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.
After visiting and falling in love with this country a year ago I couldn't wait to share it with people close to me. My brother and his girlfriend Katie were willing to endure the 14+ hour plane journey to come to see me (okay, Angkor Watt and the country itself may have had something to do with their visit). The only downside to their visit was that they only had a week to spare (stupid American jobs and vacation rules) but I was determined to help them make the most of it. As much as I wanted to take them to Kampot, the city where I'd be teaching yoga, or visiting my friend Dara's hometown in Kampong Cham, I knew they'd really only be able to fit in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. As I was eager for their visit I spent some time brainstorming what we must do, see, and most importantly eat, I wanted them to leave with a good impression of the country, as I had a year before.
While I was preparing for my trip through Cambodia I thought I'd check Couchsurfing for any cool hosts or people to meet up with along the way. I'd had great success with this during my previous travels in both Malaysia and Taiwan so I figured it was a definite possibility for Cambodia. I didn't bother looking around the Phnom Penh area since I already had plans to stay with friends but I did search in Siem Reap. There were a few different hosts offering their couch but one profile stood out to me. Sokhom Khit was looking for volunteers to help teach at the Angkor Tree School a place he started with his wife to offer free English and Japanese lessons to the local village children. The offer didn't exactly fit the Couchsurfing criteria as he asked for a donation in return for room and board, but I was still interested in helping.
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.
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.