I was originally thinking between Angkor Wat and Borobudur during the Chinese New Year period, but eventually decided on Borobudur. Hence I was surprised when I was invited to the Senior Leadership Forum for my company for Asia Pacific & Japan, to be held in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
As it was supposed to be a working trip, I did not really think that I would have any spare time to make a trip to what would be probably everyone's destination in Siem Reap - Angkor Wat. I packed my small suitcase with working attire. It was only at the last hour, when the organising secretary called me up and asked if I preferred the "Angkor Wat" option or the "Other Temple" option.
Having only ever been to Phnom Penh and not Siem Reap, my immediate response was "Angkor Wat". While Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. Probably it would have been the world largest Hindu temple, since it was dedicated to Vishnu, and subsequently then became a Buddhist temple?
In any case, based on Guinness Book of Records, the world's largest temple is Akshardham Temple.
In the afternoon of Forum Day Two, we ended the discussions at 3pm, and then everyone got changed into something more casual. We had the company of a French guide, who authored an extremely comprehensive guide on all the temples in Siem Reap. We were then divided into two groups - the AW Group and the OT group. The coach ride to the temple was a rather quick one, and then we alighted at the entrance of the site to take a photo for our photo-ID entry pass, and then it was another drive closer to the temple compound.
Perhaps it was already rather late - say 430pm in the afternoon, so Angkor Wat was washed in hues of brown. The colour of the moat was dulled by the brown hues, and the reddish brown soil added to the drabness of the surroundings. The temple looked splendid nonetheless, but I would have wished for a little bit more green. Perhaps it was the context of the trip (being a work trip?), or maybe it was because I had the chance to see Borobudur at sunrise, where the colours were a nicer bluish violet, I preferred my time at Borobudur.
The guide took us into the compound, and then to the famous pond area, where we were able to take a photo of the temple and its reflection. I felt that a lone photo would be too boring, and asked for a photo of me and my colleague. We were then rushed through a circuit around the compound, and then after a group photo we headed out.
I was perspiring from the heat of the evening sun, and tried to pay attention to the intricate carvings on the walls. But I did not feel that I needed to stay longer. I suppose if I came on my own, at sunrise, and had the luxury of time to wander around, and explore the nooks and crannies as at my own pace, it would have probably added several more points to my rating of AW.
An hour passed, and everyone ended up on time back at the coach. Some of my colleagues were joking with the pun, "Angkor What?", as the driver started the engine, and drove back to the hotel.