There are places that leave you in awe of God’s power and majesty — like the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA. Then there are those that leave you marveling at man’s vision, inspiration and determination.
Angkor Wat is one of those places.
If you had told me a week ago that I’d fall in love with a place that’s even hotter and a WHOLE LOT dustier than my beloved hometown, I would’ve called you crazy. I did just that, though — I lost a piece of my heart to Siem Reap.
The ironic thing is that I consider myself a city girl. I love the convenience of one-stop shops like malls and massive grocery stores (don’t forget the ever-important A/C), the dependability of having a Starbucks or McDonalds (or both) around the corner, the quick transportation that the MRT offers. Siem Reap doesn’t really have those. The only mall I saw was Lucky Mall (we did most of our shopping at the night markets and local convenience stores); the closest thing to McDo was one KFC store (and there was no Starbucks–not that I missed it); and their main modes of transportation were bikes and tuk-tuks (which are similar to our local tricycles, but bigger).
What DID Siem Reap have that appealed to me so much? Yeah, Angkor Wat’s a given. It’s funny how so much focus is given to that particular temple, when there are many others in the same compound (and beyond) that are just as breathtaking and amazing as that one…maybe more! There’s Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, and one of my personal favorites, Banteay Srei. But I’ll go into those later. For now, I’ll refer to all those temples as the collective Angkor Archaeological Park.
So, that’s one big point for Siem Reap. Another’s the people. They weren’t overly cheerful, but for the most part, the locals that I was able to interact with were simple, honest and warm. A lot of them were quick to pinpoint me and my friends as Filipinos, and they’d gush on about how their English teacher is from the Philippines. Speaking of, I have to mention the fact that most of them speak decent English (aha, maybe because of their oh-so-awesome teachers? :P). That’s so important, especially after my experiences struggling with the language barrier in Korea last year.
One other thing I enjoyed there–though this is not specifically restricted to Siem Reap–was the diversity. It was like the tourists matched the locals 1:1–outnumbered them, even! I hardly felt out of place; in fact, it seemed like my friends and I fit in so well with the locals, with our brown skin. Guess that proves just how much the town relies on tourism. We actually wondered what happened during the rainy season, when there are fewer visitors.
And of course, my travel friends. This was my first time to travel with those three particular former officemates of mine all together, and it went splendidly. So much so that I’m already looking to plan our next trip (hint: we’re going local but still doing a lot of climbing!).
But this is just an intro.
I’m working on sorting my photos, not to mention waiting for my friends to post theirs, and then I’ll publish a day-to-day account of my adventures in Siem Reap. Hopefully, I’ll have it all up within a week’s time.
‘Til then, here’s a teaser photo 😉
P.S. Does my title seem too forced? I just couldn’t resist trying, LOL.