Similarly to everywhere else in SE Asia, everyone's home has some sort of store front, either a restaurant, laundry mat, guest house or massage parlor. I've learned that it is pretty prestigious to own one of these little businesses, even just selling water out of a cooler in front of your home. It could mean the difference between a roof over your head or utter poverty. There is also quite a bit of filth and poverty in the city if you so choose to dwell on that aspect. There is a lot to be said about the politics and corruption in this tiny country, but I've never really been one for politics. I personally tried to look beyond the poverty, without completely ignoring it, to the finer qualities of this beautiful place. Beautiful and HOT. Seriously, it had to be over 100 degrees every day.
On my second day I visited the Angkor Wat temples. I paid roughly $40 for the entrance fee, a tuktuk/driver and a personal tour guide for the full day. Not bad I think. I decided to get up at the crack of dawn to catch the sunrise, and let me tell you, it was well worth waking up at 4:30 in the morning. Absolutely stunning! In fact, the entire day, the entire complex of temples was spectacular. The details in the stone carvings and the sheer size of the ancient city was amazing, and so far beyond comprehension. It almost has a magical quality to it. Although I've never seen the great pyramids of Egypt, I liken Angkor Wat to their majesty and mystical origin. How is it that these places came to exist in all their splendor and perfection? Some people believe that aliens helped create these structures, which I can't completely deny, I would just rather believe that the ingenuity and imagination of these ancient people very well could have been honed and harnessed in the absence of technology, which I find in many ways hinders our imagination today. Without our technology we would not know where to begin in creating structures such as these, which have and will last for ages.
I've heard people say that you need several days to really explore Angkor Wat fully, I would say 2 days is plenty, unless you are really slow and meticulous, which I would not blame you for; Its certainly well worth the attention and time. I only did the one day and saw most of the temples, but I would have liked to do one more day on my own, without the guide, because I felt like sometimes he was rushing through certain parts to stay on some made up schedule so he would only work 8 hours. I don't really blame him, I wouldn't want to work more than 8 hours either, in that heat, for what he was making. I didn't do another day though, since I would have to pay another $20 entrance fee. If you do 3 days, they waive the third days fee, so maybe that is worth it, I just didn't have the time. Oh well. Instead, I visited a small museum not far past the temples called the Landmine Museum. It was started by a man who was once a child soldier and planted many landmines which now plague the people of Cambodia. He has made it his mission to find and dismantle as many of them as possible, and he uses the museum to raise funds and educate the public on the grave issue. It was really interesting to learn the morbid and tragic, violent history of this country.
Besides all of my touring I also just did a lot of relaxing. I randomly met up with the Canadian couple that I originally traveled with into Laos, and was able to go out to a lovely dinner with them, and enjoy their really nice hotel pool!
Cambodia was a really amazing and beautiful country to visit. The people were really friendly for the most part and many spoke decent English which made it really easy to make my way around. I would definitely like to come back for a longer visit. Maybe to Phnom Penh and the North and East. I love finding reasons to have to come back to these amazing places I am visiting :)