Angkor by tuk-tuk
He puts out his hand, helping travellers as they climb into the back of his three-wheeled taxi. It’s his horse and carriage, only the horse has been replaced with a motorbike.
Spider Boy, the driver, is a 24-year-old student who lives in Siem Riep, Cambodia. To make extra money, he and his brother show foreigners around their charming, small city, teaching them about their ancient culture. The tuk-tuk, as it is affectionately called, is their means of transport. It is affordable and small enough to move through the hundreds of motorbikes and scooters that dominate the small roads. For $20, tourists can hire Spider Boy and his brother for the day. They know the temples that form Siem Riep’s biggest tourist attraction: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom (which also houses smaller temples such as Bayon) and Ta Prohm. Each of them presents visitors with a unique and memorable experience.
Angkor Wat was constructed in the twelfth century and is a prime example of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia and even appears on the nation’s flag. As the smell of incense wafts through the halls of the stone temple, you feel the religious significance of the ancient building. The reliefs carved into the walls here whisper stories of Hindu culture to admirers.
Back on the tuk-tuk, Spider Boy drives a little further down the road to Angkor Thom, the last and most enduring capital city from the Khmer empire. Outside the temple, there are hundreds of relentless hawkers, eager to sell tourists anything from plastic bags of fruit to an unattractive hat. Once tourists break away from the hawkers, there are a significant amount of smaller temples that make up Angkor Thom. The most remarkable has to be Bayon, with its giant carved faces looking down intensely.
The last main temple on the tour is the most striking – Ta Prohm. Built in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, the temple is in the same condition now as when it was discovered after hundreds of years of abandonment. It is a flat temple in comparison to the others and is one of the most popular, as nature’s will to reclaim the land has created an atmosphere so otherworldly it has impressed even Hollywood filmmakers. Towering jungle trees have merged with the ancient stonework of the temple, their roots serving as destructive buttresses and their trunks natural turrets. One of the most impressive trees in the temple can be seen with Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider. The tree has grown over an entranceway on a stone wall, gripping it like a spider would grip its prey.
The drive back into town on the back of a tuk-tuk is refreshing after a day spent under the hot Cambodian sun. Spider Boy takes weary tourists back to their hotels and bids them farewell, but before doing so, tells them about popular restaurants they might enjoy. He gets back onto his tuk-tuk and drives away, preparing himself for another day around the temples of Siem Riep..
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