Cambodia is raw, undeveloped, wild and real. Its rural villages and the small towns it calls cities hum along undisturbed alongside its far more modern neighbors of Thailand and Vietnam. It seems odd to me that this Asian jungle country’s most famous attraction is not simply the land itself, in which three million people were recently murdered by an insane leader, but an old complex of scattered, crumbling, not so special temples.
Some people will spend three days exploring the temples of Angkor Wat, located just outside the northern town of Siem Reap. Three days. After reading about Angkor Wat, I decided if this amount of time was necessary for some people, two days would suffice for me. Then, at the last minute, I decided to downgrade to one. Because I was getting over a pretty bad spell of sickness, I ended up taking a tuk-tuk rather than cycling the grounds. The speed with which I was whipped from structure to structure allowed me to realize that half a day is completely sufficient at Angkor Wat. At nine hundred years of age, it is understandably crumbling. But the structures which remain from its heyday are really, in my opinion, not worthy of the awe inspired by its mention. I suggest if you’re going to visit Cambodia, you can give Angkor Wat a pass entirely.
The sight that comes to mind when you think Angkor Wat are the much-photographed spires of its main temple. I found that these are not very impressive in real life. If you want to see the classic view, you need to be elevated, close up and at a certain angle. No means existed for climbing up high to capture the classic Angkor Wat view in all its glory, but from inside another temple I did get a pretty good shot.
I temporarily found a wedding party hanging out on the temple grounds more interesting than the temples themselves. Ladies whom I assume were bridesmaids were stunning in orange.
Since Angkor Wat is a temple and not just a tourist attraction, there are a few makeshift areas set up inside some of the buildings for Buddist worship. Unlike Muslims, Buddists don’t seem to mind being photographed while worshipping. I hope.
Much of the complex is currently being renovated, which actually wasn’t too distracting at all.
One very cool aspect of visiting Angkor Wat is a wooded area on the left side of the road that leads from the first to the second temple. Here, as we tuk-tuk’d past, I saw, for the first time in my life, wild monkeys! I’ve always wanted to frolic with monkeys, so on the way back from seeing each and every let-down of a building that is Angkor Wat, I stopped to play.
Truly, this Cambodian wonder is not worth the hype. I was actually more impressed with the Aztec ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico. This is not to say that Angkor Wat is a total dud, though. If you’re going to exist for 900 years, you’re probably going to end up somewhat ruined. Much of the site consists of ruins, and ruins are always interesting.
I hate to say it but my very favorite aspect of Angkor Wat was watching six small children near the exit singing a little song while using cute little rolling hand motions. Of course, their strategically placed adorableness, at the end of a long, hot journey through the templex complex, was designed to catch you at your weakest so you’d place money in their little tray in the dirt. Local logic has it that you shouldn’t give them money because it encourages them to continue begging. So of course, I didn’t, right? I’m not telling.