A Moment to Take it in: Angkor Wat

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Men swarmed the bus asking if we had visas and Thailand’s departure cards. I had read about the scams to be wary of at the border yet we still were tricked into paying for a lost departure card.

We exited the Thailand border walking along a dirt road towards Cambodia. The street was filled with cows pulling wagons, make-shift tractors, and children begging. I felt I couldn’t flee the chaos quick enough. I hadn’t read much about Cambodia and was unsure what to expect. This was quite a welcoming into the country. 

 

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Could you blame me for being surprised when we both made it into Cambodia? Customs really was quite the ordeal!

Our first stop was Siem Reap with plans to spend the next three days touring the famous Angkor Wat.

At 4:30 a.m we were expecting our tuk-tuk driver Johnny to be waiting outside our hotel but instead we were greeted by Ta. He could see the sleepiness in our eyes but he looked ready to go. There wasn’t much conversation before we hopped in and headed towards Angkor Wat for sunrise.

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It was completely dark. We tried not to stumble as we followed the crowd to the front of the temple, Angkor Wat. A mass of people were already strewn along the pond, preparing for the perfect picture.

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I knew very little about Angkor Wat and the city it’s in, Siem Reap, before going there. Angkor Wat is the name of the biggest temple complex but then there are like a zillion more temples and structures scattered throughout the jungle.

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Every angle, every wall, every room is so unique. The details of the entire place is out of this world! Not to mention the fact that it’s sooo old! We’re talking like 900 years old! And it’s still in relatively good condition.

Since there are so many temples the dates really range from when all the structures were built from the 9th-13 century AD!

Hours later after walking through Angkor Wat we were feeling very hungry. We wandered toward the food only to be greeted with tweens and young children leading us towards their table. Each table was labeled with a popular name, like Lady Gaga, where we ate, or Harry Potter. James’ favorite was James Bond: License to Coffee …

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Next, Ta bought us to Angkor ThomThis was one of our top three favorites! It has a minecraft resemblance but when you truly stop and look at the details you’ll noticed perfectly carved faces. 

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It wasn’t only the size or intricate details that we loved about this temple. We were able to wander basically anywhere we wanted. Up and down stairs, in and out of rooms. It was just empty enough for us to feel like we were starring in our own Indian Jones movie.

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The rest of the first day consisted of several more temples. All differing in appearance. Tour guides would line the outside of the temples yearning to share information. Although we never paid for one, it was interesting to notice other groups that had guides. The guides would rarely be speaking in English more often giving tours in Spanish or French, fluently.

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Phimeanakas Temple

 

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Can you even imagine the time and energy that was spent to build these phenomenal structures? One guide pointed to the mountain where the stones were collected to build the temples. It was so far away! He said they used elephants to drag the stones miles and miles.

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The mountain is past the tree line — it’s too sunny to see. It’s really far away!

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There is a huge wall around the entire main complex with only four entries. This structure is located on each side of the wall, north, south, west, east.

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These adorable kids were busy playing on the temple stairs, lost in their own imagination as their moms were busy hustling and their dads, probably driving tuk-tuks.

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The finale for the day was the temple where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed. It’s been a long time since I’ve watched it but the trees definitely looked familiar.

Out of all the temples we saw this one had collapsed a lot. There were signs showing future renovation projects but the fallen walls made it have more of an authentic feel to it.

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It was a busy day with a lot of temples. We were completely exhausted after sunrise and the amount of walking we did so we called it a day. Ta arranged to pick us up the next day for a 50 km ride to see a waterfall and rock carvings.

Sadly the waterfall was crowded with high school students on some sort of field trip. They were enjoying the cold water and taking endless amounts of selfies. Unlike most waterfalls, this one was not serene that day.

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After the long drive through the countryside, we stopped at one more temple for the day, Banteay Srei. Each intricate carving had a story. Although small in size this structure was really incredible!

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Instead of going back to the temples on our third day we decided to take a break and check out Siem Reap. We winded through the maze of the local market bumping into people and trying not to knock down piles of clothes and shoes.

Imagine working in an overheated, crowded area for hours and hours. It’s a dark, claustrophobic area that had a damp feeling. People were happily working or chatting. Murmuring the occasional, “You buy something lady? What you need today?” I don’t think I could handle working there.

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We also wandered through one of the temples in the town. Every structure seems to have a lot of significance or moral or tale. It isn’t built just because. It’s built for a reason. Can you interpret the meaning/story of this one?

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For our third and final day at Angkor Wat we planned on seeing the sunset. We went to Pre Rup one of the last main temples we wanted to see. Although there wasn’t much of a sunset it was the perfect way to end our time in Angkor Wat.

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After snapping picture after picture we both put our cameras down. I think we realized it at the same time, these were our last moments at Angkor Wat.

We had spent just three days wandering through this mysterious place. We walked where people of the past once walked. We climbed stairs that were built by the hands of hundreds, and admired an unknown world. It felt like leaving with unanswered questions. I wanted so badly to go back in time for a day to see the occurrences of this place.

I wanted more than a photo to capture the scene. I wished everyone I love was standing by me experiencing this very moment with me. The stillness of the warm air. The light changing in the sky. Cows quietly grazing. An old ruin unimaginably placed in the grass.

I was nearly feeling complete bliss but then felt sad. Knowing some of those people I wish were with me would never see what I was seeing. Never experience what I was experiencing. Words could never do justice to such an incredible place.

Here I was, creating lifelong memories and it almost felt too selfish to completely enjoy it. I could only beg myself to remember this moment. Not let it get lost on life’s rollercoaster of events. Hopefully everyone will find a moment where the air is still, time stops, and it feels like complete bliss.

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