Mystic Mornings of Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
Cambodia's current travel tagline is "Cambodia: Kingdom of Wonder", which is a perfect description for the country's crown jewel and its biggest tourist attraction. Angkor Wat serenely sits only 15-minutes from Siem Reap and it is awesome.
Siem Reap is a small provincial capital in northern Cambodia that has again become one of the most popular destinations in SE Asia. Having received it's name from the ancient wars with neighboring Thailand, Siem Reap was a massive tourist attraction in the early 1900's, as the rich and famous came to witness the nearby temples of Angkor. That all changed in the early 70's as the brutal Khmer Rouge came to power; however, since the late 90's Cambodia has seen a resurgence in their tourism industry. People are again returning to Siem Reap to witness what should've been listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Angkor Wat is to Cambodia what the Pyramids are to Egypt or Petra is to Jordan. It's an awe-inspiring architectural feat with a mystic aura that is both overwhelming and elaborate, rivaling the antiquities uncovered in Greece and Rome. Originally created by the Khmer king Suryavarman II as a gift to his Hindu god Vishnu, Angkor Wat was carved out of transported sandstone in the early 12th century. Massive sandstone blocks were supposedly shipped 25 miles down the Siem Reap River to help create Suryavarman's vision. The temple was both completed and subsequently damaged after the king's death due to wars with neighboring countries. In the latter part of 13th century a new king, Srindravarman restored and converted the temple to a Theravada Buddhist use, which continues today.
The best times to view the temple are either first thing in the morning or late at the day. The sun rising or setting behind the temples adds to the sense of wonderment that visitors are left with. And the complex is so massive, it's advised to take at least a full day (if not two) to wander around and see everything.
As previously mentioned, Siem Reap is becoming more and more a tourist town and is well supported by a variety of hotels, anywhere from 1 to 5 star options are available. The sleepy little town is full of markets and food stalls surrounded by an eclectic mix of classic French architecture and Khmer décor. Luckily, traveling to Siem Reap is easy via its International Airport. And for those looking for a cheaper trip can now travel easier from the border of Thailand (Poipet). Tourists can take buses (or taxis) from the border, which is only a quick 2 hours to Siem Reap. The road has been redone and is apparently quite smooth for the trip. Being able to witness a manmade achievement of such a grand scale is rare, and doing it on an amazing trip through SE Asia, it is ultimately and refreshingly affordable.
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