This is a guest blog post by Floh member, Anurag Chaturvedi. A select group of Floh members will be taking a photography trip to Cambodia later this year.
One resorts to telling stories through pictures when words do not do the subject justice. At other times, the pictures fail to do justice to the subject in question. Whenever I am asked to describe my Cambodian experience, I find that both my words and pictures do not portray with sufficient accuracy the beauty and uniqueness of the place. Maybe it is my failing on both fronts, so I’ll try and mesh both together so as gloss over the inadequacies in each.
To travel to Cambodia is to make a commitment to be both adventurous and active. One does not enjoy a place with such history and heritage from the confines of a boutique hotel or resort. One also does not truly appreciate the resilience and bravery of the locals without exposing oneself to the horrors that took place within these borders in the not too distant past.
I’ll keep this cheerful, though, since the item of immediate interest for everyone is Angkor (read: Siem Reap). I will admit that this was the reason I travelled to Cambodia as well. This is one of those rare experiences where what you study about as part of world history comes to life just the way it was described. I have heard innumerable grumblings from those that have visited the Stonehenge (common example, hence the mention) that it is ‘overrated’ and ‘unremarkable’. None of that happens in any corner of Angkor. It is picture perfect (you’ll need to be an exceptionally poor photographer to make anything look ordinary here) and everything one hoped it would be. Every step you take is full of excitement and every corner turned is a thrill in itself.
The nicest part about roaming the vast temple compounds of Angkor is that one can have the place to oneself if one so chooses (the only exceptions being Bayon and Ta Promh).There is more than enough to accommodate everyone’s interest and there’re very few queues to be dealt with. One can move at their own pace with no one to tell them to move on or hurry up.
Siem Reap city itself is an oasis. It is a hub of activity and Pub Street could be in any other city of the world. It is cosmopolitan – teeming with people from all nationalities – a bargain hunter’s paradise and also a place that any gourmand would thoroughly enjoy. Couple that with the presence of some of the hippest pubs events or clubs and you have a place where no amount of time spent is enough. There’s always a new restaurant/art gallery/boutique/souvenir shop to be explored, new acquisitions to be made and new experiences to stow away in one’s memory stash.
I am often asked what part of Cambodia stands out in my mind. Prior to going there, it was Angkor Wat. After spending a day there, it was Bayon. Ta Promh was funky until I discovered Beng Maelea. It was something new every day. Now the true answer for the earlier question is that the entire Cambodian experience is outstanding. Every experience is unique and every place has its own special draw. Most of it was totally unexpected, because most folks do not look beyond Angkor Wat.
I love Cambodia. There are umpteen amazing and beautiful memories that I came back with after my first date visit, and there’s a lot calling me back there. I lived out a dream that I had nurtured for many years, learned that sometimes reality is actually way better that what you had imagined, made friends whom I would love to go back and spend time with again and, above all, discovered a place where no amount of time spent is enough.
When drawing up my travel plans at the beginning of every year, Cambodia is always a place I look to go back to and plan towards. Maybe it is because I’m still searching for the right words to describe the place, maybe it is because I feel that with another year with my SLR under my belt I will finally do Avalokiteswara justice. Or maybe because it is one of those places to meet up with singles but never quite check out of.