Where old world and new world collide – Siem Reap to me is a country battling to find her identity. A mix of Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, this mesh of culture, tradition and lifestyle intrigues me. Travelers flocking to Cambodia has ‘visiting the ruins’ as top on the list of must do’s , then maybe sparing some time to volunteer at one of the many hundreds of NGOs polka dotted across the country, then comes the food and perhaps cultural centers showcasing Apsara dancers.
Indeed Cambodia has successfully preserved their national heritage of craggy temples, the famous Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Bayon being the most visited. Throngs of tourist stream into these ancient landmarks photographing at every angle. Perpetual hand and footprints have left its mark on these stones turning them into a darkish grey. The structures are mesmerizing with century old stories to tell. Towering soft wood trees anchor themselves on these structures providing shade against the sweltering heat.
Modern day Cambodia is a representation of the old trying to embrace the new, yet not there yet. Struggling to find a foot in development, Cambodia is still very rural and laid back in my opinion. Development visited only when foreign trade and intervention infiltrated the land. Many NGOs set up in the country is established for the fact that the local economy desperately needs help. Hopefully Cambodia will one day be able to stand on its own feet and thrive.
The streets still lined with food vendors, tuk tuk drivers calling “tuk tuk lady” the minute they see a foreigner, make shift fish spas set up to lure tourists, touts continue to tail you just to get one dollar for a stack of postcards. Tourism is big here. But how far can this stretch? That remains a big concern.