I had no expectation from Siem Reap and thought about it as just another stop, it was a long journey if I wanted to go directly from Phnom Penh to Bangkok. I decided to stop in Siem Reap and then think about the next leg of the journey. I was also excited to meet my host in Siem Reap and looking forward to the local experience but it did not go as expected, my host was working in a hotel and he gave me room in the hotel which was nice of him. I felt sometimes he was not genuine, stories he had created might have worked with other tourists but I could sense the cunningness hidden in his politeness anyways I planned to stay there for few days and check out the surroundings. I read about Angkor wat a must see place in the area, it is one of the old temples in the area. I also liked the local Amok dish, It was like a thai curry but little different in taste.
Hotel arranged a tuk-tuk for me the next day for the short tour of the near by temples. Renting scooters was not allowed on international license so I had no other option. Tuk-tuk driver(S) was a wonderful guy. S suggested to go Angkor wat first and then rest of the temples but I asked him if we can go there last to which he said sure. First temple we stopped at was bit of hike from the parking lot and S joined me instead of waiting in the parking area. I asked him about his family and he was married had a 8 months old baby girl. He was young about mid twenties. I was surprised by the first temple, it was ruins of an old temple built on the top of a hill which overlooked a water stream on side. It was fascinating, there was some restoration work going on one side of the temple but the old stones, architecture was fascinating. It was about 10 am and it was sunny and hot. Best part was no one was there when we reached the temple, we met few people going up on our way down to the parking lot. Over the next six hours we visited various temples, they were in all different sizes and architecture and were spectacular. I really loved the second last temple of the day, it had an amazing aura, old black stones and green grass in patches. I was suddenly feeling I have been transported to the 10th century. It was quiet and no one in the temple. I lost S as I was wandering around and this temple was big. I sat in one of the corner for a while, surrounded by the magnificent structure and marvelous architecture around and tried to imagine how lively this exact place would have been 1000 years ago, how sacred for the people and they would performed the daily rituals here. I was sitting in a place which connected me with 10th century, It was an amazing feeling. Whole day I was fascinated by the historical beauty. One of the temples which I liked a lot was where they have let the trees grow and you can see the gigantic roots of the trees take over the walls of the temple. It was artistic nature at its best.
We reached Angkor Wat which is considered to be the biggest temple around the area and honestly I did not enjoy it as much as I did the other temples earlier during the day and the main reason was people, it was way too crowded and loud. Angkor Wat itself is spectacular, it’s grandness amazed me and I was able to find quite spots as well but not for a extended period of time. I am bothered by people who just take pictures and don’t even spend a minute in stillness to observe the beauty of the place. I am sure they can find better ones if they spend a little time on google, ok I end my rant.
When S dropped me back to the hotel in the evening, I was very tired. Temples were big and had to walk a lot and climb lots of stairs on a hot day. I know I am trying to cover up my fitness but you get the point. I asked S about the next day and plan was to start with Sunrise at Angkor Wat at 5am and he said sure and tell the hotel. I told him forget the hotel you tell me how much will you charge, then he told me that he has to pay commission to the hotel even for today he will not get all the money, I was surprised and not happy about it. I told him forget about the hotel tomorrow we are going on our own.
I was hoping that Sunrise at Angkor Wat would be less crowded but I was wrong, it was not as crowded compared to evening before. The sunrise was mystical over the temple building, it was magical to witness the place going from darkness to light at a centuries old temple. The temples the following day were a bit far away and as S was driving me around, it was amazing to see greenery all along the roads. Few locals had parked their scooters along the road and were spending time under the shade of tree next to a river, laughing and talking with their loved ones.
I was mesmerized by the beauty and calmness of the Cambodian temples and wish had more time to explore and read about them but it was time to head up north to a new country.