For one, we missed the last two dives from our scuba trip because you are not allowed to fly within 24hrs of a dive and we booked a flight within 18hrs. We also didn’t realize how long it took to get a visa approval letter from the next country we were heading to, Vietnam. This meant that we had to stay in Siem Reap for a total of 4 nights and we went there for basically a one day tour. Siem Reap is great and all, but really not where I wanted to be for 3 extra nights. We had fun though.
Cambodia, from what I could tell by visiting Siem Reap for 4 nights, was the poorest country that we have visited. The entire town exists, it appears, solely to cater to the tourists visiting Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. Shockingly this little town had one of the most vibrant nightlight scenes on their famous Pub Street. Almost every bar in town was featuring drink specials (beers $.75, mixed drinks $1.50) and live music of varying degrees of talent. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves a couple of nights here.
It wasn’t all cheap drinks, meeting new people and eating bizarre insects in Cambodia. We also got our temple on. The plan all along had been to view the sunrise at Angkor Wat – the most famous of the Wats (or temples) in Cambodia. Although not the largest, it’s the most well known and often times the entire complex of many temples is simply referred to as Angkor Wat. We visited a handful of distinct temples and areas.
Here is just my honest opinion. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. I wasn’t too blown away with it all. I think for a few reasons:
- Waking up at 4:30am in the morning makes for an extremely long day. We were good kids and went to bed early enough to get close to 8hrs, but still. That is a long day. And the sunrise …well, I don’t know. It was eh. OK. Fine. Definitely not great. Glad that we did it, but wasn’t the boost that I was looking for to propel me into the next 6 straight hours of looking at temples.
- Our guide was just OK. He spent as much if not more time telling me how hard it is to make a living in Cambodia and how he loves to eat dog (not his, of course because that would be hard to explain to the kids). He was relentless on how he needed both Lindsay and I to review him with 5 stars on TripAdvisor so he could continue to grow his business. I applaud his ambition but the truth was I still had to log onto Wikipedia to write any meaningful information on Angkor Wat for this post.
- The history is long and confusing. The bits and pieces that I did gather had my head spinning. Some of these places were 1,000 years old – very impressive! But they were once Hindu temples and eventually converted into Buddhist temples. That means there are some portions that are very “Hindu-like”, other portions that were destroyed because all of the Buddhas were forcefully removed and some areas that were very “Buddhist-like” and others that were a very nice mix of both influences as the King that ordered their building wanted to blend and assimilate the communities. I couldn’t follow all the changes – this king did this, then it was Buddhist and they did this and then there was another king and they built this for their sister and yada yada yada. 1,000 years of this.
- Unlike Machu Picchu, these temples really only served one purpose. They were religious monuments. Once you saw one you sort of saw them all. There are differences, yes – but nothing that required me to closely examine 4 temples over 9 hours. Machu Picchu I think captured my attention because there was so much going on. They way the people laid out their bedrooms and bathrooms in relation to the sun, third terraced farming and irrigation techniques – the unique setting on top of a mountain and the work in progress that can still be seen to imply something sudden and dramatic forced them to stop and never return. None of that existed in Angkor Way. Or at least I am not aware of it.
So, without further ado I present to you . . . Angkor Wat!!!
There were plenty more pictures that we took and posted to our flickr album, you can view them below!