By Weixuan Lu, MA Education
When I first told my friends I booked plane tickets to Cambodia, they were all like:
‘Why are you going there?’
‘It’s too dangerous!’
‘Is it the country where Angelina Jolie’s movie Tomb Raider was filmed?’
‘Are you sure you’re going there?? Alone??’
‘I heard Cambodia is one of the poorest places in the world. What can you do there?’
‘I wouldn’t go there If I were you. I won’t even think about it.’
Cambodia means a lot to me. Even though it’s been nearly three years since my first visit, I still miss it. I’ve been to visit twice, and still want to revisit the country. Tourists flock to Siem Reap for the amazing Angkor Wat. I’m not too sure what prompted me to go there in the first place, but there was always a voice inside me saying ‘go to Cambodia! Go to Cambodia!’ This Southeast Asian country was completely mysterious to me, and I knew I just had to go there and explore.
There are tons of things you can do in Cambodia. So here is part one, consisting of two things you can expect, when you visit Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Cambodia is the friendliest country I have ever visited. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by good and happy people every single day during my trips there. I didn’t go sightseeing right away; instead, I volunteered at a local NGO school. I find volunteering to be a good way to know more about local life, and make a contribution to the community.
Children have very limited educational resources here. Public schools only open half day, so children either go to school in the morning, or in the afternoon They will then go to a local NGO school for extra study, or return home to help their family sell handicrafts on the street. Children at the local NGO schools are really shy, but they always give you a hug after class. They also teach you Khmer language, which is so sweet.
While walking on the street, you’ll find a lot of tuktuk drivers, who ask if you would like to order their service to Angkor Wat, with a sincere smile on their face. Even if you reject their offer, their smiles still remain. I love how they love their lives. The tuktuk driver – who became my friend afterwards – offered me half a day of free travel, as he thought I missed some must-see temples in Angkor wat. He said he just wanted his customers to be happy, and enjoy their time in Cambodia fully.
Angkor Wat is the reason most travellers visit the country, and is also the national symbol of the country. It is the most well-known temple in the ancient city of Angkor, and is a remnant of the Khmer empire, which dates back to thousands of years ago.
After visiting Angkor Wat, the Bayon temple may be the one you run into next. This temple is popular for its smiling faces. They all have nearly the same smile with their eyes closed. I find a sense of peace by looking at them.
Ta Promh is another part of the ancient city of Angkor. This temple was used in filming the movie Tomb Raider.
Beng Melea Temple is not part of the Angkor World Heritage, but it’s a must-see in Siem Reap. The ruins of the temple remain almost untouched, meaning it’s close to its original look in ancient times. The history of this temple is still under investigation, making this place even more mysterious.
Some kids and locals will offer to show you around the temple. If you want to avoid other tourists, it’s worth following them, and you don’t need to worry about getting lost. Just remember to give them 1 to 2 dollars in tips, as they don’t offer it for free!
Have you been to Cambodia before? Comment below your favourite parts!