In all my travels, I’m not sure I’ve been as impressed by an historical place as much as I was with the temples at Angkor, Cambodia. It wasn’t so easy to get to back then. A slowish train from Bangkok to the border between Thailand and Cambodia, and then I took an 8 hour ride in a pickup truck over just about the worst roads I’ve ever taken. And that was to Batambang. The city that services Angkor for the tourists is Siem Repp, and that was an even longer journey in a pick-up from the border.
But today I believe the roads are much better, you could take a bus. I was glad to go via Batambang though, because it’s a great little town, with friendly people and a lot of surrounding natural beauty. Also, I was able to take a boat to Siem Repp from there and that was a great journey. Back in 2000 boat was really the best way to get around much of Cambodia because the roads were so bad it was a lot quicker to take the rivers and waterways.
But I digress. Passes still seem to be similar, a three-day one was a good option for me. Less than three days probably wouldn’t have been enough, because there are so many temples and the area is so vast you have to cover to see them that you need it, and you need some sort of guide – I was in a group of four and we each had the back of a motorbike with a driver that took us from temple to temple.
I think my favourite temple was Ta Phrom, also known as the ‘Jungle Temple’, or even the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple. I was able to explore the ruins by myself, of a temple that has had trees and the vegetation grow in and around it. It’s like being a kid again really!
Angkor is set in the jungle too, so it’s not as dusty as Bagan or the Pyramids. You can lose yourself in the place exploring to your heart’s content. Angkor Wat itself is still in pretty good nick – well all the ruins are pretty substantial, but Angkor Wat itself is the place for a sunrise or set.
I haven’t been to Mexico to see the ruins there, or Guatemala or indeed any of Central America. I imagine I’d be in love with those too. But the thought of being able to get back to Angkor one day is an exciting thought. I’d love to go back knowing what I know about the place, and photograph, climb, crawl and explore it all again. To imagine stories in my head about the place.
Despite the huge number of tourists that go through now, I imagine, I HOPE – that you can still find your own little corner to escape the crowds. It’s another world, it’s like the city the aliens might have built, you know, if I believed in aliens, centuries ago.
Ahhh well. Have you been? What were your impressions? How are the temples and the roads in 2016? Please do comment, and May the Journey Never End!