Buddhas and Bar Stools

As I pedal into Siam Reap in search of a bar stool for the New Years Eve party that takes place yearly on Pub street in the tourists center of the city, I am reminded of Cambodia’s beautiful exquisite history. The main attraction despite the city’s reputation in the SE Asia party scene is not bar stools but rather Buddha’s,

an ancient form of Hinduisms and Animism, a form of shamanism that dates back to the beginning of the 12th century. This is the world’s largest archeological village and spiritual site with each temple in the village exuding a history complex enough to fill a library all on its own.

Angkor Wat is a the largest temple and the surrounding area is a world heritage site that hosts an ancient village of historic temples, stone carvings and thousands of artifacts of a civilization that took place in the early 12 century . The main temple Angkor Wat is surrounded by a water filled moat and several bridges. The second largest temple is known as Angkor Thom.

As I cycle a 20km/16miles loop in and out of the Angkor Thom temples my cycling pace comes to quick halt. I am stuck in a traffic jam on a road that crosses under a beautiful arched tunnel. One benefit of cycling verses the common form of motorcycle rickshaw taxi AKA tuk-tuk, is that on a bicycle you don’t have to wait your turn in line. As I weave through the idle traffic exhaust, I am more than elated, despite the intense sun, to come across the culprit of the traffic jam. The culprit is not a tourist on a rented motorcycle having a hard time driving on the opposite side of the road or a broken down rickshaw, the holdup is an elephant.

Traffic stands idle to give way to an elephant crossing under the bridge. The presence of elephants in the archeological park dates back to the parks roots in the early 12 century. Ancient art depictions illustrate stone etchings and monumental stone elephants being the work horses and guardian watchdogs of the 4 directions of north, east, south and west inside and on top of the many temples gates. Today’s elephant may not be the watchdog or keeper of the spirits of the north or of the winds from the east but she is magically exquisite all in her own right. She is adorned in a red metallic garment and holds a basket seat of camera flashing tourists for a loop of the many temples within the complex.

The little girl elephant is walking down the street, she is being driven by her Cambodian keeper. I am sure she would rather be grazing on grass in the Mondulkiri jungle, not to far from here which is her home, when she is not working the tourist trail inside the archeological park. She is protesting and procrastinating at the park work while making the world’s most astounding elephant noises.

She lets out a final note and then begins to trot at a pace that the magic bicycle dances along to . The sweet singing elephant finally catches up to her elephant friends as me and the magic bicycle pedal along behind.
Siam Reap, Cambodia a place so rich in history that spans the historical roots of 3 religions and 6 countries that it has firmly planted itself as one of the top tourists destinations of the world. The Angkor Wat archeological park is Cambodia’s national symbol, appears on it’s flag and is Cambodia’s pride and joy. 

Tourism is plentiful and the best way to see the park is by bicycle. A brief history of Anchor Wat, Anchor Thom and the surrounding temple sites can be found here, however as mentioned above, the extend of the historical significance and sheer volume of information could be covered in a library all it’s on. For an overview click here

Skalatitude..."When humans and nature are living in harmony there is magic and beauty everywhere"

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