Day 6 (November 30, 2010)   Ang Kor


  Our tuk tuk driver will take us along the long or short route of Ang Kor. The rest of the day is for relaxing in the hotel and take some dinner in Siem Reap.

Map of Ang Kor

   The long route is shown at map on green and the short one in red.


   I decide while taking our breakfast we’re going to hire the driver from yesterday as I didn’t get Rural life in Cambodiaa better offer last night. So I ask in the hotel desk where can I make a call from and it is he who dials the number I’m showing in a small paper. In less than 10 minutes our driver is at hotel’s door.

    We agree to his advice of starting today by the long route with the visit to Banteay Srei, the furthest temple. We confirm the yesterday’s rate: 40$ in total as well. People use to wake up very early for these visits, but we start at 9 AM.

   First stop in a petrol station close to the hotel to get some waters from the supermarket which we can store under our seats. It’s less than one dollar for all 4 bottles.

   We then stop at ticket boxes and get the three-days tickets because w3e pay the same than for two single day tickets: 40$ per person. With the tickets we can go on with our funny tuk tuk ride, which, passing through the rural live in Cambodia, drive us to the first temple: Pre Rup.

Temple Pre Rup in Ang KorTemple Pre Rup in Ang Kor

   We like this and climb the steeper stairs to the top where there are beautiful views. We explore every corner but the story here comes from a police officer in the entrance. He comes to us and shows us the badge, we make him understand we’re aware of he is a policeman and ask about what he wants from us. I never would guess the answer: Selling us the badge a real Cambodian policeman badge”. We decline smiling and shocked.

   We’re going to learn very soon everything is on sale here and from everybody. We’re going to hear thousands of times the words “one dollar” from children, old women or men… and for any item or fact.

Detail of Pre Rup templeWalls in Pre Rup temple

   Climbing to the top is a must-do as it makes you acknowledge of the environment. When you get into one of these temples is like traveling to ancient ages, forgetting about your present, but it is in the top where you can see you’re surrounded by rainforest everywhere, in a flat land until the very horizon. It is the whole what makes this place one of the most special ones in the world.

Road bar in Cambodia   After this first temple we go for a long ride to Banteay Srei, also known as “women temple”. It is like 30 Km further and tuk tuks, which here are just a small motorbike towing a kind of trolley with seats and a cloth roof, take more than 30 minutes on covering the distance. So it is approximately one hour’s return trip through huts and forest where you can get closer to the rural life of this country. There are very few buildings made with bricks and, when we see one, it is some public institution as schools. So we keep seeing peasant with cows or children on school uniform on the road side. The cows here are a different kind of the ones we’re used to see.

Cows in Camboya

   Banteay Srei is very beautiful with some noticeable differences with the other ones: that reddish color and the carvings around. Before reaching it there is a street market selling clothes and souvenirs and my wife wants to take a look, but that is not as easy as we think here. There is a rule: while you’re outside of a shop you’re free for all the sellers to try to deal with you, once inside one, they must wait outside until you leave it. So the typical looking while shopping is not possible in quietness here as you’re constantly surrounded by sellers trying to get you into their store. We finally do our first and worst purchases but with the promise we’ll learn on bargaining. Cambodia is a very cheap country and when I’m talking about bad prices it is comparing with the local ones, which are still far from the ones in our country.

Banteay Srei or women temple

   Some sample pictures of this temple:

Banteay Srei temple in Ang KorBanteay Srei temple in Ang Kor

Banteay Srei temple in Ang KorBanteay Srei temple in Ang Kor

   Another 30 minutes coming back through huts and rainforest to Ang Kor’s long route and we reach our next stop: Banteay Samre temple.

   When we notice we’re alone here and see the architecture of the buildings as the ones in Tomb Raider games we play around. We love this lonely visit and take this video:
Banteay Samre temple in Ang Kor

   We skip visiting East Mebon temple because we can see the most of it from the road and seems too similar to the first one. Our driver confirms it is very similar and then we go on to Ta Som. This is a small temple we can visit in a few minutes.

Banteay Samre's wallsTa Som

Ta Som

Detail of Ta Som temple

   We reach the next temple quickly, it is Neak Pean. We find a stone sculpture in the middle of a lake after walking through a long footbridge over the mangrove. We buy here a porcelain puppet by 8$. The environment is the highlight of this place more than the temple itself. There are big stone sculptures at both sides of the entrance bridge as brawny men in a row holding the body of a naga, the mythological seven-headed snake, in a way of banister.

Neak Pean temple in Ang KorFootway to Neak Pean in Ang Kor

Neak Pean temple in Ang Kor

   The nest and last stop is at Preah Khan. We’re offered bracelets from some children, this already happened on the previous temples, but this time we buy 10 bracelets by one dollar to a little girl counting the items in Spanish.

   Our driver tells us how nice is this temple so we get in looking for spectacular corners. It is big and there are a lot of corners, but about the back part we see the images which have making Ang Kor so popular.

Preah Khan temple in Ang KorPreah Khan temple in Ang Kor

Preah Khan temple in Ang Kor

Preah Khan temple in Ang Kor

   Trees appear with these strange forms before going up to the sky, and they’re huge These images are coming from the collision between nature and ancient temples and are spectacularly beautiful. Looking at the pictures it seems like if the soft tree bases are molding over the stone buildings, but they’re far from being soft: when we touch any of these trees we could say they’re as hard as the stone the temples are made with. The impossible photo is taking the temple wall with the whole tree upon it, which is getting higher and higher to the sky, as if its base was not that special, and, only then, decide to open its crown.

Preah Khan temple in Ang KorPreah Khan temple in Ang Kor

   It’s 2:30 PM and we’re finished our visits for today, I already told to our driver we are fast. We answer to his question to be delivered on Pub Street as it is lunch time. In our way we pass through Northern Gate and we can see Ang Kor Wat from far. Our driver says: “That… tomorrow”, and yes, I’m aware of it.
Getting out from Ang Kor by the door
    We haven’t found the temples crowded and we don’t know why, but no complains. May be it is due to starting so late, that’s why – and because we like to sleep – we tell our driver to be picked up from hotel at 9 AM again. He asks me 5$ for petrol which I give and take note of it.

   We take one cocktail each in the first pub we see in the street, which looks fancy and we pay 4$ for each of them. The reason for these high prices seems to be Angelina Jolie was there when filming Tomb Raider, which is also the name of one of our cocktails. In the rest of pubs the price for cocktails is 1.50$. We share a delicious pizza with coke by 8$ in total in a terrace of another place and, after that, we finally get into the market to look after the shopping we want to take to home. The first we’re looking for is the silk, which is everywhere in dresses, but not by meters as we’ve been asked to bring. We cannot find the tailors I read we would find here. We get some clothes which makes us know the shopping of this morning was not good and I bargain the price for two watches to the same I was asked at the beginning by one: 30$ for a Rolex an Omega beautiful watches. They’re obviously fake, everybody must assume that, but really looks like the original ones. I’m happy with this purchase, although the seller lady shouting “I love Spain” makes me think she is happy too.

Siem Reap's market   We come back to our hotel, already dark, but still wanting to test the swimming pool, which we do. I only leave the hotel once for getting tobacco and something to dinner at room for almost no money. In a street fruit shop I can see a lot of strange fruit for us, looking as if they should be kept in Men in Black’s customs. I buy one of them: a fruit looking as a pink artichoke which is white with black pips inside. Its name is Dragon fruit and I’m thinking maybe I could get a wish if I get seven of them together.

   Tobacco prices are incredible: I’ve got a pack of 10 boxes of Cambodian cigarettes by 5$, but this is for taking to Spain. Marlboro boxes cost less than one euro: 1.20$.