Sally's Adventures in South East Asia
Siem Reap is a town of incredible growth and change. For example, one month ago there were no ATMs in Cambodia. Now, in Siem Reap, there is an ATM on most street corners. The ATMs distribute US dollars and are strictly for the tourists. They are also guarded by armed guards. Angkor Wat and the temples are as amazing as one would expect. Angkor Wat itself is awe inspiring but for me the most spiritual was Ta Phrom or "Jungle Temple". This temple has been left to the ravages of the jungle and temple and tree intertwine. You can see lots of pictures of this in my photo gallery. The Bayon at Angkor Thom (temple with the multiple faces (thought to be the face of the King Jayavarman VII)) is also magical. The mixture of jungle, monkeys, Buddhist and Hindu architecture is a unforgettable experience. What surprised me the most about visiting these temples was that you were allowed to climb all over them and touch anything you want to. At this moment in time it is possible to climb the same staircase as King Jayavarman did in the 12th century. Cambodia has only been open to tourism for the last fifteen years or so, but change is rapid. A friend of mine visited Angkor Wat only six months before I did and was inundated by begging landmine victims around the temples. When I was there, the beggars were only in certain areas of the town and not at the temples. Presumably the Cambodian authorities felt this was damaging to tourism and has banned them. I feel incredibly privileged because, quite rightly in order to protect the temples, tourists will not be allowed to climb over the temple ruins one day and, judging by the speed of change here, that day will come in the very near future...