It’s been a full two weeks since I visited Angkor Wat and several surrounding temples and I still can’t believe I’ve actually been there. For a kid that grew up idolizing Indiana Jones (and never grew out of it), walking around the Cambodian jungle was the closest I’ve ever been to finding lost stones with mystical powers or discovering anything that might belong in a museum.
The whole experience was made that much more special when I ran into my old college pal Nona Tepper in perhaps that biggest and best coincidence either of us have ever have. Given the fact that I was meant to still be in Vietnam teaching and I had no idea Nona was even traveling, the odds of us staying in the same hostel in Phnom Penh were essentially zilch. Yet here we were exploring Siem Reap and Angkor Park together and having the times of our lives. What an amazing day spent touring the grounds being chauffered around by our own tuk-tuk driver. In all we watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat (the most popular temple of all) and visited five more temples: Bayon, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider temple), and Banteay Kdei. Photos can never do this place justice. I can only suggest you check it out for yourselves.
And I have to give Ta Prohm it’s own gallery. Known for Tomb Raider, this temple in all its destructive glory was just so magnificent to walk through. Even while elbowing through hordes of tourists you could feel the magic in that place, with twisted trees growing strong and sturdy out of the cracks in the rocks, now completely necessary to the temple’s structural integrity. It’s the perfect marriage of man and nature.
And yet, after all that excitement, my Cambodian adventure was still not over. The very next day I had booked a tour with Flight of the Gibbon, a company that lets you zipline through Angkor park and the surrounding jungle. That was possibly the best money I’ve spent in my entire life. The feeling of flying above the treetops in such an amazing place is simply indescribable, and I got to do it on 10 lines and across four sky bridges. All the while our two local guides, Hul and Kimseng, cracked horrible jokes and kept us laughing and feeling at ease. If you ever find yourself in Siem Reap, skip Pub Street for one afternoon and go zipling through Angkor. It is an unforgettable experience.