When I first randomly stumbled across the Royal Independence Gardens in Siem Reap, it has instantly become my favorite place in Cambodia. I have paid the gardens a visit many a time after and it’s never failed to boost my spirit. The presence of heavenly shriek of flying foxes that dwelt high in the crowns of massive trees lining the main pathway across the Royal Independence Gardens was like therapy to my ears. I loved to watch these huge bats fight during the day as they hang from the branches heads down, delivering frighteningly deafening shriek as if the dominance was given to the one with louder voice.
When I first came to take pictures of the Royal Independence Gardens during the day, the Pchum Ben Festival was still at its beginnings. Preah Ang Chek Preah Ang Chorm Shrine was full of locals bringing food for the monks and the spirits of the dead, Shrine to Ya-Tep have continuously had people kneeling before it with heads bowed down and palms clasped together for the prayer while smell of burning sticks was prevalent and could be sensed from far distance.
There are several small ponds in the Royal Independence Gardens. They are not maintained, which is a shame because pile up of garbage thrown in by locals (most Cambodians would not consider throwing garbage in garbage bins – they like playing “cool” and throw empty bottles and wrappers from food in whatever is the closest – such as the pond) turns otherwise cute little body of water into a trash collecting hole. Shockingly enough, the water within the ponds is very much alive. You see ripples on it popping nonstop but they are not caused by the rain. It could be a cloudless day, just as the one when I first visited the gardens during the day yet the water surface was rippled without a break. There is a lot of activity in that water and one needs to look more closely to spot what causes it.
There are some frogs and salamanders in the ponds but most of the ripples are likely caused by the bacteria eating organisms which are hard to spot. Presence of the bacteria can be guessed by slight smell but it’s really not that bad. Still, the money was invested to build concrete beddings for these ponds, why not continue maintaining it so they also look nice. Perhaps few signs signaling that throwing garbage in the pond is a punishable offence could deter a few, but collection of what makes it in, as well as the removal of the weeds that widely grow out of the water would make it much more visually appealing.
The rest of the Royal Independence Gardens is nicely maintained, though. Lush greens, flower patches, bushes and trees are organized to create patters which are then intertwined by well integrated benches where weary traveler can take a break, or any weary head can sit and enjoy the shriek of the bats and the smell of the lotus flowers.
Still, despite unwholesome ponds, the heavenly sound of shrieking bats and the sight of them flying from one branch to another and landing to hang upside down made up for all the negatives. The Royal Independence Gardens were my favorite place and the most visited site in Cambodia. I love it there and it has never let me down.