I have spent the past few days in the Angkor ruins in Cambodia.
As it is the end of the hot season in South East Asia and as recent turmoil in neighboring Thailand has scared all but the hardiest tourists (Koreans, for the most part) away, the temples that see a couple of million visitors a year these days, were pretty quiet.
That is except for the crowds of vendors that follow the few visitors with a persistence worthy of a Washington lobbyist. The postcard and trinket sellers, young girls and boys for the most part, come from surrounding villages, reminding us that Siem Reap Province is one of the poorest of impoverished Cambodia, despite the massive influx of unsustainable investment around the temples.
But who cares? The tourists don’t and neither to the gangs of little kids that do the hard sell.
Nowadays, the best way to truly enjoy the magic of Angkor, the changing light on the ruins and the quiet of an abandoned city, is to be done with the main three temples – Angkor Wat, Bayan and Ta Prohm – and head for some of the lesser visited sites like Preah Khan. Step around a corner or through a doorway and find yourself marveling at finely carved faces of Apsaras – the Khmer’ heavenly dancers – all by yourself.
All images by Tom Vater.
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