Cambodia: Siem Reap

Swamp lands as far as the eye can see. Nothing but green grasses, algae, water, and every now-and-then a group of trees. Then steel roofs popping out of the seemingly uninhabitable low lands like mushrooms off an old tree stump. They exist on stilts 10m above the water level with only small paddle boat access to their front steps. How any culture lives on such unusable typography just goes to show the resilience of the ancient Khmer people.

 

A local gentleman standing next to a tuk-tuk, a local form of transportation, greets us as we exit the airport. He speaks little English but smiles and welcomes us none-the-less. We are transported to our hostel, the Fire-Fly Guesthouse, where we we find more than welcoming accommodations.  Located half-way between the Angkor Archeological Park and the city of Siem Reap, we are in a perfect position to do early mornings to the park for sunrises and also return trips for resting half-way through the long days ahead without the noise and bustle of the city. We familiarize ourselves with our surroundings, buy tickets to access the park, and plan our next few days seeing temples and exploring.

The hostel rents us a scooter and for the next three days we step back as far as 800 A.D. and experience the most dominant ancient civilization of its time. 4:30 AM and I'm struggling to get everything ready for a sunrise shoot of Angkor Wat. It's dark out, the dirt roads are full of pot-holes, and I'm driving a less than trustworthy scooter on roads completely unfamiliar. Entering the park with a few hundred other tourists at 5:00 AM I find a good location in front of a reflection pool free of people and anticipate the sun as an ancient would have in the very same location.

Full of spectacular Ancient architecture, Siem Reap stands as a symbol of a once great empire.  These majestic monuments bear testimony to the Khmer's power, wealth, art, architectural techniques, culture and achievements. Unhindered by the clutches of mother nature or lost in the wild being reclaimed by the dirt from which it grew the Khmer Empire was one of the largest pre-industrial era centers of the world at its time.