Myles Harrington

Two Sites Worth Seeing

In Cambodia on November 12, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Our first overnight bus ride in over a month took us to Siem Reap, famous for pretty much just one thing, Angkor Wat. The famous 900 year old temple is even emblazoned upon Cambodia’s flag; it must be something special. We were considering at times not even visiting the so-called heart of Cambodia, but thought we should as we were around. I was worried Angkor was going to be another Taj Mahal moment, rammed with too many tourists, overpriced and not as magnificent as hyped, but I was really wrong.


At US$20 the entrance fee was cringingly steep to someone as frugal as myself and with the $15 tuk tuk ride on top it’s an even more painful day out for the poor. Approaching from the south you get the idea of the scale of the site, seeing the vast moat which looks more like a giant lake and makes old saxon castle moats look like punctured paddling pools. Angkor Wat is placed symmetrically on the middle mound and is massive. It’s not really the scale that struck me as the most important aspect of the temple though, it’s the detailing on such a scale, triple layers of carvings cover the whole structure from top to bottom and the views from the top are incredible.

The next temple we visited was our favourite of the day, Bayon, which is epitomised by the iconic smiling face of Avalokiteshvara. From a distance it looks like a pile of rubble, but in between the towers of smiling faces it’s a great temple. A few more of the same in the general area, over grown trees and crumbling sandstone as well as a few terraces of intricate carvings of elephants and lepers and we were on to our final temple of the five-hour trip; Ta Prohm. The temple was featured in a scene in Tomb Raider and it looks like a film set. I don’t even think Hollywood could have crafted a more atmospheric place. The jungle has taken over this temple over the last few centuries and has left an apocalyptic type place where nature is triumphing over man’s ancient creation.

Tomb Raiders

All in all, it was a fantastic few hours and for once I felt as if I’d got value for money from my ticket. Lonely Plant said not to even consider only visiting for one day but I felt it was enough time and I wouldn’t want to pay $40 for three days or $60 for a week pass would I?

We hit the bars in Siem Reap for a couple of nights and literally got the T-shirts but we had to push on with less than a week left in Cambodia. There’s no greater way of curing a hangover than with a nine-hour bus ride, so of course that’s how we dealt with it, going the 664km to Kratie.

We probably did more in our one full day in Kratie than we’ve often done in three days, we even set an alarm so we could fit it all in. First on our list of things to do was to see the highly endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in their natural habitat 15km up the Mekong river. Again, this is a highly expensive tourist attraction, as we only found out when we arrived, but with relatively few tourists and a spectacular opportunity to see these magnificent creatures in the wild it was well worth the $9 boat ticket and $8 tuk tuk. It was so peaceful drifting along the river on our private boat and every time I heard the deep intake of breath as the dolphins came up for air it was a dash to look round and see their fins glide gracefully back into the murky water. We probably spotted about 10 of them in total and sometimes they all came up for air like synchronised swimmers. We bobbed around watching for about an hour and every time they arose I got the same pulse of excitement, dolphin watching is additive. I just wish I’d taken a hoop.


After the ride back to town we got the local ferry over to a small island in the middle of the great river called Koh Trong. Upon docking we traipsed through the mud up the river bank and rented a couple of push bikes for a leisurely cruise around the island’s circular dirt track. It was so nice to have the peace, which was only broken by the bellowing calls from the houses on stilts as the children cried out “hhhheeeeeelllllllloooooooo” as we pushed on past.

5k remaining: £590.05

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