I expected an endless amount of temples. I expected to come home and say: “Wow, there were a lot of temples!” I thought of saying this because, quite frankly, there are a lot of temples. But there is much more to Cambodia than temples.
The most famous sight in Cambodia – or probably in SE Asia – are the temples of Ankor. Even though the word “temple” covers mostly the type of building we have encountered, I never knew that they could be so different. With a three-day pass, we took our time to explore Ankor intensely and saw a variety of majestic, moss-covered, detailed and well-planned temples. A true wonder of this world, which was hard to process in such a short time.
Some temples are overrun by tourists, which does not make it a peaceful experience when you get pushed through. Tourbuses pull up, release their hounds and wait for them to come back with their trophies. There are many locals (mainly children) trying to pitch a sale, which is both heart breaking and exhausting. I am not sure if I have ever said “No thank you” so many times. A little escape was our Tuktuk with our driver Vothy. He drove us around and took his time showing us rural Cambodia, leaving more authentic impressions than during the first few days at Ankor. Next time I will go to Cambodia I will definitely explore this area more.
Cambodia went through a lot in the last few decades and a lot is still visible. There are obvious left-overs of the Khmer Rouge in the mid 70’s, including corruption and a damaged economy as a whole. We visited a Swiss pediatrician who set up five children’s hospitals, because the government is not taking responsibility for this. He offers a cello concert every Saturday evening to raise money, which we gladly attended. We also saw a lot of people volunteering to help Cambodians in different ways, where the local government is not contributing.
I truly hope that Cambodia will not reduce itself to the temples in Ankor, forgetting where the real attractions are hidden. Only then they can develop into a stable and secure place for its citizens, where not only the current generation can benefit, but all the generations to come.