My Trip to Siem Riep Cambodia
It took three legs for us to reach Siem Reap from Geneva, Switzerland. We flew into Istanbul, then from Istanbul to Bangkok, then Bangkok to Siem Reap. As someone who had never been to these places before, even the airports were an exciting mini trip on their own.
Landing into the tiny airport of Siem Reap felt like stepping into another world – a tropical one steeped in mysticism. We were in Siem Reap for a mere 3 days to see the temples and then we’d move on to Vietnam, where we’d spend most of our 2 weeklong trip.
A personal note: Even as an Asian American, I had never given other parts of Asia much thought, except for dreaming about being on a beach in Bali or Phuket with a Mai Tai in hand. Hell, I’ve never even visited my own motherland.
When you’re Asian American, you’re lucky enough to have any kind of deep connection to your parents’ homeland, let alone get to know other Asian cultures, in a country that likes to “other” you for being different. Even when you befriend other Asian Americans growing up, they hardly have a strong connection to their parents’ cultures, if at all. We were “American” and if anyone were to deny it they had best be prepared to suffer our wrath.
And because, people tend to view Asians as one giant monolith, you grow up indignant of that fact, but never quite make the effort to dive deeper into Asian cultures different from your own. All you cared about was equality and progression.
Visiting Southeast Asia opened my eyes to an entirely different Asia from the Asia I was, at best, somewhat familiar with. The ancient mysticism that surrounds Cambodia’s history and the richness of their culture is even more exciting to me than what I know about East Asian history. Visiting Angkor Wat, learning about the Khmer empires and visiting Siem Reap’s temples was a major highlight of our Southeast Asia trip.
Stayed at: Temptation Hotel (Eco Friendly & 5 stars)
I chose Temptation Hotel because it was eco-friendly, 5 stars and super affordable (only $120 a night). You can, of course, find dirt cheap places that provide reasonable accommodation for as low as $30.
History of Siem Reap
The ancient temples of Siem Reap hold centuries of stories within their weathered walls, tracing the footsteps of the Khmer Empire, a civilization that once thrived in this very land.
For centuries, the Khmer Empire reigned over a vast territory, leaving behind a legacy of architectural marvels and cultural splendor. It’s within Siem Reap that some of the most magnificent remnants of this empire can be found.
Wandering through the maze-like corridors of these ancient temples, it is impossible not to be captivated by the intricate stone carvings and towering structures that stand as a testament to the Khmer civilization’s grandeur. Each temple tells a unique story, offering glimpses into the lives of the people who built them, the rituals and ceremonies they performed, and the beliefs that shaped their existence.
One of the most renowned temples in Siem Reap is Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an iconic symbol of Cambodia.
Stepping into the vast complex of Angkor Wat is like stepping into a time capsule, immersing oneself in the ancient world of the Khmer Empire.
Here, you can witness the impressive bas-reliefs that depict epic battles, intricate carvings of celestial beings, and the sheer scale of the temple’s architectural mastery.
Not far from Angkor Wat lies the enigmatic temple of Ta Prohm, which has become famous for the towering trees that have enveloped its structures over the centuries. The intertwining roots and crumbling walls create an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue, as if nature itself is reclaiming the land and preserving the secrets hidden within.
Other temples such as Bayon and Banteay Srei offer their own unique stories to uncover. The countless stone faces of Bayon, each with its own enigmatic expression, provide a glimpse into the complex political and religious dynamics of the Khmer Empire. The delicate pink sandstone carvings of Banteay Srei showcase the extraordinary craftsmanship of the Khmer artisans.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Siem Reap is its connection to the Khmer Empire, a medieval powerhouse that once ruled over Southeast Asia. Tracing the footsteps of this mighty empire is like embarking on a captivating treasure hunt, each step revealing a new piece of the puzzle.
The temples of Siem Reap, such as the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat and the mysterious Bayon, were more than just religious buildings. They were symbols of the Khmer Empire’s grandeur and ambition. Walking through their ancient corridors and intricate carvings, the silence is almost deafening, and you can sense the echoes of a civilization that shaped the region’s history.
The Khmer Empire’s influence extended beyond architecture. It left an indelible mark on art, literature, and even the everyday lives of its people. By studying the engravings, inscriptions, and bas-reliefs found in these temples, historians and archaeologists have pieced together a narrative of a rich and complex society.
But uncovering the secrets of the Khmer Empire is no easy task. It requires a deep understanding of the cultural, religious, and political context in which these temples were built. It demands an appreciation for the craftsmanship and ingenuity of the artisans who poured their creativity into every stone.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Siem Reap’s ruins is the interconnectivity between them. Each temple, each carving, each inscription bears witness to a profound legacy that extends far beyond its individual existence. The intricate cosmological alignments, the complex architectural designs, and the spiritual symbolism woven into the fabric of these ruins all point to a civilization that possessed a deep understanding of the world around them.
You even find a carving of a dinosaur in one of the stones, and you wonder how a civilization with no modern technology could have known anything about what a dinosaur might have possibly looked like.
Yet, despite the tireless efforts of researchers, much of the knowledge held within these ancient structures remains a puzzle waiting to be solved. The secrets of Siem Reap’s enigmatic ruins still lie hidden.