I've wanted to go to Cambodia since I was a little girl and saw a picture of Angkor Wat. So wandering through the ancient ruins last spring felt like a dream. But oddly enough my favorite moment in Cambodia came not from the temple but from a little girl. There are dozens of children selling trinkets at each temple, but Nan, our usually silent and protective tuktuk driver had asked us not to buy their wares since the parents took them out of school to sell them, he seemed quite adamant that if there was no profit perhaps the children would go to school, as they ought. There was something in his eyes that reminded me of his own little girl who we saw every morning at breakfast with her monther, so each time I strode through the miniature throng of big brown eyes I tried to harden my heart and ignore the echoing little voices. But one girl stood apart from the rest, a hand on her hip she met my eyes as if acknowledging a worthy opponent. Then sauntered up and fanned out her postcards, "10 for one dollah. I play you for it." I couldn't resist her spunk so I followed her to the mouth of the temple where she squatted in the sandy soil and scratched out a tic-tac-toe board with a twig. I lost...and ended up with 20 postcards, but there was something about that moment, sitting in the dirt with this Cambodian Oliver Twist that was perfect, a snapshot in life that I will never forget.
Located outside of Siem Reap, and a part of the vast Angkor temple complex, the multitude of large expressive faces of Prasat Bayon are distinct and compelling in their own right and different then the other temples in stylization. To see the temples, we purchased the Angkor Pass for three consecutive days, which cost $40USD. We had hired a Tuk Tuk driver in Siem Reap to take us around to a selected few.
When visiting the temples, or any rural area, stay on well worn paths. Unfortunately Cambodia still has a huge landmine problem.
While in Siem Reap, I took a 1/2-day mountain bike tour of the temples of Angkor with Grasshopper Adventures. I highly recommend the tour, as it allows you to experience parts of the Angkor complex that most tourists don't get to see. We stopped for a break just outside the west gate of Angkor Thom, on a bridge that goes across the ancient moat. I noticed this boy fishing just off the north side of the bridge. I tried to get him to smile, or at least make eye contact with me, but he never did. He just stared right through me with this empty gaze.