Monday, December 1, 2008

My Afterthoughts of Ho Chi Minh and Angkor Wat

It was a well deserved vacation that I took together with a friend. I just wanted to forget my stressful corporate life and be lost in Ho Chi Minh and Siam Reap. Yes, I had a short vacation in Vietnam and Cambodia.

I traveled light. No cell phone. No Laptop. No reports. I just brought the bare essentials: money, clothes, camera and loads of enthusiasm.

It was my second time to visit Ho Chi Minh so I was the tour guide to my friend. My reasons for going back are the delicious food, the cheap but beautiful souvenirs and the friendly people of Vietnam.

I brought my friend to this restaurant I discovered 4 years ago named Quan Ngon which served very delicious Vietnamese food. Tourists and locals alike line up and wait to be seated for as long as 45 minutes. I knew my friend love it there because she agreed to eat there several times. We also had a short dinner cruise along Mekong River one moonlit night and attended a Catholic Mass (in English!) at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in down town Ho Chi Minh.

Losing my self in Vietnam was easy. All I did in Vietnam was eat, shop and pray.

The flight to Siam Reap from Ho Chi Minh was just an hour. With only less than 2 days to see the ruins, we hired a taxi driver to be our official guide around the city and the ruins.
Seeing Angkor Wat face to face was more overwhelming than I expected. I was consumed with unexplainable mixed feelings: Happy to be here at last; Sad that I only had a day to see it ... Amazed how such an ancient civilization built the huge temple complex; Perplexed how they just left it to crumble ... Touched by the indomitable spirit of those who built it with hard labor; Grateful how they tried to restore it for the next generations to see.

The carvings were so intricate. Every nook and cranny was adorned with exquisite design of all conceivable images – dragons, gods, serpents, flowers, trees and creatures of the netherworld.

It was hot and a bit crowded with tourists from all countries and races: English, French, Japanese, Korean, German, Italian, Spanish...I guess I heard them all. Everyone was armed with camera, ready to shoot at every opportunity there would be. Some were just there to just to be there. Some were there to really be there. Some were there and wanted to be really, really be there. I could say that I was there just to be lost in the myriad of beautiful stone works and rich history.

One of the sidelights of my visit was knowing that all weddings in Siam Reap would always end up with the pictorial at the ruins. It was so heartwarming to note that the Cambodians really value their heritage even in these modern times. I happened to take a snap shot of the entourage waiting for their cue for the pictorial.

Siam Reap is a small City in a developing country thriving amidst an extinct advanced civilization. I could say that their ancestors did not only leave them the temples of the past but also left them a gift of their future – a booming economy through tourism. They have plenty of big hotels and still counting, yet never enough, to accommodate the throngs of tourists who want to take a glimpse of this ancient and rich civilization.

Losing my self in Angkor Wat was easy. All I did was shamelessly take pictures of their gods and goddesses (like what most tourists do), hoping that I could bring everything I could without taking a single stone from the ruins.

I never imagined that losing one's self can be so enriching. It was in losing my self in the ancient temples of Cambodia and the busy restaurant in Ho Chi Minh that I found what I had been looking for: ME.


Small Footprints said...

Welcome back! It sounds like you had a marvelous vacation ... and I'm so glad that you found yourself once again!

Take care!

Small Footprints

Anonymous said...

Welcome back... the photos are lovely and I would so love to be able to visit Angkor Wat myself. Beautiful. I am glad that you're rested and refreshed.

Ron said...

You found yourself while in Cambodia!! Wow...exactly what I was writing about today in my blog (12/29). Great minds think alike.