While making plans for my Brothers visit to Cambodia I was pretty certain I would not be joining them for a day at Angkor Wat, after all, I had just been there a year before, I highly doubted much had changed in that time. After their arrival however, I realized that my time with my visitors was short and seeing these sights with someone would be a bit different from doing it alone. My only good reason for not joining was the $20 price tag on the admission ticket but I decided to suck it up and fork it over. While at it I decided we should pay Dara the extra costs and utilize his skills as a tour guide, something I wasn't able to do last year and would ensure a slightly different experience.
My tour of the temples started bright and early when Dara picked me up from my guesthouse at 5 am. I had planned on wearing shorts and carrying a sarong for when I wanted to enter the temples but Dara advised me that "No, not possible, longer is better", so I changed to my trendy elephant pants. Seeing as it was just me I told Dara that taking his motorbike, rather than tuk-tuk would be fine. Unfortunately, Dara is not yet licensed as a guide for Angkor (although he plans to complete this soon) so he could only drop me at the entrance and give me a few details before entering.
Even though I was just there a few days ago it's hard to believe that I've actually seen and explored the massive, world-famous-sites of Angkor Wat. I've read about the temples in text books, seen numerous pictures on the internet, travel books, blogs, painting and post cards, but now I've seen it with my own eyes. Everyone says you can't imagine how massive the temples really are and even after being there it's hard to wrap my brain around it. Aside from the well-known main temple of Angkor Wat there are various other temples in the national park, if you wanted to you could easily spend days, if not weeks exploring this place, if that's your thing anyway.
A visit to Phnom Penh isn't quite complete without a visit to The Choeung Ek Genocidal Center aka "The Killing Fields". It's one of those places you're not really sure that you want to visit, due to the graphic history and sadness, but what you take away from it something that can't be explained through history books or even documentaries. I knew little about Cambodia before coming here, but even through the little reading I did in my guidebook I was taken aback by the chilling details. To most of the outside world I believe Cambodia lies in the shadows of it's big brothers, Thailand and Vietnam. For the everyday tourist Thailand is king, the food, beaches and parties get much acclaim; to the East lies another giant, Vietnam which also get's much hype for its natural beauty and history. So where does that leave Cambodia, somewhere in the in between.
Only recently has this country shown up on the SE Asia tourist route. With a dark, harrowing past it's amazing to see the smiles spread across the locals faces. I've met travelers with mixed impressions, but if you're lucky enough to connect with a few locals I'm confident you'll fall in love.