My trip to Cambodia defies description. All that I have seen and lived through this year had prepared me for my experience here. Had I gone to Cambodia first or in a different stage in my life, I might not have stayed the 5 days I did. It is a very difficult place to accept, like China and Vietnam, the people are very poor. Living conditions are like none I have ever experienced, yet, I loved all these places.
Cambodia distinguished itself in that it has the Angkor Wat area, Angkor is made of a group of monuments different in style, origin and culture. They cover a span in history from the 9th until the 14th century. The monuments are stretched over 142 square miles (or 230 square kilometers).
There is no way a person can see the entire area in a mere 5 days. We decided to see the top few and learn as much about them as possible in our short time.
To do this we hired a government guide, Solin who also happened to be female, the youngest guide of all. She was delightful and very knowledgeable. To qualify for the job, she first had to spend two years learning English, than take several very difficult exams about the history and statistics of the Angkor area. She was filled with valuable information.
In addition to our guide, it was necessary to hire a driver too. Apparently it is still somewhat dangerous to travel in Cambodia. There are mines and bandits. The mines are being gathered back up these days. At one time it is said that there were 10 million land mines in the country, one for every man, woman and child in the country.
The bandits are known to travel the road at night. It is particularly unsafe to travel then, it addition to the fact that the roads are terrible. Sometimes the bandits like to become pirates, they have been known to board cruise boats headed to and from Phnom Penh and rob, maim and/or kill the passengers.
Cambodia reminded me of what the Wild West once was. Instead of stage coaches and trains they have motor scooters and cars. Based on these facts, Shelli and I didn’t have any trouble paying a driver to take care of us and keep us in a safe area.
To enter the Angkor area, tourist must pay $20 a day, or get a 3 day pass for $40. The pass comes complete with your personal photo encased in plastic. I guess they figure to hinder the black market sale of passes by being this formal.
Still I was a little put off by the price, but as I stated before, we were here now. What’s another fee?
We purchased our passes and decided to go to Angkor Thom to hopefully bypass the crowds. Most people go to Angkor Wat in the morning and Thom in the afternoon. It seemed like a good plan.
Angkor Thom translated means the Great City. The enclosure is a big square area whose sides are 3 kilometers long. The moat surrounding the city is 328 feet (100 meters) wide. The temple was built 1050-1066.
Inside Thom are Hindu temples with huge images of the gods and massive bas-reliefs depicting daily activities. As a tourist, I was amazed that I was allowed to walk around within the temples freely. It is impressive.