Temple hopping in Cambodia: Stories in stone
A sigh of relief and excitement enveloped me as the plane touched down in Ho Chi Minh. I didn’t have a concrete plan other than getting to Siem Reap. But I knew I was going to have the grandest time.
I was with my friends and we were in search of a memorable adventure. We dropped the mainstream route of taking a plane to experience Cambodia -- so off to the bus stop we went, and bought our 13-hour bus ride ticket.
It was a great decision, because the intensely rich and picturesque surroundings kept us entertained the whole trip.
When we got to Siem Reap, we were tired but we were in awe.
Time space warp temples
There are a lot of temples to see in Cambodia. So, armed with our digicams, water bottles and a thirst for adventure, we journeyed to where the action was, or at least where it used to be.
Guided by our local companion, Bon, who knew a ton of background information and insights we traveled to our heart’s desire. He gave us the opportunity to pick his brain and learn to better understand Cambodians as a people.
At Siem Reap we were transported into an architectural masterpiece from thousands of years ago.
The intelligence and sophistication of the masters that conceptualized the structure shows throughout. Power, might and light-heartedness emerge from the artworks on the wall telling tales and signifying depth in their own beliefs.
The symmetry of Angkor Wat is astounding. Imagining it during the time it was fully functional was overwhelming -- Apsara dancers illuminating the halls with their energy, lectures being passed on from one elder to another and kings sharing inspiring thoughts and knowledge with their people.
Another nearby temple we visited was Bayon in Angkor Thom. It’s beauty and look enticed us to come in -- a series of intricately made smiling facades invite tourists to revisit Jayavarman VII’s work of art. I really love this temple because positivity encapsulated the whole area and the massive stone faces shine on the spotlight.
We continued to temple hop, and it was a blast. We got to understand and learn the transfer of power that transpired, hear stories that ruled the bonfires and best of all, we got to converse with monks as they still go to the wats and pray.
A temple in Phnom Bakheng is considered to be a “hot spot.” They filmed the most exciting scenes of "Tomb Raider" in Phnom Bakheng where gigantic roots of old trees intrusively sweep the temple walls.
This is where we had fun trying out creative poses mimicking scenes from the movie.
Exploring Siem Reap with my friends proved to be one of the best experiences I had in Cambodia.
We consider ourselves privileged to have been able to experience the glory that once was. If only we could have teleported ourselves back in time -- but alas, pictures and journal entries will have to do.
Nonetheless, to see and touch the pieces is to witness that once there was a time when a genuine love for architecture and passion for their belief carried far across the land.
So, after a few days of exploration, we packed our bags and left Siem Reap, bidding farewell to a beautiful place that will be sure to stick with us for the rest of our lives.
Where to stay
Mandalay Inn: They can even customize the tour for you. Look for Kat (the manager.) Their place is filled with warmth and hospitality. Getting a good tour guide is the key. Ask for Bon. He’s well-read and knowledgeable. He can speak good English, too.
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Ara Charissa submitted this piece as part of CNNGo’s CityPulse section. To find out what other stories we are looking for, go to our CityPulse page.