Angkor Wat: To see the heart and soul of Cambodia

Cambodia is a land of hope. It is not large, but it is a country that stands proud in Southeast Asia, attracting people from all over the world with its distinct culture and history. For some, it’s just another exotic country, simply a place to leave cheap in a tropical paradise. For the rest, they are given a chance to reconsider and rethink their lives there. Today I’m going to tell you a few words about my recent trip to the Khmer country — Cambodia.

The legendary Angkor Wat!

So I traveled to Siem Reap from Saigon (Vietnam) with my business partner. It was supposed to be a short visit — I only had three days to spend in the country, and my main goal was to see the legendary temples of Angkor Wat. But let’s start from the very beginning.

As soon as I had landed, I took a tuk-tuk to my hotel. In Siem Reap, public transport is presented in the form of a private tuk-tuk, taxi, or moto-taxi. There is no public transport in Siem Reap. You can also move around the city on foot because the city is quite small, only the laziest will get from the hotel to the market or cafe by taxi, well, unless your hotel is somewhere on the outskirts.

In fact, the need to use transport in Siem Reap arises when one needs to get to the airport, to the bus station and, of course, to the sightseeing points.

Tuk-tuk in Siem Reap is a motorcycle converted into a taxi. They simply attach a carriage-trailer for two or a maximum of four people to a two-wheeled motorcycle, among which, by the way, even Soviet-made motorcycles are sometimes found, and we get a taxi. A tuk-tuk ride within Siem Reap will cost about $1. This is a payment for the whole trip, and not for each person. At night or in bad weather, a trip can cost twice as much. This means of transport can be found on every street corner. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to look for them, you’ll more than likely need to fight off the annoying offers of tuk-tukers to give you a ride. You can get nearly anywhere in a tuk-tuk. While the journey can get your heart pumping — normal road rules are thrown out the window — it’s a quicker way to navigate through the streets.

Arrived in Siem Reap

The hotel that I had booked turned out to be quite nice, with a great pool and a cozy room. I arrived in Cambodia in the middle of February this year. So there were not too many tourists around at the time, especially due to the fact that all the Asian tourists were already gone because of the fear of coronavirus. I had a short rest and did some work at the hotel, then went for lunch in the old town. That’s when my friends came along with other people. We had a few drinks, went to a massage, and had some more drinks afterward.

In the evening Siem Reap offers tourists a traditional dinner with national dances or noisy gatherings in the restaurants and bars for every taste on its main street. The main tourist street in the city is called, without further ado, Pub Street. What one comes across when visiting it is lots of lights, neon signs, booze, and other temptations (along with a lot of trash). A walk along this entertainment street will certainly lead to a colorful night market, where you can buy bright handmade souvenirs for nothing.

I basically spent my first day and evening on Pub Street. It turned out to be quite crowded at that time. Not as much as usual, I suppose, but still rather busy.

Discussing the best private jet models. What would be your favourite?

In general, Siem Reap is perhaps the only relatively adapted city for tourists in Cambodia. By the way, the main currency there is American dollars, which one can get even at ATMs; local riels are not in demand there.

It would be fair enough to say that Cambodia was a very different place in the late 1970s. Yet just decades ago the cities in this country looked more like ghosts. Teachers, doctors, those knowing a foreign language, or even people wearing glasses were simply killed. The country experienced “the most anti-intellectual movement of all time”. All religious practices were forbidden as well.

The reason for this horror was the Communist Party, also known as the Khmer Rouge, that took control of the Cambodian government in 1975, aiming to transform the country into a communist agrarian utopia.

Eventually, over one million Cambodians lost their lives. For such a small country this equates to almost one in five dying as a result of the regime, whether from disease or starvation. And the impact is more devastating than one can comprehend. Even aside from the destruction of physical infrastructure and loss of human resources, the genocidal aftermath created a psychological legacy that has crippled the development of Cambodia.

It is a poor country, which in itself is of little interest to anyone in the world. But it was extremely lucky to have not just a trump card but a real jackpot in the form of the ancient Khmer city of Angkor Wat. People from all over the world will always strive to see personally this extraordinary creation of human hands.

So the next day was mostly about the exploration of the legendary temples. We hired a famous rock’n’roll tuk-tuk. The driver was a funny Cambodian guy with a good command of English. He kitted out his tuk-tuk with karaoke and screens for viewing documentaries or music videos where you can turn music as loud as you want while he is driving.

The famous Rock’n’Roll tuk-tuk. Soon it will mark our entry into the taxi business. Forget Grab and Uber, use Staatenlos Tuk-Tuk 🙂

Angkor Wat is the heart and soul of Cambodia. The world heritage-listed site was built in the early 12th century and is the biggest religious complex on the planet! An interesting fact: Cambodia’s flag is the only one in the world to feature a building and it’s one of the temples I was about to see with my own eyes.

In order to really delve into the study of the temple complex, which consists of more than 70 temples, one needs at least a week. But we were lucky, for there were not too many tourists at that time and we could see the temples without any crowds or lines.

Marriott goes Mormon. Nice try

Angkor Wat Temple Complex is one of the largest Hindu religious buildings dedicated to the god Vishnu. The complex was built in the XII century, and what tourists who come here today see is just a part of the gigantic complex of temples surrounding the once ancient Khmer capital, Angkor. After the Siamese army destroyed the city in 1431, its palaces and temples (including Angkor Wat) began to decline, until in the XIX century they were rediscovered by Europeans. The grounds of the temple ruins extend over an area of more than 500 acres — that’s about 50 times larger than the site of Machu Picchu!

Angkor Wat

The main entrance to the temple is located on the west side and is a colossal gate with a width (just think of it) of 235 meters! The rich carvings, stucco decorations, and sculptures that adorn the gates give the main entrance a special grandeur, so that you cannot but immerse into the atmosphere of this place already at the entrance. Pay special attention to the statue of Vishnu, which is located in the gate tower to the right of the entrance. Its height is more than three meters, and this giant is carved from solid stone. This, without a doubt, is one of the main treasures of the temple.

Angkor Wat

There are many bas-reliefs in the temple, and usually, tourists are advised to see the most famous ones among them: “The Churning of the Ocean of Milk”, “The Battle of Devas and Asuras” and “The Battle Of Kurukshetra”. But in Angkor Wat, every corner hides something wonderful, so take the time and examine all the bas-reliefs of the temple slowly. Many of them depict the events of ancient epics, such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata, as well as the episodes from the life of the ancient Khmers, so that at the same time you can practice your knowledge of ancient history.

The bas-reliefs are located in the external galleries of the first level (eight galleries in total) and cover their walls from floor to ceiling — and this is more than two meters in height! If you rise to the second level, you will see another group of bas-reliefs depicting two thousand celestial maidens called apsarases.

Angkor Wat

The main temple of the complex, located in its center, is the hallmark of the whole Angkor Wat. According to the legend, it symbolizes the sacred Mount Meru, the center of the universe, and the moat around it is the ocean surrounding it. The image of this particular temple can be found on postcards, in guides, and… even on the flag of Cambodia. The most recognizable part of the main temple is the five towers resembling the cones.

They even say that the temple was built so that all five towers could be seen from all sides.

Angkor Wat

By the way, if you decide to visit the temple, remember to follow the dress code: shoulders, arms, and legs should be covered under your clothes. Otherwise, you will not be allowed inside.

The climb to the main temple was quite a challenge. And some of the temples are rather tall. And if you go up and down all those stairs over and over again, you can easily get tired (even if you have long legs like I do)

Angkor Wat

After strolling through the main temple attractions, do not forget to look into the library. The building, of course, is not as grand as the main temple (one might even say modest in comparison with it), but it has its charm, and the stone carving that adorns the walls is certainly worth one’s attention.

There’s also the Hall of 1000 Buddhas. This hall, built in the form of an arcade, used to be filled with many sculptures of Buddha, captured in various poses. Unfortunately, nowadays little is left of its former splendor, but even looking at the surviving statues, one can easily imagine what awe and reverence this place caused hundreds of years ago — the atmosphere is so strong here.

Angkor Wat

So we were driving from temple to temple, probably visiting all the important temples of Angkor Wat and having lunch in-between.

In the evening, I met Yan, my friend and business partner from Germany. We had a nice evening, went to the restaurant where I had a frog for dinner. Good that it wasn’t a bat.

After the fruit bat I am open to new taste experiences. This is a rather boring frog 🐸

Cambodia is a former French colony and they serve frogs there. It was the first time I tried it. And I must confess, I didn’t really like it. But it’s always interesting to taste something new, especially animals (sorry, my vegetarian friends!)

We had good drinks and then went to a bar, got to know two Cambodian girls and spent a nice time together.

All in all, my impression of Siem Reap was quite pleasant. It’s quite a nice city. Not a capital, more like a tourist capital of Cambodia. It’s quite a fun city, with lots of things to do and a nice atmosphere, still quite promising and, to my mind, good for investment.


The last day I was already flying to Bangkok. But we went to a beach club in Siem Reap, had some drinks and some food there. And then it was time for me to head to the airport and fly to Bangkok. It’s my 4th or 5th time in this country, but I meet Ole, my German friend living in Bangkok, every time I’m there. That night we also got together with another friend of ours, Sebastian, and went to the German restaurant. The last time I was in a German restaurant was 1 year ago and I ended up having a very bad food poisoning afterward. This time I didn’t make a mistake ordering some raw meat. I just ordered some nice rouladen and beer and everything ended up well. The next morning, I was heading to Myanmar. More on that in my following reports. Stay tuned.