As clichéd as it may sound, like any other Bengali girl, I too have a fascination for the 9 yards, but to be really honest, I was pretty skeptical of backpacking in a saree! Until recently, when I thought to give it a try and packed one of my favorites (from Mom’s collection) during my trip to Cambodia.
In my mind, I was still in a dilemma whether I’m gonna wear it or not, but I could imagine myself posing in front of the Angkor Wat, in a saree!
Here’s My Experience Of Exploring Angkor Wat In A Saree!
Our tuk-tuk driver had told me to be ready by 4’O clock in the morning if I wished to catch the sunrise, so I had to wake by 3 AM to drape the saree and get ready before he arrived! Sunly, my tuk-tuk driver, who was also my new friend in Siem Reap, smiled as he saw me struggling a bit to get on the tuk-tuk, but his compliment did make my day! “You look so Indian”, he said, as we started moving towards the temple complex.
I was a little conscious, and also thinking about how I would manage walking so much for the whole day and climb the stairs…etc., etc!
But I was equally excited! Till now, all my saree scenes were confined to family gatherings, weddings of friends, and office occasions – this surely was a pleasant change of scenario! I still didn’t know that the fun was about to begin!
“Indian woman always good in saree,” Sunly kept mumbling in his broken English, “You look like them in movies, television!” I was feeling a little awkward by then!
The lady at the ticket counter also beamed looking at me, “Nice, Indian?”
I smiled at her, nodding my head.
And then, it was my guide, Ki, who enthusiastically introduced himself as a Hindu, figured out easily that I’m an Indian and then built a relationship between the Indians and the Cambodians, saying that we are all brothers and sisters as we are all Hindus! I was enjoying the conversation, as he showed me the carvings of Ramayana & Mahabharata on the walls of Angkor and in between, linked how Draupadi wore a saree and also Sita wore a saree! (Probably I would have missed out such detailed explanations if I was there in jeans & tee!)
My guide asked me (rather instructed me!) to stop at places and pose. He was quite sure of his photographic skills and I absolutely followed wherever he asked me to pause & smile! In the meanwhile, I also gathered the attraction of several other tourists, who wanted to come and click a photo with me!
For a while, I felt like a celebrity! There was this Chinese lady who approached me and said something like “Photo, Photo”. For a moment, my friend thought that she wanted us to click her picture, so he tried taking her phone but then she started saying something more which made no sense to us. After a conversation of about 30 seconds, where she didn’t understand us, neither we understood her – I figured out that she wanted a picture with me! “Hindu. Indian. Saree. Bollywood” – amidst all Mandarin, these are the 4 English words she used and was happily posing for the picture!
A few steps ahead stood her friend. She pulled her as well, and then we had a group photo together! Some other Chinese uncles and aunties also joined in, and I was the center of attraction there!
Once this whole chaos ended, my guide said that he also wants a photo with me, to show his family. I was thrilled with whatever was happening!
As I walked further, there was this man and five beautiful girls, dressed as apsaras. They were charging USD 1 from people who wished to click a photograph with the apsaras. This man called me, “Photo with apsaras?” I was about to say “No”, but before I could say anything, “One dollar for all, free for you!”, is what he said! I wanted to laugh out loud, but controlled my emotions and walked up to the apsaras. Of course, I did want a photograph with them! They showed me how to pose, and then I got a shot with them.
“This is like Bollywood”, the apsaras giggled amongst themselves, and I was thinking how deep an impact the Hindi-film industry has made on the world! While I stood there, some other people also stopped by to click our photo! By then, the celebrity-ish feeling had sunk within me!
My eyes started looking for another Indian woman, and I wished I would find someone to give me company!
But I didn’t! Nonetheless, it was quite an adventure for me to explore the Angkor Wat in a saree!
Amidst all that was happening to me, I was in awe with the eclectic beauty of the temples that date back to more than a 1000 years, yet stands with all its glory and grandeur. I was thrilled at every step, wondering how beautifully the craftsmen had worked at a time when resources were minimum.
Traversing across the ruins of Angkor would anyway be a special journey, and that day, painted with all shades of fun and amusement, did make everything even more special!
I’m sure many other female travelers out there must have explored abroad in a saree, and I would also like to hear their stories (the unusual, funny encounters) from the roads! Do share your stories, if you have any – I’m all ears!
Love the saree. Also it took me a while to get what ‘apsaras’ are. Good read. Also love the photos.