LIFESTYLE | TRAVEL

Cambodia beckons

Vioii Calvert

In Cambodia for less than three days, Violi Calvert visited artisan villages, temples in the middle of the jungle and sampled great food.

One of the places which was high on my list of places to visit was Cambodia. Recently my husband John and I did a short tour which included a two and a half-day visit there. We packed a lot of things in that short time. 

We arrived on the evening of Friday and settled nicely in our nicely-appointed hotel which is walking distance to the town centre.

On our first day, we set off to go to what are considered as “must-see-first” places. The first one is the Angkor Wat which is a Hindu temple built in the early 12th century. This ancient temple complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site and believed to be the largest religious ‘monument’ in the world. It is considered to be the epitome of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. The amazing structure was built with sandstone individually cut, transported and erected in perfect symmetry manually.  

Next stop was the ancient Ta Prohm temple. Unlike many of the other historic temple sites of Siem Reap, Ta Prohm has been left with the trees growing in and growing out of the ruins against the jungle surroundings. Such is its presence that in modern times it was where the famous film “The Tomb Raiders” was shot.

En route to the artisans’ village, we stopped at roadside stalls where we saw honey from palm trees were stirred in big vats until the mixture thickened and formed into ‘candy’ the size of twenty cents coin. These were then wrapped in the palm leaves.

At the artisans’ place, we saw soft stone and wood skilfully carved by hand. It was also amazing to watch how pieces of wood were painted with various designs and layers of colours on black lacquer, with the finished product looking like they are tiles.

The following day we visited the Angkor Thom Bayon temple complex, with enormous imposing faces. The Bayon was the last state temple to be built at Angkor. This state temple was built as a shrine dedicated to Buddha. There are more than 200 gigantic faces on the temple’s towers. On the walls of the towers, intricate carvings on the stone depicted battle scenes and day-to-day living. These carvings are very detailed and reflect not only great skills by the artisans but their also deep beliefs.

Then the highlight of the day was the visit to the temple of Banteay Srei which is considered to be the most beautiful of the temples because of the quality of its stone carving. It was built mainly from red and yellow sandstone, which was easier to carve. Hence, the carvings are deeper and more defined than those in the other temples.

Our guide told us that every town in Cambodia has a ‘killing fields’ memorial. They were to serve as reminder of the atrocities committed during the Pol Pot regime where thousands of innocent people were killed. In Siem Reap, a memorial ‘stupa’ displays skulls stacked up and visible through the glass walls.

In the morning of day three, we had the opportunity to check out the local markets and do a bit of shopping.     Then before lunch, it was time to go to the airport for the next part of the trip.  

We enjoyed what we have experienced and seen in the short time we had in Siem Reap. The people are friendly and have endearing ways.  All the meals we had were simply delicious! We are definitely going back to visit more of the other places in Cambodia.

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