Siem Reap, Cambodia, is one of the more disconcerting places I have visited. It is a city where the multi-million dollar hotels (with room rates to match) are surrounded by nothing but poverty.
Busy side street in Siem Reap
Our relatively modest hotel
It exhibits all the worst traits of mass tourism.
To some degree, the same is true of Angkor Wat.
Despite its UNESCO World Heritage status, the namesake temple of 12th century complex regularly shows up on lists of sites that are in need of additional protection from the impacts of tourism. Indeed, Angkor Wat was rather overrun with tourists when we visited, but there were still opportunities to quietly contemplate the ruins. It was amazing and much too much to absorb in one visit. I would love to have another chance to try to absorb it all.
But the real reason I want to return is spread throughout the surrounding jungle. The Angkor site covers over 150 square miles and includes scores of Khmer temples and infrastructure dating from the 9th to 15th century.
All of these temples are worth a second visit (and a third and a fourth) and there are many more we didn’t get a chance to visit. However, more than anything, I would love to return when the weather is damp and misty. The bright sunshine that dominated our visit – while in some ways picture-perfect – didn’t seem like the right setting for these mysterious-looking ruins. I want more time to explore the area (which is perfect for biking) and the photographer in me would like a little light rain or morning mist to enhance the shots I take as I explore!
Thailand and Cambodia (2006)