Published: November 2nd 2008November 2nd 2008
Cambodia is boiling. On the dirty, dusty Poi-pet border the heat rises, in Siam Reap, buildings are bubbling up from the jungle - big shiny 5-star palaces. Crowds steam and churn around the ancient towers of Angor Wat as the sunrises - the noise is intense as voices from all over the world cackle and chat and click digital cameras at the sun brings its heat to the day.
The Tuk-Tuk Touts in the town fizz around you as you walk down the street - 'tuk tuk sir?' 'tuk tuk now?' 'lets go!' their voices seem like bubbles popping around your ears
Waiters in town fuss and bother and still manage to get the change wrong by one dollar less every time a bill is paid.
Cambodia is actually boiling. A seething gumbo of dollar-hungry people, churning and splashing around the visiting nationalities.
And why not?
I spent 3 days exploring the temples and tower of the crumbling Angkor and even though it was hot, busy and full of tourists from around the world, everyday I said ''i'm glad I made the effort''
Up at 5a.m. for sunrise, chilling as the sunsets, the great complexes of Angkor are a
world-beating draw and deserve to have a tourist trade that pours money into the local economy, picking people up from the poverty they face in the paddy fields surrounding it.
My guide pointed out the areas inside the temples where the 'common people' would live and pray on pilgramages. These areas are the sizes of football fields. A thousand years ago, millions of people from all over the eastern world would have travelled here.
The industry, commerce and busy-ness of all these people would have been a massive city, that will forever dwarf the current town of Siam Reap and the modern-day pilgrams of our tourist trade.
A seething metropolis when London was a quiet port town and the Chinese were exporting silk to the west.
It only took a few hundred years and the jungle had reclaimed the stones and towers of the temples. The wood-built buildings have long gone, and elephantine tree roots twist and crush the existing ones.
Within a few generations, the skyscrapers and high-rises of Angkor had crumbled and been forgotten.
Back in Siam Reap, the French colonial feel of the guest house I stayed in had faded - the
Shadow of Angkor Guesthouse sits along the riverside with open arches and tasty food, but the facade is being eaten up by electricity cables and advertising signs. Its grand style being eaten up by the vines and termites of the urban jungle.
Essentially, Angkor shows us how transient all our constructions really are in the face of nature. Build a city and soon it will be gone.
The simmering, rising temperature of the modern Cambodia is way down the scale of the boiling point of its past glories, as the capital of the Khmer Empire that stretched from the Pacific ocean to India and into modern-day China.
A day later, as I took off from the newly built airport and saw the eroded Angkor towers from the sky, shrinking away into the trees and soon becoming invisible in the endless expanse of Cambodias rice plains, I could see that everything we work so hard to build becomes a mere drop in Nature's Ocean.
Angkor's lesson to our modern-day pillars of commerce and worship.
There are more photos below