Angkor Wat Dichotomy

From Ko Phi Phi yesterday, we have travelled north east past the rather impressive Thailand-Cambodia border through to Siem Reap, the gateway to the Angkor Wat temples. The journey from Bangkok is very easily achievable by bus at a decent price, just remember that you may need a visa for Cambodia before you get to the border crossing, either from an embassy or apply for an e-visa online before or while you are travelling! Apart from that, the border crossing is friendly and fairly efficient.

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Tourists mainly visit Siem Reap for the Angkor Wat temples. This is readily noticeable in the town itself, the Angkor Wat temple bar being the noticeable addition to the nightlife, and there is a lot of tourist bric-a-brac floating around. However, the main attraction doesn’t fail to impress, so the hype is well justified. Before arriving, it is worth noting that shoulders and knees should be covered while going around the temples, as a form of respect for the local culture. To get the best views of the Temples, it is recommended that you get up ridiculously early to get to the park in time to see the sun rise behind the main temple. I got up at 4.30am to catch the sun rise, but unfortunately it was a fairly cloudy morning and the best i could take is featured above, which was still an incredible sight!

P1010968 Angkor Wat itself is beautiful. Some might remember it from Tomb raider, and it takes you right back to that atmosphere. Everywhere you look there is beautiful trees and buildings entwined together as a symbol of coexistence. Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. I will not put too many pictures here, so that you can go and experience the full impact of the site yourself!

If you want to learn more about the history and culture of the Khmer empire, a tour guide may be a good idea. They are full of local knowledge, very friendly and will probably go for a drink with you after a day at the site. Walking around by yourself is great too, just expect to get lost among the numerous buildings, gazing in wonder at the buildings with faces, the tress that have swallowed buildings beneath their roots, and the piece de resistance, the main pagoda. Just remember, it can get incredibly hot in this region, so take water, and start early to beat the heat!

There is one thing to take note of however while visiting the temple, and it is these little people:

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There are still a few children selling memorabilia, bracelets and trinkets within the sites grounds, often able to communicate with you in at least six different languages, and an impressive knowledge of geographic locations. While any person wants to help children and many buying something off them in order to do this, this can perpetuate the problem. If the children make money, they continue to be pulled out of school to sell items to tourists, creating a circle of entrapment. However, most of these families really do need the money to sustain them, thus the dichotomy of the situation. How you decide to act is up to you, my path of action however was to give the money i would have spent to a local charity that i felt would best help the surrounding people and economy.

Until tomorrow, keep travelling!

Emily Jemma

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