Cambodia is home to Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. The area so large, buying a 3 day pass is the best way to see it all. We bought the tickets in the late afternoon. By doing this, it enables you to see the sunset and not count as a day used. Angkor Wat is very crowded. It’s almost impossible to get a picture without other people in it. Most tourist like ourselves hire a tuk tuk. The driver takes you on a route to each temple and waits for you. At Angkor Wat the tuk tuks are all lined up waiting. Somehow everyone finds their driver. It’s madness but the system works. The first full day we took the short tour. After the 2nd temple we passed on visiting the next two and just headed to the larger ones. After the 5th temple we were so tired of seeing temples and went back to the hotel.
The driver told us earlier the tour could take eight hours! We did it in three and a half. My favorite temple in Angkor Wat was the Bayon temple. All of the temples we visited were over 900 years old. Angkor Wat was the largest of them all but the Bayon temple was the most impressive to me. The movie Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie was filmed in Angkor Wat. This has brought even more tourist here. “The big tree” was the wording used for the Tomb Raider temple. I’ve never seen the movie but I could hear tour guides saying “This is the big tree” at the Ta Prohm temple. Our driver told us a few scenes were filmed at the Angkor Wat temple also.
The Banteay Kdei is the last temple we visited. This was the place I was scammed. I ran trying to get closer to three monks to take a picture of them from behind. Knowing there are strict rules about women and monks I didn’t want to disturb them. Monks are not allowed to talk, touch or be alone with women.
As I get closer, one of the monks turned around and noticed me following. I put the camera down and smiled at him. He smiled back and started walking towards me! In complete shock I stood there. He starts talking to me in Khmer. I didn’t understand so I gave him the shoulder shrug, smile and shaking my head no. He then repeats “one, one, one” and shows me an envelope with something written in Khmer. “Money?”, I said. He repeats “one, one, one”.
I pull out a $2.00 bill and hand it to him. He takes it from me! Now we are almost touching hands. After getting the cash, he then recites a prayer in his language out loud. I bow my head to be respectful and try not to make eye contact. It felt so spiritual getting this blessing from a monk at a renowned religious temple. I open my eyes and thank him. He leaves and goes over to the other two monks.
Doug comes over from the distance saying “you know you just got scammed! Monks aren’t allowed to approach or talk to women”. Then I look over at the monk and he’s still smiling at me. I look at the other people around and the locals are laughing at me. I just stood there in disbelief. I tried to explain to Doug about the envelope and the prayer but he wasn’t having it. One of the locals shouts out in broken English “good luck for you” laughing.
Doug told me he saw the whole thing go down. He said after I handed him the money, he gave the other two monks the thumbs up. I still can’t believe it. Of the three monks, one of them was about 70 years old. Seeing the older monk I believed they were on the up and up. I knew it was kind of strange that he would smile at me, let alone approach me but I honestly thought it was okay for them to ask for donations. This haunted me all day. It was kind of creepy and shocking, like seeing a scary clown. Makes me wonder what he was saying to me in his language while I was bowing my head to him. He was probably chanting over and over that I’m a sucker and a damn fool.
On the second day we took the long tour. This covered a larger area of Angkor Wat and several of the smaller temples. There was more driving involved but it was through a beautiful country side with vast rice fields and local life. I enjoyed the drive as much as the temples. Just seeing how simple and peaceful life is in the country side was worth the tour. Most of the shops set up were geared for the tourist coming through. Lots of stands with scarves, pants and hats. The dress code for the temple requires women to cover their shoulders and wear a dress or pants. Women must cover their legs at least to the knees. This shows a sign of respect. Most people including myself dressed appropriately but there were a few people (not many) wearing shorts and tank tops. Even though it was scorching hot, I wanted to be respectful to the rules. But it was very uncomfortable at times. The second day I brought an umbrella for shade. It ended up raining so hard during our visit to the third temple we decided to just call it quits for the day. I felt bad our driver had to drive the motorbike in monsoon type rain. All he wore was a plastic rain coverup with his face exposed. We were zipped in the tuk tuk and protected from the rain. Luckily it stopped about 10 minutes into the drive. We had been gone four hours before the rain flushed us out. I was ready to leave and templed out by then anyway.
My favorite temple was the Bayon Temple. It was detailed and beautiful. I also really loved the Banteay Srey Temple. The Banteay Srey Temple was a forty minute drive out of the way but worth it. Some people had tour guides to explain the histories of the temples. We decided not to hire one because we didn’t want to be stuck with them all day. Besides, it was so hot I couldn’t imagine listening in one spot to a history lesson. But it would have been nice to hear a few details of my two favorites. I just went to the hotel and read about them online in the air conditioning.
At the Ta Nei and the Pre Rup temples I said a special prayer for all of my family, Doug’s entire family and all of our friends and their families. That was a highlight. I kneeled inside of a special area set aside for prayer. A lady who resembles a monk gave three incense sticks to light and stick in an ancient stone left in the ruins. It was based on a small donation, I donated $1.00. Praying in such a spiritual place was really inspiring.
Overall, this was one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen in my lifetime. There was a peaceful feeling in the air as soon as we drove into the complex where all of the temples were. This is also where I saw the most animals. Dogs, chickens, exotic birds and black butterflies were everywhere. I even saw several long-tailed macaques (monkeys) as we got further in. I really love Cambodia so far.