We had come a long way to see Angkor and it had taken me a long time to get there- about fifteen years later than when I initially thought of going. But what would it be like with a 3,7 and 11 year old in hand?
Angkor is the reason most people visit Cambodia – it is on the national flag and is one of the most famous and evocative archaeological sites in Asia. Quite simply, it was a royal city, spread out over a huge area, containing temples and secular buildings and housed perhaps up to one million people about 1000 years ago. It is way too big to see in one trip or in fact in many trips, and so most concentrate on Angkor Wat, the ruins of perhaps the world’s largest religious monument ever built, and its surroundings. It served both Hindu and Buddhist religions and the artwork on the walls and the look of the buildings themselves is quite similar to what one will see in some of the famous sites in India.
Angkor is famous today also for being a movie set – the images of jungle draped ruins are well known to many. We set about exploring the site over a period of two days. We had decided to use a car with driver to ferry us around, and a guide, but after day one we realised that probably half a day with a guide would have been sufficient. The history and art is amazingly interesting, but the kids really just enjoyed the sense of exploration that these ruins seemed to have been made for. Jungle everywhere, opportunities to crawl and climb – it’s a kids paradise. Within reason of course – Angkor is a ruin, and ruins must be respected, both for what they are and for the fact that they could be unstable anywhere, anytime. Probably our main problem was the lack of rest rooms – Eitan aged three and I had to walk into the jungle to take care of a rest room stop that he just couldn’t wait out. It was also hot and hugely humid. I use our baby backpack for Eitan – the site was simply to huge for him to keep up with us.
Angkor was amazing not only for the buildings but also for the people – we saw dozens of Buddhist monks exploring just like us and they found as to be as interesting as we found them.
Summary – we had a terrific time at Angkor – it’s a great place to take kids, though I would suggest taking it easy on the guides and just spend time wandering about the ruins.
Visiting Angkor was very different from our touring in India. Firstly, Angkor is well established on the international tourist map – lots of foreign tourists everywhere- but by and large we didn’t feel overwhelmed in any way. Could have been because we were there in late October, before the main tourist rush or just because no matter how busy it was it didn’t compare with the number of people you see every day in India. Out of Angkor, there seemed to be very few people – especially in the countryside, but also in the city, which was a walkable pleasure with kids.
PS: These days I’m planning great family trips to Cambodia. For more info on how I can help your family, visit here.