Ancient Temples Playground – Siem Reep, Cambodia

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-This took place APRIL 2018.-

He’d decided to travel for one more month before working at summer camp.

When departing Malaysia, an airline attendant stopped him upon entering the terminal for the first time to ensure his carry-on was below the maximum allowed weight (it never had been an issue). This time when it was an issue it was heavily packed – 9 lbs overweight. The Californian transitioned back to the kiosk and stood in line to check the bag when he thought, “I don’t want to be bested, I have done this in 10 airports so far.”

He headed to the bathroom and started loading up: all of his jacket pockets filled with toiletries and food, his shorts beneath his pants, his iPad tucked into his waistband. He again approached the terminal and passed successfully with his bag weighing the exact max weight. Success.

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He flew to Cambodia, the most empty fly-in feeling of any place yet. Siem Reep was a city but not in a traditional sense of feeling established. Construction took place on every other block as the town slowly continues to grow its tourism sector in response to travelers flocking to the famous Angkor temples. A river flows through the city providing a pleasant walking grounds. Lights and markets and bars keep different parts of the city alive throughout the night, though the majority rests in darkness.

 

The river and lights offered a mellow stroll in the night air. Cutting in to the city he was met with a different more aggressive vibe. His crotch was groped by an ambiguous prostitute and he was offered drugs multiple times within a single block on Pub Street (all offers declined).

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At one time in history, Angkor was the largest metropolis on earth. It is a wonder of the world and it is fitting of it. This is one of the coolest man made areas he’d been, in addition to Petra in Jordan and the Hoover Dam in Nevada.

While on Kapas island, he met a woman whom he went snorkeling with. Before he left Kapas she mentioned she was headed to Cambodia next week and to message her on Instagram if he would be around as well. And so he did, and they met, and he took his first every tuktuk ride to Angkor.

 

The sites contained little signage. The magnitude and attention to detail on the stone  spoke loudly enough. Ornate designs on pillars and walls, assembled and fallen, lay all around them. The wet climate produced moss and growth that added the the oldest urban decay he’d ever seen.

 

Lunch took place near the center of the site under a conglomerate of tarps. Our tuktuk driver took us to a particular establishment because drivers eat for free if we order food. Warm rice and vegetables filled him as a strong rainstorm rolled in for the duration of their food and beer. Conversation with the Kapa’s Connection and the Californian focused on life goals, histories, and futures with spiked motifs of sustainability and goodness. She is a quality human of a high caliber.

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Angkor contains so many areas that they can’t be seen in a single day. The Californian returned on two other days, one of which turned into a real adventure. Looking at his map of the Angkor area, he decided he could be dropped off on one road and be picked up on another, roughly a mile away, on the other side of a a temple and Angkor Thom.

 

The exploration was one of the best of his life. The magnitude of the ruins and the solitude of the jungle hit the ooze button on his serotonin.  He climbed buildings and towers and walls. He crossed bridges and ran free in an area that once the most important colonies in the world inhabited.  In his head, in that moment, he was the king of Angkor. And that was enough.

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Pictures, videos, and words fail to convey to entity that is Angkor. Ruins can be touched and walked through the way they originally were intended too. The tuktuks and temples and trees hit a 10/10 for sights, touch, taste, and smell. The ice cold water sold but locals gets a 10 for quenching the thirst from the humid heat.

 

Siem Reep proved a good host. It offered Californian Mexican food, $1 smoothies of any fruit, and phenomenal urban decay/ruins. He woke up the next morning with a headache and headed out for the capital, Phnom Pehn.

 

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