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.