You expect a small sleepy town that primarily services the surrounding temples, but MAN were we mistaken! On the way into town there must be conservatively 15-20 5 star hotels. All concrete monstrosities that have maybe 10% Cambodian flavour and 90% Korean influence. The minute you step outside your hotel (or for us tiny little guest house), you are accosted with Tuk Tuk drivers, restaurant hosts, money changers and the like.
While this is most definitely Asia, and you have to expect these things, what I didn’t expect was the jump off point to Angkor Wat and Ta Phrom to be so so so overly commercialized. I can’t believe that people come to Cambodia and expect, actually no DEMAND, a 5 star level of service. I’m not sure what came first – The hotel or the Tourists!
I can fully appreciate that a lot of people don’t like to travel like we do but it seems very disrespectful to me to come to see 1200 year old temples in a community still so devastated by war and want to go 5 star all the way. And of course this level of $$ encourages the locals to become completely financially driven and if you want to be a traveler and not a tourist – you can just forget it.
In saying that, the temples themselves are AMAZING! The similarity (while I’m sure anyone with any kind of Archaeology interest would disagree) to the Incan and Mayan cultures seemed very significant to me. Same central courtyards, same time frame of building, same quality of stone masons (actually the Incan’s had it all over everyone in that department) is eerie indeed. It's so interesting to me to see ruins of roughly the same era that are on opposite sides of the globe but have such striking similarities.
OMG - one of the best decisions of my life. For about an hour or so we were the only people inside the temple. In the dawn, as the sun rose and the colours changed, and the silence dropped away, for about 60 minutes we had it all to ourselves. It was just us and Angkor Wat. An unforgettable hour for sure.
Ta Prohm lives up to the Tomb Raider mystique with ease and is a photographic gem! The moss covered, vine strangled ruins are exactly as you imagine and its hard not to pretend, for just the smallest time, that you are Lara Croft. Just for a minute...
- Get up early, do the 4am start.
- Plan to spend the entire day in the park.
- Find a local tuk tuk driver to hire for the day - its really worth it.
- Take some snacks (for your driver as well)
- Tie a scarf or something you will remember onto your tuk tuk. Its really hard to find yours in a sea of tuk tuk's when you come back from one of the ruins.
- HAVE SOME RESPECT! When we were coming out of Angkor Wat we saw so many young people in singlets and bum freezer shorts. This is a spiritual place for the Cambodians. Be Respectful. Cover shoulders and knees.