At the crack of dawn, traversing the road leading from the laidback town of Siem Reap to the massive Angkor complex located in the Cambodian jungle, one gets a sense of what it would be like to travel through time.
One minute you’re riding a tuk-tuk along Siem Reap’s tree-lined boulevards, seeing a series of quaint French shop-houses and intoxicated tourists making their way home from a (presumably) wild night spent in Pub Street, and the next thing you know, before your sleep-dulled senses even awaken, the sun rises to reveal the lotus-like spires of Angkor Wat reflected in a placid pool of water. Good morning, it seemed to say, and welcome to the 12th century.
Finally alert, you look around and see a curious mix of people. On one end are your fellow time-travelers, disturbing the peace as they noisily click away at their cameras, and on the other are monks clad in tangerine robes, some walking quietly by, while others sit serenely on a windowsill.
It is a strange yet pleasant sensation, waking up this way, and it’s one of those moments you wish you could bottle and tuck away for future inspiration-boosting purposes.
A country with a rich and colorful past, and stunning monuments unrivalled in scale and grandeur in Asia, Cambodia is chock-full of these “bottle-worthy” moments. Whether it’s seeing century-old trees slowly devouring a temple, riding an elephant for the first time in the wildlife-rich jungle, or getting the most relaxing full-body massage for the shocking price of seven dollars, Cambodia gives you a host of reasons to visit the old country—and when you eventually do, you can’t help but want to come back.
Sunrise at the majestic Angkor Wat: a tourist trap, but definitely a must-see on your first trip to Cambodia.
With its hallowed corridors, exquisite apsara carvings, and intricate bas reliefs that depict ancient Khmer mythology and history, a visit to Cambodia’s most iconic masterpiece can be visually overwhelming.
…and Monk-y business. (Heh)
Often called the Tomb Raider temple, what sets Ta Prohm apart from the other Angkorian temples is that it has been left in pretty much the same state in which it was found—a series of dark galleries and pillars beautifully struggling with nature.
The striking Prasat Bayon in Angkor Thom, with its serene and massive stone faces, is definitely my favorite.
The temples in the sprawling Angkor Thom complex are undergoing different stages of reconstruction, including the Prasat Baphuon…
The Terrace of the Elephants
The oldest of them all, Banteay Srei (“Citadel of Women”) is quite miniature compared to the mammoth Angkor Wat, but it is the most ornate of all the temples.