"Angkor Wat - The epitome of grandeur and mystery" Angkor Wat by wen_viaggio
Angkor Wat Travel Guide: 1,635 reviews and 4,720 photos
My Jetstar Asia flight landed at Siem Reap International Airport at 7am. It was a breezy morning that greeted me as I stepped onto the tarmac and headed towards the arrival hall.
Being a Singaporean, I was spared of the visa application fee which applies to other tourists and soon made my way out of the airport. I spotted the driver who was to take me to my hotel at Airport Road; a stretch of road adjacent to the airport.
As my driver pulled away from the nondescript airport and veered slowly into a long dusty stretch of road filled with potholes, the ensuing sights were nothing short of surreal: Cows sauntered lazily among the muddy paths that flanked the road, the creatures seemingly oblivious to the traffic around them; an endless stream of motorcycles sped steadily alongside our vehicle, some had the most unusual pillion riders I had ever seen: One rider had a large rattan basket filled with pigs perched carefully on the rear seat, another had large bundles of coconuts draped on both sides of the rear compartment - I seriously wondered how these riders managed to maintain their balance on their bikes.
Another motorcycle had the whole family on it, literally: The father sat in front, two little kids sat awkwardly behind him, and the mother was seated last at the rear with a baby in her arms. It may seem like some kind of special road trip for the family but scenes like this play out everyday in Siem Reap.
And for your information, those riders were not even wearing helmets. And no one issues them a ticket. Perhaps it was because the speed limit was set at 30km/h, or the riders themselves were confident and astute handlers of their bikes. But I think it's due to the fact that such seemingly dangerous stunts (to us city slickers) are just a very normal facet of the simplistic idiosyncracies of the locals and the laid back street culture of the city.
The people are so poor that rigid societal regulations, and issues of self image and vanity take a back seat and are superseded by methods and means that allow for economical savings and efficiencies. Such a concept is effectively exemplified by the family of five on the motorcycle. Why make double trips when you can do one trip with the whole family on two wheels at one time?
The abject poverty that consumes the place really hit me hard: I have never seen such devastating living conditions in my life and this trip really serves to remind me how fortunate I am to be a Singaporean, to be enjoying things (which we have taken for granted) that others can only hope for or experience in their dreams.
I saw kids in Siem Reap taking a bath in the mud ponds left by the rain, toddlers crawling about the muddy grounds shared with cows in their living compounds and women squatting by the dusty roads, selling vegetables and fruits. Yet, despite such acute poverty, the kids appear contented; playing and running around as other kids in the world do, except their toys are not Legos or Ninja Turtles but sticks and pots. It was a rather heartbreaking experience to see such a fusion of tragedy and happiness. And here we are, people in the developed world, lamenting about our inability to achieve our material desires!
It is fortunate though, that the people of Siem Reap have Angkor Wat. This architectural masterpiece brings millions of tourists to the city each year, and in the process, pumps in much needed money to their booming tourism economy. Hopefully, as tourism becomes more intertwined with other spokes of the economic wheel, the lives of these Cambodians would improve.
As one walks towards the imposing Angkor Wat, an overwhelming sense of awe and inspiration takes over you.
I had this similar feeling when I walked into the cradling colonnades of the Piazza San Pietro in Rome but this was slightly different; the sensation was filled with an uncanny, otherworldly feel, partly because the Khmer architecture and amazingly symmetrical structure that pervade Angkor appear so original and distinctive that it was hard to recall if any monument in the world beared even the slightest resemblance to this masterpiece.
We all know that cathedrals have the ubiquitous dome and Oriental temples have their curved roofs and dragon-like carvings. But Angkor was different alright. It stood out among the other religious monuments like some inspirational rebel.
- Pros:An awesome architectural wonder! A true photographer's paradise! Adventurous folks would love this place!
- Cons:Can get pretty hot in midday so bring your sunblock lotion. A poor city deprived of basic amenities.
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