Friday, August 19, 2011

Cambodia - An Incredible Journey

I’ve lead a very sheltered life. My dad believes that I am one senseless pot who shouldn’t be left alone anywhere. Hence till I got married I was chaperoned almost everywhere.
He was paranoid that I would actually end up in trouble, if left alone, a fact he didn’t know was that his daughter can run like “P.T. Usha” if she smells trouble. Honestly I’m not someone who can invite trouble. I like the words feminism, rebel, brave etc and world for women concept, but if you ask me, it’s more prudent to avoid lunatic lechers if you can. If you come across one that cannot be avoided you might as well try to teach him some manners, else why bother?
So in short I was closely tracked using a mobile phone at every place I went. Here in Singapore the have RFID trackers for pets, thank god in India we don’t have one. My dad would’ve thought of inserting a chip into me. Dad and I have had countless argument on “letting-me-be” and I’ve lost all arguments inadvertently.  I appreciate his efforts in trying to shield my from all the evil and protecting me from getting hurt, but I missed being independent. So I nurtured a dream, a dream to go on a trip by myself. I will be responsible for me. Not my mom or dad or cousin or husband. It’s just going to be I who will run the show.

Friends, comrades, compadres; last month, I lived my dream. I had gone on a girl’s only trip to Cambodia. It was the most unplanned yet the most amazing trip I have ever made. Now if you have noticed the more spontaneous your trip the more fun it is.

Now how did all this happen?
When a friend in Vietnam invited the husbands for a boys-only trip to Vietnam, we the wives (not wanting to be Kalki Koechlin of ZNMD and wanting to get them off our lives for a while) happily agreed. So the big question as to what we will do arised.Having seen enough movies and done enough shopping, we decided to get the hell out of Singapore. And one magical land appeared,”Siem Reap”. So then we decided Siem Reap it is.

How did we plan?
We applied for visas online and got approval the next day. Booked flights and got reference of an Inn from a dear friend. The place we stayed was “Mandalay Inn”; very neat very clean at about 30USD per night. So we had tickets and a place to stay.
Yours truly delved her nose deep into Google and collected material and painstakingly compiled the places of interest into a word document. As if that was not enough I scourged National Library for books on Cambodia. All the data was converted into a word file and printed in to a booklet.(Anyone needs to it please let me know. It’s quite comprehensive which makes me proud of my collating capabilities)

What did we see?

I would need a lot more posts to let you know what we saw in two and a half days. I’ll try to make it short, if you get bored please promptly move to the summary section.
          There is a lot of Hindu and Buddhist influence in the bas reliefs. Some depict stories from Ramayana, Vedas or Mahabharata. You can clearly see the Jataka tales in some and in others Buddha and his teachings. They have also beautifully portrayed the daily life of Cambodians. The scriptures are in Sanskrit in most of the places.

Ta-Phrom,the jungle temple
Of all other temples we visited, one remains endearing, Ta-Phrom, the jungle temple. Though it is not much of a jungle now, it’ has trees and vegetation growing all over it. The restoration of this temple is being done with collaboration with the Archaeology Department of India. It made me proud, just to see the Indian National Symbol display there. It also happens to be one of the locations of Tomb Raider movie.

Beng Mealea- A temple in Ruins
A temple that will haunt me is Beng Mealea.It is in utter ruins and major part of the temple is dilapidated. Unlike the other temples where the restoration works have brought out tangible results, this one is beyond any restorations. Roofs of most structures have caved in. There are large blocks of sandstone lying around like a kid’s Lego pieces that fell out the box. It felt sad to see such a huge structure, which was possibly created with much love, in complete shambles.This temple is about 60 km from the Siem Reap,hence becomes a neglected spot by tourists as well.

There is no doubt which temple gets the price for taking your breathe away. Angkor Wat. The first time I saw the temple, it felt like a dream. Every time I read books with Angkor Wat as a backdrop, I had yearned to go there. But then Cambodia was so far, beyond my reach (Come on, my dad wouldn’t let me go to Convent Junction alone. Let alone another country). But there I was, riding in a tuk-tuk (A cross between moped and cycle rickshaw if you can imagine that) by the lake surrounding it. It took me some time to let the fact to sink in, I was indeed living my dream. We went there for both sunrise and sunset; it remains one the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets of my life.Considering the fact that I'm not much of a morning person it was a huge effort on my part to wake each day by five am.But for once I didn't regret losing some sleep in the morning.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat
The people of Cambodia are very friendly and not irritating as in some tourist locations. There is no explicit begging or troubling of tourists. Make sure you get back to city area before it gets too dark and you should be fine. Very basic common sense is enough to make a safe trip to Siem Reap. If you insist on staying back at the temples away from city late into the night, there is no guarantee of not being mugged.

What we ate and shopped:

We had awesome Mexican and Continental food. There was no issue explaining vegetarianism to them, they totally understood. There did serve vegetables other than tomato, onion, potato and capsicum. Coming to the drinking part, the drinks were cheap and really good. They had something called bucket of margarita for 5 USD (A bucket comes to around 5 drinks). Any cheaper you would have to make at home. Their happy hours are from 11 AM to 11 PM.

We picked some nicknacks, Tee shirts and coffee. Their coffee has a chocolate flavor and is quite strong. If you are a coffee lover, you will be swept off your feet by the taste.

P:S: We did see some Indian Restaurants too.But did not have time for eating from there as well.Two days is very short to see Siem Reap and try all kinds of food.If you plan,plan for three or four days.

In short:

We saw the magical “Angkor Wat” and the pantheon of temples surrounding it, gawked unabashedly at the huge temple complexes and came back infinitely humbled. I found what I was looking for. Peace and the happiness of having lived a long cherished dream.



    The fun u had sounds soooo amazing!. Cambodia!!!

  2. Sounds like a fab trip. :) Looking forward to going there someday when I have enoughmoney.

    Sigh.. So much to do, so little money. :/

    Where are you off to next?

  3. Angkor Vat is a place I'd really love to visit, sometime.

    What really attracts me though, is the dirt cheap alcohol! Tequila at 50 cents! I can't wait to get there! :D

  4. @Red: and the best part of sending him for summer with boys is,you get to be the model wife and time to chill out with your girlfriends..
    @Divya : Wish I were a millionaire's daughter.So much more money,no work to do and loads of time to travel.
    @Rindo:I know I know.They know how to make them as well.

  5. @Sandy : Buhahaha.That was the purpose of sharing the link with you.But the all the time I kept telling my friend about these amazing photographer friends of mine and how much they would've loved it here.

  6. Woman, did you not see the award I gave you on my blog?

  7. ok twas more of an effort on ur friend to wake u up ;-).. but a lovely trip nevertheless twas!

  8. @G3:shshshsh..don't tell anybody
    move your lazy bum and start a blog..