Those Days in Ruins

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Angkor Wat itself underwhelmed me. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, that it’s not an amazing site or that you should skip it while travelling through Southeast Asia. Just don’t let the hype get to you before you get there, don’t spend a day wandering through empty temples further out the day beforehand and don’t expect a good sunrise if the forecast is for overcast weather and showers in the middle of the rainy season.

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Wandering through the temples near Siem Reap you can’t help but be in awe of the fact that they were built hundreds of years ago without the technology that we have nowadays. I was also impressed by how many countries have pulled together to help restore and maintain the temples, because there isn’t just one temple, there seem to be hundreds sprinkled throughout the jungle.

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It was heartbreaking to see the young girls and boys who had been taken out of school by their parents, using their cuteness and broken English to pressure tourists to buy their wares. I didn’t want to think would happen to these children once they grew up if they were left uneducated.

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It was also sad to see how while some people gave their utmost respect to the temples, others didn’t really care.

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When carrying food, we steered well clear of the greedy and bold monkeys, and kept out of the way of the majestic elephants reduced to ferrying people around in circles between temples.

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Of course there are always creepy crawlies and tropical bugs to keep an eye on.

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There were times where the temples (and I) were overwhelmed by tourists, I don’t think it would be fun to visit the temples during the high season.

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Kids suffered temple exhaustion while their parents kept them going.

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We managed to find some times of tranquility in the jungle, but they were few and far between.

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Of all the temples, my favourites were the ones that were literally in ruins, overgrown or being slowly reconstructed.

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And the temples being reclaimed by the jungle.

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While it’s easy to become jaded when surrounded by bustling gaggles of tourists and pushy touts, it’s impossible to forget the kindness and hope in the eyes of the locals. With such a beautiful ancient history, but such a painful recent history, I hope that our tourism and support will help them return to the grandeur of their past. A trip to Angkor is well worth it when visiting Southeast Asia and I’d highly recommend visiting the surrounding temples so you can really marvel at the impressiveness of this site, in a more tranquil setting.

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2 thoughts on “Those Days in Ruins

  1. The temples of Angkor have now become one of Southeast Asia’s most visited touristy places. When I went there in 2011 a German guy told me when he visited Angkor Wat to see the sunrise ten years earlier there were only 30 people including him. But when he returned years later there were already 300 people. And the number keeps growing. It kind of bothers me as well to see visitors who seem to not be interested in the temples or those who only care about taking photos of themselves in front of the temples without understanding the history of the ancient ruins. I wish you a better luck in your next visits to Southeast Asia’s other ancient temples.

    • Thanks for your comment Bama. It was actually your post on cycling around the larger loop out that inspired us to go to the temples a little further out and they were the ones we enjoyed the most. It must have been incredible to visit the temples 30 years ago, I can’t imagine these places with so few tourists.

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