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Another "must do" :-)

Cambodia | Wednesday, January 13, 2016 | 15 photos

In the same league as Machu Picchu and the Taj Mahal, this is truly a wonder of the world. We've seen our share of archeological sites and pyramids in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Peru (Inca, Aztec, Maya, etc.) but none of that could prepare us. After visiting Angkor, you will find it extremely hard to be impressed by any other archeological site - you're ruined and will always compare everything else to this benchmark. Like the first time you had a baguette in France, a pizza in Italy, or steak in Argentina ... you never knew it could be this good!

Angkor impressed us so much for many reasons, firstly it was extremely well preserved and in several cases it was hard to distinguish original pieces from those which were renovated (ex. bas reliefs of Angkor Wat and Bayon). The sight is so big that despite tens of thousands of tourists invading it every day it's still possible to find yourself alone in a quiet corner admiring the ancient towers and detailed carvings. Again, because it's so big it truly gives a sense that it's a city - you drive by tuk tuk over bridges, under gates, and through protective ramparts making you eerily feel like you're in a medieval city (the distinctively Asian carvings remind you where you really are though). The palaces truly felt like palaces and the crumbling ruins overgrown with trees seemed to beg you to explore them - your imagination can't help but run wild here thinking what it was like almost 1000 years ago.

And now some technical details. Angkor is a city temple complex first built in the 8th century and which continued to be the center of an empire until the 14th century. With over 1 million people it was the largest city the world had ever known - London was just a pre-industrial village at the time. Of any other archeological site only Guatemala's Tikal can rival it in size, but 10 square km compared to 100 square km is hardly a fair rivalry. This empire is comparable to the great Roman Empire, it stretched into parts of Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam and of course Cambodia. It was the greatest empire south east Asia ever knew - much stronger than those of Bagan or Sukhothai for example. And despite its fall, it's knowledge lived on in Thailand with Ayuthaya and all later empires. Modern Cambodians slight resentment of Thailand is motivated by this fact, Thailand stole all the best architects, engineers, artisans and artists after Angkor's fall. As such, Angkor remains the pride of Cambodia; the flag features a white Angkor Wat silhouette and the most popular beer also has the same logo (normal since the beer is called Angkor!).

Good morning Vietnam!!! Oops, actually we arrive in the afternoon. Oh well, shameless reference of a classic movie.

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