The great temple cities of Angkor

7 Aug

Angkor Wat is really Cambodia’s last laugh at the outside world – yes, the country has had a troubled recent history, but would you take a look at what the Khmer empire once was…

Angkor is displayed on the two most important symbols of nationalism – the Cambodian flag and the national beer. And rightly so – the scope and detail of the temples is incredible, joyful and captivating. Almost every available surface is embellished with detailed bas reliefs, from sexy dancing asparas (that’s heavenly lady to you), to mythical creatures from hindu mythology (7 headed horse, anyone), to whimsical leaf patterns. There are a bunch of temples surrounding Angkor itself, some of which have been left semi-restored, and it’s here amongst the giant bodhi and fig trees that the ruins come to life – huge sandstone blocks balance precariously on half fallen pillars, soft green moss carpets dim corners, and every maze-like turn is a new surprise.

We took the lazy/civilised option and hired a tuktuk to get around the 100 km square Heritage Site, which allowed for easy days and plenty of time for exploring. We’d heard some horror stories about kids selling and begging around the temples (like possessions ransomed and stones hurled at tourists who won’t dole out cash), but we didn’t have any problems, except fighting my own urges to buy something from every cute 5 yr old on the circuit. These little tikes were hanging out with their big sister who was maybe 10. All of them could count to ten in English, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai, and I bought postcards from a girl who knew more about Australian geography than me!

We actually spent quite a few days in the town of Siem Reap, as I very generously gave Blake my sickness from Battambang, and with much excitement about getting to China, we decided to fly from Siem Reap to Vientiane in Laos, get our visas, then carry on the Kunming by air as well – so we’re officially flashpacking for the next week or so!


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