Last November we packed our bags and embarked on a 20ish hours flight trip to Southeast Asia. It was my first time in that part of the world, and I was ready and excited to embrace the new adventure! Many months have passed since our trip, but I still think about it with warmth in my heart. The time to share my experience in Cambodia has come, I am ready to share with you what we saw, ate and marveled at in a series of posts I will be posting over the next few weeks. Here is the first one.
When people asked me “how Cambodia is like” after our trip, I didn’t know what to answer them. Our trip was incredible and eye-opening in so many ways, but being aware of the socio-political situation of the country I find it difficult to sum up a description of just a few words. As visitors, we enjoyed the historical sights and found the people to be friendly and respectful (in Siem Reap at least). I am sure that we only got a taste of the reality of day to day life, therefore I am in no position to tell how Cambodia is. I can, however, talk on and on about our trip and how I felt while there.
We arrived in Siem Reap around noon, in a completely different world. I wasn’t able to take my photo camera out of the bag, I was that awe-struck! On our way to the hotel I just tried to take it all in, experience street life first hand, and not through a viewfinder. We had about one hour of rest, and we were off to explore! We stayed in Siem Reap for the entire trip, except one night in the capital, Phnom Penh. From Siem Reap we explored the temples and other sights, which we found to be the best option, considering the friendliness of the people and the safety of the city compared to the capital. First on our list was Ta Prohm, a beautiful, eerie temple with a landscape that immediately made me fall in love. In the following days we went from temple to temple trying to survive the high humidity and high temperatures, yet enjoying every minute of it.
We visited the main sights, with Angkor Wat being the most famous temple in the region and a symbol of Khmer civilisation (and a contemporary national symbol). While Angkor Wat was certainly the most beautiful, I particularly enjoyed the grandeur of Bayon – nothing matches its 54 towers ornated with enourmous smiling stone faces (believed to portray King Jayavarman VII).
The main temples are filled with tourists exploring, so when our guide took us to see a temple hidden in the middle of the jungle (unfortunately I forgot its name!), we were relieved to be by ourselves in such a magical place. As soon as we got out of the van, six kids (mostly 5-10 years old) surrounded us trying to sell krama (traditional Cambodian silk scarves or baby hammocks, depending on the need). We were astonished to find out that the older kids knew Italian, French… even some German! Be aware that usually kids who walk around selling merch don’t go to school, so they picked up these languages from tourists. Talk about ingenuity!
I could talk on and on about this trip, but I will refrain myself and let you enjoy the beauty of the temples through my photos. However, I will gladly answer any questions about the country, the temples or the trip itself, just drop me a line on twitter or in the comments below.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post, and stay tuned for other Cambodia-related posts, where I talk about street life, an interesting experience we had interacting with a Cambodian family and other exciting things.