Climbing down in darkness after sunrise
Do not wait until complete darkness to climb down from the popular hill where all the tourists gather to observe sunset. It is very crowded to tourists and there is no lighting and everyone has to clamber down the fairly steep slopes which is easy to do in the day and challenging if dark. So carry a torch light or come down earlier before dark and before the crowd start rushing down.
Alternatively, you can see sunset on a air balloon or on ground level to see the changing lights on the temples and over the moats.
Shopping delights at Angkor Wat! No browsing allowed - swallowed up by the sellers if your pace slows or you look sideways at their wares - all demanding explanations as to why they were not the chosen vendor! Persistence can pay off is the vendor motto! I ended up with more T-shirts and singlets from AW than I knew what to do with! Best advice is to grab what you want fast - on the run if you are decisive enough!
Kids tended to target my kids - and cajole with "you are so beautiful" - but if no purchase made - "you are not beautiful - you ugly!".
We had great laughs - and enjoyed this in the spirit of the location - and a situation where survival is the motivation - for them! The hunt of the shop is definitely a different ball game in Asia!
If you are not interested, and politely say no thanks, they will back off - eventually. There will always be another bus or van full of custom behind you. DO NOT tell them you will come back LATER - because they are blessed with excellent visual memories - and eye sight - and you will be spotted from amazing distances, and reminded of your "promise".
- Family Travel
- School Holidays
What you encounter at Angkor Wat.....
We visited Angkor Wat temples as a family - and my kids certainly found their personal space invaded - from the moment you stepped out of your vehicle! Vehicles are met by a bevy of peddlers - with books, T-Shirts (by the thousand!), sarongs, little woven baskets, postcards, cheap bracelets etc - even when you went to the toilet! Eating lunch at the makeshift restaurants was also not safe - they hovered and waited for their chance at every destination! Daughter even had a staffmember at a restaurant ask quite seriously for her Billabong cap! A lot of these sellers were small children, and they often moved in "packs" - quite persistent, and targeting children. Although persistent, they were usually easily brushed off if you weren't interested - and plenty of other targets coming up behind you. Some of them were quite nasty if you took interest, and then did not buy - or if you were surrounded (as I was - because I love to shop) - and did not buy from ALL! "why you buy from her, and not me?".
The cry of "one darlar" will always be memorable - kids ask for this even if you take their pic!
Also confronted by a policeman in a temple, offering to sell his badge - well this was my interpretation!
Advised that the young men inside the temples offering to "guide" , and telling stories of needing money for their studies, is usually a "tale" - and, basically anyone in the temples making money, have to share with police etc. Nevertheless, the info they have is still quite good - as long as you bargain hard, and realise what the deal is. It is almost impossible for a Cambodian to get a guide license, as it costs rougly US $1200 (according to our driver), and this is not possible to save - by honest means.
We loved the holiday - and had many laughs about the barrage of people. Not a bad experience for the kids, as they needed to think about why these people are forced to engage in these behaviours - and maybe go home counting their blessings - and their space!
- Family Travel
If you suffer from vertigo, going to the very top of Angkor Wat may present a problem with the steep steps a daunting proposition for many. It’s not so much going up them but coming back down. One time tested method is to do it backwards, facing the steps much like you would on your way up. Sometimes it’s best to not see where you’re going!
- Budget Travel
Normally, I wouldn't put seeing monkeys as a danger, but these things stole my friends hat. And then ran away!! They are the coolest little things, and seeing them in the wild was another first for me, so I was super excited! I was able to get one of them to hold my finger, but I wasn't able to get a shot of that, as I was holding on to my stuff real tight. Plus, we couldn't stop laughing at our friend. Anyway, I was able to get this shot of the monkeys in our tuk-tuk.
Be careful with your little trinkets and hats!
Explosion waiting to happen
When my tuk-tuk driver was running low on gas, he pulled over to a little house on the side of the road. To my amazement and horror, a little boy brought out an emptied 2 liter of Coke filled with gas! I know this wasn't a government approved gasoline canister, so I got out of the tuk-tuk pronto! Any static spark would blow that whole thing away, but that is just the way they do it here. My suggestion is just to walk a few steps away until the transfer process is complete!
Watch your steps - do not trip
It is a feast to the eye when I walked through the gallery corridors of Angkor Wat temple.
The triangulated top and the pillars that allow sunshine to bask the walls to reveal the beautiful wall frieze. There are also many tourists and tour guides giving their commentaries.
In the midst of active tourism, beware of your steps. There are dividing beams across the flow to step over from one area to another. So while your eyes look up and left and right, do always look down. Stop and view or take photograph, do not try to video tape and trip over. It has happened and you do not want to spoil your holidays.
Don't fall over into canals when still dark
We went to see sunrise at Angkor. We were barely awake as it was still 4 to 5am. It was so dark.
Realised that when we walking on bridges in the dark but there were no clear markers where the edge or drop was.
During the day time, realized how periliously close we were into falling into the canals.
So bring a torchlight if you are seeing sunrise at Angkor Wat. Tread carefully in the dark so it will not be a dramatic wet sunrise.
My guide book stated that there are still active landmines around the area of the temples. However, there are clearly marked paths that have been worn down by the amount of traffic, so as long as you stay to the beaten path, you will be fine. Just remember that a few years ago, it wasn't safe to come here, as there were shootings everyday. So, I would tend to believe the landmine story. Better to come back alive and in one piece!
Do not look without appreciating
If you are going without a tour guide, do read up before hand to appreciate the different bass reliefs on the walls depicting Khmer Kings, the wars and the local Khmer culture and daily lives. Otherwise, you will just walk through and everything after awhile look a like and you will miss the hilights of the historical documentation carved in stone.
If you are with a tour guide, do listen first to the wealth of information and ask questions. Then ask for free time to allow you to take photos or just look and appreciate.
Many friends who have visited Angkor have told me that it is "boring". Perhaps they have missed the finer details and were just walking through.
Beggars and more beggars!
We had some laughs in Angkor Wat temples, when we were constantly shadowed by begging children - who were amazingly persistent, agile and almost ghostlike! Once you demonstrate a willingness to get a photo with them, and PAY, they come from everywhere! Were chased away by the guards inside the temples, but this was a temporary despatch for most of the kids! The old saying about giving an inch definitely applied here as well - so, unless you're in the mood, best to just ignore and they will generally leave you alone.
Its hard not to relent and offer unkempt little kids some offering, and they were quite appealing.
- Family Travel
- School Holidays
Buy only imitation antique
Imitation antique looks close enough and much cheaper than original or "fakes".
I could see the dramatic heads along a bridge into Angkor Wat. Some are restored copies as the originals have been broken through wars or "sawn off" to smuggle out or sold to private collectors or overseas museums.
My opinion is that real historical antiquity should be left at their site for preservation and enjoyment by all, locals and tourists and those "looted or taken in the past" should be kept in public museums.
As tourists, we should not encourage destruction of historical sites by buying antiques for private collection. We can also donate any extra cash to UNESCO or other bodies for preservation of cultural relics.
Beware of little drama princesses
My young friend Matt asked this question in his Cambodia page:
What will you do if suddenly this poor kid with a cute Cambodian English accent (That's nice to mimic!) suddenly leeches on you (without you asking), forces you to do the bargaining game with him and constantly harrasses you to buy his postcards? Will you:
A.) Pity the kid and buy his stuff.
B.) Politely say no and no until he leaves.
C.) Scream at him and harass him back! ?
Well, in our case it was this little 5 y.o. girl selling handmade bamboo objects that make a clicking sound when you shake it. She had her spiel down pat and had my friend's number. It's Letter A for my friend and the girl skipped happily off to look for another sucker (Me!). It cost us a dollar each and a little bit of pride as we drove off... our companions poking fun at us for our "high sucker quotient".
If you have a tender heart and you see these little kids coming, hold on tight to your wallet and run to the opposite direction. But if melting eyes and sing-song voice has no effect on you, then you'll be just fine! :)
- Budget Travel
- Historical Travel
Danger #2Really Steep Temple Steps
The temples in Angkor have really steep steps all the way to the top and there are no bloody railings. Really! Just take a look at the picture.It'll really be a case for concern you have vertigo and you're not a fan of Reebok Step Aerobics. You might crap halfway or cry like some tourists I've seen. So if you think you're not up to it, take a picture from the bottom and look around.
When in Cambodia, do not go off the beaten track. There could be a lurking land mine that can explode, kill or maim.
From past wars, there are still many unexploded landmines in the countryside of Cambodia. So be very careful not to stray off the path.
There are still cases of loss of lives and limbs due to landmines in Cambodia. Always bear this in mind.
According to a 2004 landmine report,
"...several provinces, particularly in the north and northwest of the country. In the forests of Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Oddar Meanchey, and Pailin, the most affected provinces, people still have their limbs blown off as they search for a way to feed their families..."