The temples at Angkor are spread over a huge area of some 400 square kilometres and the area is home to many villages so you get a chance to see some everyday country life. This is best encountered when you travel to some of the temples that are further afield from Angkor Wat such as Banteay Srei and Banteay Samre where you see women working in the fields and rice paddy fields, farmers and ox pulling carts like the one in the main picture.
Angkor Wat is not just a destination for tourists. Many monks and nuns visit also, although it is probably more like a pilgrimage for them. I noticed that one group of monks had a licensed guide with them.
I have seen these little piles of stones in many parts of Asia. They are built with small stones, the larger ones on the bottom with smaller ones at the top. The number of stones varies but is usually at least three. I believe it is a Buddhist custom which is done to say "I was here and made a prayer or wish." They are probably a miniature equivalent to a stupa or chorten. These prayer stone piles were near the inner wall of the third level on the east side of Angkor Wat close to where the apsara dancers were. We also saw them in other temples. Interestingly, where I live people mark hiking trails with similar piles of stones.
Modern-day dancers perform in the southeast corner of the third level at Angkor Wat; however, they were resting when we passed by. Two may have been apsara dancers. Another two had on interesting looking bird costumes. We also saw dancers in other temples (e.g. the Bayon).
Well, in these quickly changing times one can never be sure if tips on a sign are to be trusted. What if you not only want to use the loo, but are also in need of a shower? Are you allowed to...? And with what devices? This sign helps you also with a question as tough as this one! *lol*
Sometimes it's easy to forget, but the temples of Angkor are still important places of worship for the local people, and they have even more right to be there than we do.
You may see monks and nuns asking for alms and incense sticks being sold. That is a normal part of the Buddhist faith, just as collections are in Christian churches.
You often find young children, six to ten years old, of course they could be older but appeared young, selling anything from postcards to scarf or cans of Coke to tourists coming down from their air con buses.
I was impressed with their mastery of "Please buy from me" in fluent American English and Japanese. I believe others will quickly learn them in Chinese, Spanish or French depending on the tour groups.
Did not hesitate to buy from these children as their parents are probably busy cooking in the restaurants or driving the taxis to make ends meet. Some how tourists like to snap their photos of their cute faces and then buy something in return.
My opinion: Better buy from the children than see them begging in the streets.
Although similar to Thai classical dancers, the Cambodian or Khmer Traditional Classic dance is re-emerging with the wake of tourism after it was almost eliminated during the Pol Pot regime.
Fortunately surviving dancers are able to teach the younger generations. So it is amazing to take time to see these dancing at dinner tables at hotels or restaurants as they have appeared in court and carved in the images of temples in the Angkor Wat complex.
Colorful, graceful moves with traditional Khmer music will etch in your mind.
Conservation work on the Angkor temple complex started in 1908, when French archaeologists established the Conservation d'Angkor. Nowadays, the Angkor Conservation Office (ACO) is the Cambodian government body in overall control of the work. 28% of the revenue from the sale of Angkor passes is spent on conservation work on the temples. UNESCO also provides some funding. Teams from Japan and Germany are currently involved in conservation projects here. So, somewhere you willl almost inevitably see scaffolding. Try to think of it as a good thing.
Some of Angkor's sites were originally built as Hindu temples, while some were built as Buddhist temples, and yet others were converted over the years. Today, most of Angkor's major temples house at least a few Buddha statues (nearly all added later) and draw a steady stream of monks and worshippers. You may be approached for donations, but you are under no obligation to pay unless you actually choose to accept incense sticks or other offerings.
While there is a notional dress code requesting "proper" attire, this is not enforced at all and sightseeing men in shorts and women in sleeveless tops are common.
Locals will not accept damaged, defaced, worn or old US money. The will try to palm off their old yankee money to you in change. Take a lot of $1 bills with you when you go and inspect them all. Take more than you think you will need: ATM's spit out $50 bills, and getting change can be a hassle.
Be prepared to be overwhelmed by children selling whatever they can when you drive up, They are selling to make money because the country is so poor, so if you see something you like get it, get it quick and get on your way to the temple. They are like any good salesman, they don't take no for an answer. They are not allowed on the grounds so you only have to run the gauntlet twice.
It is easy to forget that the temples are places of worship and not just tourist attractions. I did see some people asking monks to move out of the way so that they could get a better picture or even try to get the monks to pose for a shot. This disappointed me as it is their country and their temples and we are merely visitors, irrespective of whether we are paying or not.
During out visit in 1997, there was still a village in Angkor Thom with houses on stilts, sugar and beer making activity, ox carts, and hair being cut. The villagers were very friendly and happy to have us visit them. I declined a taste of the beer though.
Nowadays, there are enough public toilets all around Angkor Thom and its sights. But you might not be a 100% sure how to use them... That's where the sign on the pic comes in handy - at least I was finally sure what to do! *lol*