Aside from planning future travels, I also started doing some inquiries about possible contact persons on different destinations that I wish to visit. And while searching there’s one friend gained in the name of Lem from Cambodia. He is a Tuktuk driver in Siem Reap, Cambodia. For almost two decades now, he had been transporting tourists into the marvelous temples of Angkor Wat. He frequently posts advertisements of his services in Facebook and one day we got to talk about Cambodia, and how it is in the eyes of a Tuktuk driver.
Lem started the job as Tuktuk driver since 1991, and for twenty years in the making, there’s more than hundreds of tourists that rode his Tuktuk. Lem promises honest and reliable tour services if you happen to visit Siem Reap, in Cambodia and one of his services is to bring tourists to the magnificent temples of Angkor Wat.
The Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia
It was founded in the 12th century by the Khmer Empire. It is a UNESCO heritage site and is considered as the largest religious monument in the world. It is also Cambodia’s prime attraction and serves as national pride and identity.
According to my readings, the temple is a representation of Mount Meru, the home of gods like that of Mount Olympus on the greek mythology. Angkor Wat has become a major tourist spot from meager number of 7,650 visitors in the year 1993 to over two million foreign tourists in the year 2013. This tourism boom allowed creation of jobs for locals like my friend, Lem Live. It also enabled the government to allocate 28 percent of ticket sales to maintenance of the site. A little trivia, the architecture of the temple was of a classic Khmer architecture, where the use of sandstone rather than brick was highly dominant in terms of architectural building process.
The Angkor Wat Temple had surpassed destruction from the wars with foreign oppressors and internal conflicts in Cambodia that prompted countries like India and France in helping out with the restoration and reconstruction of some of the portions of the 163-hectare religious temple. Schedules for site visit could go from one to five days if you’re really keen into discovering the large part of the temple.
According to Lem, tourists often go to the temple during sunrise, probably because of the encompassing effect of the sun highlighting the temples majestic structure. His two decades being a Tuktuk driver had gained him friends mostly tourists visiting the site and helped him survived his family of five.
Aside from the Angkor Wat Temple, Lem also sent me some suggestions to go to #WheninCambodia. I did some research and found more information from his tips.
The Floating Village of Chongneas
It’s a village floating above the waters located near Pnom Krom. The scenic view made the area afloat as one tourist attraction to visit in Cambodia. According to my sources, it costs around 3-20 dollars for services going into the site and best way to go about it is by going with a tara boat.
Valley of 1000 Lingas
Widely known as the Kbal Spean, the site is located Northeast of Angkor at the Siem Reap District. It’s mostly composed of riverbeds with carvings of Hindu gods, Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Lakshmi, Rama and other mythological symbols all engraved in the ancient rock formations. Tourists often take a dip in the waters while enjoying the archaeological structures. The river flows into the complex of Angkor and is widely believed to be blessed with sacred lingas. The sculptures were created by hermits who lived in the area between 11th and 12th century.
Part of the Cambodian literature is the Apsara Dance a.k.a the Dance of Apsara Divinities, a Khmer classical dance created by the Royal Ballet of Cambodia, under the patronage of Queen Sisowath Kossamak during the mid 20th century Cambodia. You can witness their performance in Koulen Restaurant, a famous buffet spot for tourists to dine out in Siem Reap with live Apsara dance attractions while you eat. There’s a 12-dollar buffet option with famous Cambodian dishes served excluding beverages.
See performance video here. http://www.koulenrestaurant.com/apsara.php
The 20-dollar transportation fee per tourist pays the bill for my Cambodian friend, Lem. During our conversations, I have seen how dedicated he is in doing his job, gaining him popularity and establishing friendly ties with foreign tourists. You can see positive reviews on his Facebook page to see for yourself. One thing I could easily relate with him is his resiliency in whatever circumstance he is in. There are dry months with not much tourists visiting the sites and as well as good business days with the high influx of foreigners wishing to roam around Cambodia, but Lem lives on, flashing that humble smiles and ready to offer that safe and reliable services.
To him it’s a way of life and though it is hard, there are always new rays of the sun sprouting behind the temples of Angkor Wat every morning. A symbol of another day to keep on riding that Tuktuk, another chance to meet new people, and another dose of hope to pass through the challenges of the day.
So if you ever find your self in Cambodia, don’t hesitate to call Lem. Your friendly and realible Tuktuk driver.
Lem Live, Cambodian Tuktuk driver (Including all photo credits)