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.
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.
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.
It was also sad to see how while some people gave their utmost respect to the temples, others didn’t really care.
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.
Of course there are always creepy crawlies and tropical bugs to keep an eye on.
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.
Kids suffered temple exhaustion while their parents kept them going.
We managed to find some times of tranquility in the jungle, but they were few and far between.
Of all the temples, my favourites were the ones that were literally in ruins, overgrown or being slowly reconstructed.
And the temples being reclaimed by the jungle.
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.