Siem Reap

Cambodia Travel Route: Siem Reap – Angkor Wat – Kompong Pluk

“When Angkorian society began, Paris and London were not much more than elaborate villages. Europe was crawling with barbarians, and here were the Khmer engineering sophisticated irrigation systems and constructing the biggest temple in the world.” – Kim Fay

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world.  Nowadays, it’s also one of the busiest tourist destinations on the planet.  The name Angkor Wat in Khmer, the Cambodian language, means  “City Temple.”  A Khmer King built it in the early 12th century.   First, it was a Hindu temple dedicated to the deity of Vishnu.  Later, when the Khmer converted to Buddhism, it turned into a Buddhist shrine.  In the 15th century, the Khmer kings abandoned the city and moved to the coast.  They built a new city, Phnom Penh, the present-day capital of Cambodia.  More than 300,000 workers and 6,000 elephants took part in the construction of Angkor Wat, and yet it was never fully completed.  I am sure some of my real-estate developer’s friends might say something is wrong with this fact.

I first met Ahmad a tourist from New York City, on the cruise-boat in Halong Bay>  It was a surprise to meet him again at Siem Reap.  Together we hired Mr. Batman, a three-wheeled taxi (tuk-tuk) driver.  Our taxi driver is the wildest and happiest driver in town.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the size of Angkor Wat, but Mr. Batman made it a delight.  We toured the temple’s middle circle and inner circle over two days.  The visit’s highlight was waiting with hundreds of tourists early in the morning for the sun to rise over the temple’s silhouette.  I have never been so impatient for the sun to rise; it was kind of hilarious to be caught up in the anticipation.

Kompong Pluk

Kampong Phluk Floating Village can be reached only by boat and is about two hours away from Siem Reap.  The village is a cluster of houses suspended by 16-foot posts. It’s a surreal sight reminiscent of a circus’ wild act.  During the rainy season, the water level rises to the height of the structures.  It is a fascinating lifestyle, utterly dependent on the lake’s mood and whims.  Its economy is, as one might expect, based on fishing, primarily in shrimp harvesting.  The river that passes through the village ends at a lake that provides stunning sunsets to end any day.