Longterm plans were to travel to Taiwan and stay for 3 months. My intentions were to check out different cities with the view of staying longterm. Taipei, the capital in the north of the island, was not for me as I like smaller cities and a slower pace of life. The north was too cold and damp, even in spring, though I suspect the summers would be stifling in this densely populated city. So having moved south to escape the misery of the temperature, I arrived in Tianan. It became apparent, this previous capital city was not going to be much better, though on days it was warmer, though even when the sun shone, a rarity due to the pollution filled sky, this also was a grey, gloomy, ugly city.
The mystical Angkor Wat complex is made up of hundreds of crumbling temples. Even me who’s not much of a fan of ancient ruins, couldn’t fail to stand back and absorb the magnificence and magnitude of this enormous site. I chose a one day tour which I crammed into 4 hours including my drive to and from my guest house and around the massive complex.
First stop Angkor Thom which was an inner royal city built around the 12th century. Known for it’s temple grounds and towering Southern gate, it’s littered with a number of pagodas and temples included the faces of Bayon temple, Elephant Terrace, Leper King Terrace. The sheer size of this and the Royal Palace are breathtaking.
The place was heaving with people and 100s of tour groups, mainly Chinese, guides waving flags, cameras clicking, people pushing and shoving to get the best angle. Not really enjoyable. Plus the temperature hit the mid 30s by 10am, so I rushed through.
Next stop was Ta Phrom (temple used in the film Tomb Raider. Press here for more information) which felt like a lost temple being eaten up by the jungle with huge trees letting their massive roots sneak up, attach and interwine themselves to whatever they could smother. More stone pillars, carvings and corridors There’s a short walk to the temple and out and the route is littered with children trying to sell local trinkets, women holding babies begging and landmine victims playing local Khmer music. These kids need to be in school, but as tourists feel emotionally pulled to give money they are helping to perpetuate the cycle of poverty. Please please don’t give money.
I’d managed at great speed to get through both sites so my final one was Angkor Wat. By this time I’d had enough. How many more dirty ruins could I manage and being surrounded by groups of Chinese people. We drove round the huge moat which is 3km long and suddenly through the trees I caught my first glimpse of the great Angkor Wat, one of the 7 wonders of the world. Finally I felt enthusiastic.
Off I went down the long walkway, under the blazing mid day sun, crossing the moat gazing at the reflection of this magnificent temple in the water. This is far better preserved and full of carvings, walk paintings, corridors, pillars. Even so I did a quick walk round, took my photos and started the long walk back along the walk way to my tuk tuk.
I’m glad I made the visit as I would have felt pretty stupid travelling to Cambodia and not making the time. But I really don’t get the rush and passion I’ve read in the reviews on TripAdvisor. And that’s OK as I get so much more from other things as you’ll know reading my BLOG.
In case any of you runners are interested the Siem Reap Marathon finish line faces the entrance to Angkor Wat. What a magnificent scene to end with. Apply now for 2015 August’s race!
** March 2017 update. Marathon moved to December in the dry season.