To realize the dream of seeing Angkor Wat by myself would have been an incredibly fulfilling experience. Sharing it with my father was the condensed milk in the proverbial cup of coffee (you see, it’s how coffee is taken in Southeast Asia).
I met my father on a Cambodia Tours
after having traveled a few months around Southeast Asia on my own. By this time, my traveling momentum was perpetuated by inspiring recommendations from locals and travelers alike. I was traveling for travels sake; I traveled to go, to move and to be moved. I had no demanding time constraints and as a solo traveler, I had the freedom to do as I wished, when I wished. The magic of this kind of travel was enough to change my heart and mind at a whim. However, I knew this mindset had to be adjusted when my father and I started planning our trip to Angkor Wat.
He wanted everything pre-planned and worry-free. So I hit the Internet right away. I was familiar with Kensington Tours' private-guided tours and after speaking with Sarah, the Asia Manager, I decided that their Temples of Angkor tour
was the most suitable choice. It would provide us with the personalized experience we were looking for without breaking our budget and still allow us the flexibility I had become accustomed to while traveling alone. I was confident that with a private local guide and the ability to customize the itinerary to suit our needs, we would be able to satisfy our relentless effort to see it all. And that we did!
Each day left us worn out but with enough energy to dine at a local restaurant in Siem Reap, to try out a new Amok dish (coconut based and delicious!) and enjoy $0.50 Angkor beers. Our guide from Kensington was fantastic in not only providing in-depth knowledge of the temples but also in his recommendations on places to eat and even to chill out with a few drinks. He understood and admired that this trip was a realization of a dream, for the both of us, and his own enthusiasm and pride he took in his country’s reigning monument had a contagious effect. He welcomed us every morning with a shining smile and looked after us in a very nurturing and sincere manner. He was the first to help when my father needed assistance; whether it was climbing up steep steps or answering a very specific question. He maintained a sense of passion and keenness for our surroundings which made the experience even more exciting and uplifting.
I saw my father in an unfamiliar context; an adventurer unwilling to succumb to any physical barriers so that the full experience of Angkor Wat could be gained. Walking for most of the day in the relentless heat and climbing the tall stone steps to reach the landings of the temples was quite the feat. These challenges reached a climax at Ben Melea where our guide introduced us to a temple that was so heavily crushed by bombings and ruined by time. My initial impression upon first glance truly contributed and even enhanced my Indiana Jones imaginings of what lay within. Holding on to the arm of our helpful and trusted guide, my father crawled, bent, twisted and performed all sorts of aerobic maneuvers to cover the interior of the ruin. It was a proud moment for me and never will I forget his beaming face as he tackled all the literal obstacles that lay in his way. Throughout the entire time we spent at Angkor, my father managed each challenge with incredible will and vigor, determined to admire every carving and pay homage to ancient Hindu aspirations that continue to influence and impress. I cherished his knowledge and passion for the living art and as we listened to the temples we heard our own heart beats - two of the same, father and daughter, living out a dream.