Exploring Siem Reap – The Crown Jewels and the Lotus Flowers of Cambodia

We are officially at the temples of Angkor. These are the crowning jewels of Cambodia. For several centuries Angkor, was the centre of the Khmer Kingdom. With impressive monuments, enormous temple complex just jutted out of the surrounding jungle, the site is a unique concentration of features testifying to an exceptional civilisation. We’re already blown away!

It’s overwhelming and it’s hard to take it all in ’cause there’s so much. It’s the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen in my whole entire life.

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Awe-inspiring crown jewels of Cambodia, the Angkor Wat

As we are about to explore the temple complex, I noticed that two children is following us asking for money and food. We gladly hand them over our takeaway sandwiches from the local restaurant near the temple area where we had our breakfast. These Cambodian children which I considered metaphorically as lotus flowers which is one of the most plentiful flowers in Cambodia. The flower is not only beautiful, it has symbolic meaning in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Significant meaning of the lotus flower is that, since it grows in mud it represents the rise from hardships and struggles. It also represents the transformation to beauty, a powerful symbol of rebirth.

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The lotus flower is one of the most plentiful flowers in Cambodia.

Lotus Flowers of Tonle Sap

We spent our second day traveling through the Cambodian countryside and visiting Tonle Sap lake. I would highly recommend this day excursion from Siem Reap, but you might enjoy it most if you hire a guide who knows how to avoid the problems including $35 rice scams.

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Jhona parading the lotus fruit we just bought from the local vendor after our boat ride from the floating village in Tonle Sap. The seeds can be eaten, not quite delicious but they say it has medicinal value

My group of friends and I loved the chance to observe a world. We are a decent photographers, so we had a great time photographing the colourful homes on stilts, the women working around their homes, the children, the men fishing, and the lake itself.

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Just read a rather bias travel advice on how to avoid worsening the plight of the children of Cambodia during your visit. To make a bold initial statement “Poverty is a big plague in this part of Asia” is a rather bias generalisation and an arrogant delusion “I wanted to save the world and solve the third-world problems (me coming from a first-world country)”. Poverty is ugly and it’s everywhere. A day spent in the floating village of many ethnic Vietnamese and numerous Cham people in the floating village of Tonle Sap or a three-day wandering aimlessly in the magical temples in Siem Reap doesn’t make you a local expert.

The next time you get an advice from someone that already visited Cambodia to not give anything even food or sweets to children who beg you and donate to charities instead, my advice is just to follow your instinct. Help especially if it benefits these children directly. Take note even a Cambodian charity supported by Hollywood stars and celebrated by the American media had been exposed for broad deception.

So cutoff the bullsh*t “As long as there are tourists giving money to children or buying their useless goods, there will be reason for their parents to keep them out of school and on the street…”. We should avoid the delusion of making ourselves as protagonist who saves the day particularly if we never experience to go to school regularly with empty stomach. As a traveller, we have to train ourselves to pause for a moment before judging something that is unfamiliar or that is bias.

Cambodia is still slowly recovering from years of civil war and poverty, and both are still very evident today. It is still emerging from its turbulent past, yet its citizens often embrace optimism and positivity. You are for sure likely to be met with a smile and a kind word from your typical Khmer. So who are we to tell them a different way, you know?

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Angkor the Crown Jewel of Cambodia

Why such beauty in this place? It feels like one of those big accomplishments, you know? When you do a wonder of the world and have that under your belt, it feels big.

I would perhaps suggest getting up very early to watch Sunrise at Angkor Wat, in order to make the beautiful golden pictures of the temple with the morning sun.

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You will notice the statuette of Vishnu going inside the temple, that’s how old this is, when there was still a Hindu influence and this stuff is kind of pre-dates Buddhism.

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Make sure to take water with you, as this is the by far the mother of all temples. We explored Angkor Thom city, Bayon temple, the 49 towers and Buddha stone faces on the top, Bapoun temple, Phimeanakas temple, Terrace of the Elephants, Terrace of the Leper King and Taprom temple known as Tomb Raider temple.

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It’s crazy that the roots, the trees and how nature kind of slowly took back what man has created.

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Cambodia has spent a lot of money on tourism to bring people in hoping to stimulate the economy and even alleviate poverty problem. Thus, I encourage you to hire a reputable local tour guide to help the economy and to avoid being scammed. We collaborated in advance prior to this trip with our tour guide Chantrea Chhuon regarding our itinerary.

Our tour guide Chantrea who picked us up& drops us off at the airport, and toured & shared his expertise to learn more about Khmer ancient heritage and their cultures

Our tour guide Chantrea who picked us up & drops us off at the airport, and toured & shared his expertise to learn more about Khmer ancient heritage and their cultures

One of the side comments that Chantrea had told me that it’s kinda sad for him not to see many Khmer but to see many Western tourists here. We thanked him for us to experience some of Khmer culture beyond just sightseeing which to me is the most important thing for travellers. It’s remarkable at the same time inspiring that they not only survived Cambodia’s turbulent past but that they have been able to achieve so much under such harsh circumstances.

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Before you go: Remember you are on holy grounds when visiting a Buddhist temple and you really ought to pay attention to the Do’s and Don’ts. You should be covered down at least below your knees. Try to respect the culture and tradition of this place and don’t be a douchebag like this visitor who even strips down his shorts for his girlfriend to wear.

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My friend Jhona is showing a good example even if she knew she’ll be jailed by fashion police.

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