The first 3 days in Cambodia we spent in Siem Reap, the second largest city. This area is home to the hundreds of temples built between the 9th and 14th centuries. Wehired a guide for the day, as we did not do our research and thought we would get more out of it with some local help. For 50 USD, we hired tuk-tuk driver, Mr. Son, and a guide, Johnny to show us the sites. Johnny learned English while living in a UN camp as a child (as it turns out, most Cambodians have experienced living in a refugee camp – the lucky ones lived in ones run by the UN) Johnny was a great guide. He was very informative without being boring. He was our age, which meant we could also connect on a personal level. He told us stories about meeting his wife, his frustration at the corruption in government, as well as sharing information on the latest styles of shoes (he preferred Adidas). But I digress – We started off watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat. This involved getting up at 5:00 am (and for anyone that knows me, they also know how much of a hardship this was! And I didn’t even put on any makeup!) Angkor was a sight to behold. And it is impressive. I have only seen it in books, and in person, it blew my mind.

We also saw a number of additional temples, all unique in their own right. The Khmers were true craftsmen…the carvings were so intricate and detailed, featuring Buddah, mythological stories, folk tales, and the beautiful Apsara dancers (boobie ladies). Many of the temples were completely abandoned and only “rediscovered” in the 1800s. Some have been overtaken by large trees. I think we both enjoyed the temples further away from the tourist trap…where you could really see the them without obnoxious tourists getting in the way (of which there were many, sadly).

Some additional tidbits:
– Angkor Wat remains the largest religious structure in the world
– the temples were designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 1992
– the temples are still used by the monks for prayer and ceremonies
– Entrance fee for 1 day = $20 US, 3 days $40
– this money does NOT go to preservation, but to a private company
– restoration is funded by UNESCO and 12 foreign countries, not the Cambodian government
– theft and looting of statues (or just their heads) is commonplace…items are most often purchased by Westerners through routes in Thailand
So anyway, we spent 2 days exploring these structures and it was fantastic.
And after a hard day’s work we settled down for some local brew…