Our tour guide, Rocky, shared today his fascinating life story. He grew up as an orphan, having lost most of his family due to the Cambodian genocide. As a child, he spent some time in a temple, living as monk from the age of eight to ten. After that, he stayed with nuns until he turned seventeen.
Interestingly, he even had a small role as an extra in the Angelina Jolie film, Tomb Raider, which was filmed around Angkor Wat. During the tour, Rocky also mentioned Diana, Princess of Wales, and her incredible work with landmines.
He spoke today about his country and its history with passion and enthsiasm,
Visiting Angkor Wat is like stepping into a mystical realm. You see it in tourist brochures and read about it, but truly understanding its essence is a challenge. From 600 to 1400, it was a city of a million people, making it the largest city in the world at the time. Despite being overrun by nature for many years, the temples are slowly being uncovered.
However, there are still numerous hidden temples within the forest, waiting to be explored. Advanced technologies, such as satellite imagery, have revealed that there is much more to be discovered.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until the 1860s when the arrival of a French explorer put Angkor Wat on the world map.
Constructed in the 12th century by the Khmer King Suryavarman II. It was originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity Vishnu.
Over time, the religious affiliation of Angkor Wat shifted from Hinduism to Buddhism. This transition occurred in the 14th century during the reign of King Jayavarman VII.
Today, Angkor Wat stands as the largest religious monument in the world, an architectural marvel that attracts visitors from all corners of the globe.
Over the years, many artifacts from Angkor Wat were looted and taken to museums and other locations. Rocky told us about the French persistence in holding onto numerous artifacts, while the Americans and the English have recently initiated efforts to return some of these items to Angkor.
Angkor Wat itself is a breathtaking sight and exploring it was an incredible experience. The scale of the temple is truly awe-inspiring, and it’s hard to fathom that it served as just one temple among many in a city where a million people once lived.
Made primarily of sandstone, with different colored variations according to Rocky, the craftsmanship and design are remarkable.
As we strolled through the temple, I cherished moments of tranquility amidst the heat. Despite the scorching weather, the pace of our tour allowed us to find those quiet moments of reflection. Restoration work was in progress, including the construction of bridges and other infrastructure. We were fortunate that the crowd was relatively small during our visit, as Rocky mentioned that it could become extremely crowded at times.
After exploring Angkor Wat, we proceeded to a second temple that captured my attention even more. It had a smaller size and was surrounded by lush greenery.
As we passed through, we encountered a group of musicians playing beautiful music. It turned out they were living with disabilities caused by landmines, and their performances were a way to support themselves. I purchased a CD from them and obtained their permission to record a short video. The music was truly enchanting.
We enjoyed a satisfying lunch at a nearby restaurant, a delightful part of the overall experience.
Subsequently, we headed to the third temple. However, by this point, exhaustion started to set in for many of us. Rocky kindly suggested that those who preferred to rest in the air-conditioned bus could still get a view of the temple from outside. A few of us, including myself, opted for that option due to the intense heat.
Rocky shared an incident where a previous tour group had complained about missing the sunset because they didn’t explicitly communicate their intentions, resulting in a request for a refund. This incident highlighted the importance of clear communication, and Rocky made sure to explicitly inform us about our options.
Visiting Angkor Wat is an absolute must. It’s an astonishing place, but I would recommend choosing a cooler time of the year to fully enjoy the experience without the discomfort of extreme heat and exhaustion.