首次想到柬埔寨的吳哥窟，是看了王家衛的《花樣年華》。梁朝偉飾演男主角的周慕雲，於荒廢的寺廟內，面向一個小洞把心底秘密說出來 [注1]，背景音樂旋律拉奏著千百年來的哀傷。他心底那段未果的愛情，一如盛極一時的吳哥王朝一樣， 隨時間消失，只剩下斑駁遺跡下的滿目荒涼….. 心想有生之年必須造訪這個國度。 柬埔寨的歷史就像是一個複雜的萬花筒，放眼望去，交錯著硝煙烽火，刀光劍影。吳哥古蹟是世界上最大的廟宇群建築，供奉印度教的毗濕奴 (Vishnu) 及佛教(大乘佛教)，延伸到160公頃。提據銘文，當時曾動用三十萬名工匠及六千頭大象興建，工程浩瀚無比。每一個城市有它的城門、護城河，有些寺廟甚至鑲滿寶石或黃金，綺麗奢華，王朝盛極一時。
吳哥王城由 Jayavarman VII (柬王闍耶拔摩七世) 於12世紀間興建。吳哥通王城( Angkor Thom) 也稱大吳哥，是「大城市」的意思。吳哥的通王城始建於9世紀，現今所見的建築是由12世紀末、13世紀重建而成。而大吳哥以著名的巴戎廟(Bayon)為中心，也是著名的「高綿微笑」佛像所在之處。及至15世紀時，柬國王朝沒落，被逼棄城退守金邊。輝煌的建築竟漸漸被叢林蔓藤吞噬，完全湮沒在人類的紀憶之中。直到19世紀，一名法國生物學家按照古籍探險，終於在不見天日的叢林之內發現這座迷失的古城，令文明古蹟重見天日，哄動一時，被列為世界七大奇觀之一。
在50至60年代的柬埔寨曾經在國際舞台上光輝無限，成為多過知名人仕或政要到訪之地，座上客包括前美國總統甘乃迺的夫人(Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis) 、瑪嘉烈公主、李光耀總統、及法國總統。直至1970，龍諾 (Lon Nol) 策動政變，推翻帝制。在1975年至1979 年間，赤柬 (又稱紅色高棉) 的波爾布特 (Pol Pot) 掌控政權，在接近四年的「零度歲月」自絕於國際社會，展開了人類歷史上最恐怖的大屠殺之一。極端獨裁的政府，黨同伐異，無所不用其極地逼害反對派人仕，對持異見的文人、藝術家、及政客進行殘酷清洗。大屠殺令當時人口由700萬大減至 350萬人，全國四分一人口死於處決、酷刑、過勞、饑荒等等，該國至今仍留下聞之色變的夢魘。英國電影「戰火屠城」正是以這段殘忍的歷史為背景。
Angkor Wat has always on my mind since watching In The Mood for Love by Hong Kong movie director Wong Kar-wai. In the film, Chow Mo-Wan (by Tony Leung) brought the memory of his forbidden love to the monastery relic in Angkor Wat, where he whispered into a hole in the ruined wall. He then covered the hole with soil to bury the brief romance that never blossomed in daylight. Along with his unspoken affection lies the faded grandeur of the Khmer Empire, which was once the most powerful Southeast Asian empire during the Middle Ages. But as time goes by, the great empire was forgotten, its holy temple abandoned, leaving behind the valuable relics of the legacy. It was then I decided I must visit this place and see it for myself. Cambodia has a long and colourful history. Angkor Wat in Siem Reap is the largest temple complex and religious monument in the world, located on a site measuring around 160 hectares. Originally it was built as a Hindu temple for the Vishnu god in Khmer Empire, but slowly transformed into a Buddhist temple towards the end of the 12th century. According to old documents, over 300,000 workers and 6,000 elephants were employed to build the extensive structure. Each palace in Angkor had its tower gate and city moat, and the temples were lavishly adorned with gold and jewelry.
Angkor Thom was built by Jayavarman VII in the 12th century, which literally means “Great City”. At the centre of the massive complex was the magnificent state temple, Bayon, the temple of the smiling gods. In the 15th century, the royal family of Khmer Empire suffered a downfall and fled from Angkor Wat. The awe-inspiring temple complex was then left to wither in decay, later forgotten, and in the end completely swallowed by the robust jungle. Until the 19th century, adventurers discovered the ancient temple according to historical records, stunning the world with its grandeur and aesthetic values. It is now listed as one of the seven wonders in the world, and preserved as an UNESCO World Heritage.
Cambodia was once glamorous on the global stage and hosted numerous international stars. Until 1970, Lon Nol launched a coup to abolish the monarchy, and declared himself the president. Following his ruling, communist party Khmer Rouge rose to seize power and its leader Pol Pot led the country into a dark era known as “The year of Zero” in history. During the vicious four-year regime, the country descended into complete chaos. The dictator sealed the country off from the outside world and launched a genocide within his own country to eradicate his opponents. The deadly cleansing was performed on writers, artists, politicians and so on, resulting in a shocking plummet in the population of the Cambodia from 7 million to just 3.5 million! A fourth of Cambodians died from torture, execution, starvation or exploitation. The bloody history has inspired award-winning British drama film The Killing Fields.
The country only achieved peace when the United Nations took over its governance after the Paris Peace Accords, and later restored the status of the royalty. However in 1997, Hun Sen launched another military coup and seized power, extending his legacy until today. This is the first time I visited . I saw a large piece of fertile soil on the plane, with trees and trees along the road. Only six main roads have traffic lights in place, and the economy relies on farming and tourism. Nevertheless, it is a city rich with history and culture. Visitors will find vintage and charming colonial buildings with pubs, shops, and a diverse local cuisine. Top resorts and hotels are also in town. It is a place really suitable for different travelers. Let’s take a glimpse of how I feel about Siem Reap!