"Watching the sun’s golden rays lighting up the temples of the Angkor Wat was absolutely breathtaking and their grand silhouettes will be etched in my mind forever."
No guidebook could ever have prepared me for what I witnessed that August morning.
Being a morning lark, I made the most of my habit by arriving early at the temple complex. There in front of me, silhouetted against the rising sun, bathed in a pale pink hue stood the imposing Angkor Wat. They say peace and calm is attained from within. To them I say, try standing before the towering spires of Angkor Wat.
Cambodia happened, as these things usually tend to happen, by word of mouth. A few girlfriends of mine had returned from solo trips to the country and couldn’t stop raving about it. It’s beautiful, budget-friendly and safe for women, they said. What are you waiting for?
The story behind Angkor Wat has long held my fascination. Believed to be the earthly representation of Mt. Meru, a sacred mountain in Hindu mythology, Angkor Wat was considered the dwelling place of the Gods. Hindu? Yes, you read that right; the Angkor Wat was originally a Hindu temple, which has now been converted into a Buddhist shrine. Besides being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Angkor Wat is an iconic symbol of Cambodia and a source of national pride.
What struck me about the temples was their grandeur and magnificent size. Just when I thought I had seen all that Angkor Wat had to offer, I came face-to-face with some of the most beautiful carvings I have seen etched along the walls (some walls even have inscriptions from the Mahabharata and Ramayana across them!)
I was particularly impressed by the massive ten-foot-tall statue of Lord Vishnu, beautifully crafted from a single block of sandstone. My guide proudly told me that Angelina Jolie starrer Tomb Raider was shot in the Angkor Wat at the Ta Phrom temple, which has now come to be popularly known as the Tomb Raider Temple. I also saw many people enjoying a cycling tour around the temple complex, which I was told is a great way to really soak in the historic atmosphere. My guide recommended I try zip lining across the temple complex, but predictably, I got cold feet!
On a friends' recommendation I visited the Banteay Srei, a 10th century Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. A short, yet picturesque drive along paddy fields from Angkor Wat, Banteay Srei is known for its exquisite sandstone carvings and is a great place to soak in the history of the place, apart from getting some great photographs.
I hold very fond memories of my trip to the Angkor Wat and find it hard to believe that it took me so many years to finally make it to this spectacular structure! I may have come away from those temples, but that magnificent structure and golden sunrise will stay with me forever.
Don't Leave Cambodia Before You
Do try Amok, a local Cambodian dish. This fragrant yellow curry is cooked in coconut milk and is delicious. You can have chicken, fish or beef Amok. A vegetarian version of this dish is also easily available; all you need to say is “No meat, no seafood”.
Since Cambodia is a popular apparel manufacturer for many international brands, this is a great place to pick up export rejects at a very reasonable price. Other than that, don’t forget to buy Khmer handicrafts and silk and wooden carvings.
Flight: The Siem Reap International Airport is well connected to cities across South East Asia, like Bangkok, Hong Kong and Manila. Check you flight options here.
Places To Stay
Siam Reap has a wide range of hotels to suit all budgets. A few recommended budget hotels are Siem Reap Tree of Life Villa , City River Hotel Siem Reap and the Gloria Angkor Hotel. Tariffs of these hotels start at Rs. 1300 and go up to Rs. 3000.
You can check out more hotel options here.
Rs.45,000 per person for 7 days (including flights and visa charges)
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Destination Expert: Manjari Lakshmanan
Among other things, she is primarily a teller of anecdotes, devourer of books, compulsive writer, dog lover, daydreamer and traveller, who still takes delight in reading Enid Blyton and riding bicycles.
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