Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Asia (
-   -   Angkor with Dad: The glory and the gory... (

tongsa May 2nd, 2010 01:38 AM

Angkor with Dad: The glory and the gory...
Well, back in one piece, barring my tummy that went amok after consuming generous portions of 'amok', glad that we went and pleased with the trip overall...The blinding bright sun, the searing heat and the amazing incredible temples...heady, humbling and simply awesome...and then the sorry contrast with today's Cambodia of squalor and an almost-commercial expectation of charity from tourists (by some locals) was both moving and off-putting at the same time...

A few tips in no particular order: 1) of course, don't pig on 'amok', the national fish-paste steamed fish! 2) Do Angkor while young and able, and you don't HAVE to do Bakheng Hill at sunset!(overrated, IMO). 3) You can buy a guide book at the various sites - they sell cheap (bargain hard), surprisingly. We ended up buying a few just average down our first purchase price (LOL - great christmas gifts)! 4) Do the "more-covered" sites at mid-day or when the sun is its hottest, brightest (e.g. Ta Prohm and the interiors of Angkor). 5) Carry fruit to share - I was carrying fruit and instead of being accosted by little girls to buy trinkets 'to help put them through school', I ended up giving oranges to all and off they went, both parties (them and I) kinda happy. Dad didn't agree as I didn't have enough for everyone...6) Of course, agree with Kate completely on the hot, hot, hot so plenty of water and sun-block.

Highlights: Bayon is my favourite, especially at sunset; Angkor of course at sunrise and the awesome bas reliefs; Preah Rup for reflection and quiet; Banteay Srei for the fine work and change in colour; and of course Ta Prohm for the ultimate humbling experience (also a fave). We did go to Tonle Sap but the abject poverty and filth got to me that was an experience but not really a pleasurable one. Dad's enthusiasm and indefatigable spirit really helped and I just had to keep pace!

As suggested, hired a local with an air-conditioned vehicle. Very useful and affordable.
Visited Angkor Thom the first afternoon - was completely taken in by the sheer scale and grandeur of everything. Particularly, spent a lot of time at Bayon with 216 faces looking down. Ozymandias Personified. Dad did well with the steps and all, despite the heat. I went back the next day at sunset and found it a lot more quiet, poignant and soaked it in better. As my father said, a 1000 years after it was built, people still coming to see what the king built is immortality achieved in a way...

Ta Prohm: 'from dust we are made and dust we shall be'...truly humbling, marvelous place. Thankfully, digital cameras are at hand enabling us to take shot after shot.

Evening saw us and a thousand others make our way to Bakheng Hill. Imagined it a 1000 years ago - aah, the whims of a king! Clambered up the top, jostled with a few, saw the sunset but didn't really enjoy it as much. It was essentially just another nice sunset overlooking a baray from a hilltop/ancient temple. Hats off to my dad for making it all the way - I could tell he was tired but raring to go!

5am at Angkor the next morning found us paying a dollar for an unpalatable cup of coffee and a sinking-into-the-ground plastic chair to watch the sunrise. Was worth the wait, the flies/dragonflies and the crowds to behold that sight. The temples too with their bas reliefs - sometimes you just had to stop and think, really, man made all this a 1000 years ago, places where cranes are needed to piece it back together! Spent a good four hours at Angkor before heading back for a hearty breakfast and the comforts of an air-conditioned room and bed!

Headed out to Banteay Srei, Preah Rup and East Mabon later in the day. Passing through the small villages with their wooden houses on stilts, open kitchens, hens wandering and kids running around naked...takes so little to keep one content! Really enjoyed these places that pre-dated the other grander temples. Probably also because they were less crowded. Watched the sunset there,and the surrounding rice fields were a nice visual change.

Visited Tonle Sap on our last day. As said before, again a humbling experience. All possessions on one do they do it? Saw floating schools, churches, crocodile farms and little floating gardens even! Squeezed in an apsara dance and a visit to D'Artisans Angkor in between all this, a trip to Psar Cha (the old market) where Dad befriended a sales lady who he was bargaining with!

All in all, a great trip to visit heritage sights and who better to do it with than a well-read, enthusiastic father who visited every gate/entrance to a temple,climbed those wretchedly steep steps without hesitating, got 'conned' (soft as he is) by all those sales people at each historical site, and also carried strong medicine for a nasty stomach bug so that our sight-seeing was not interrupted!

Gpanda May 2nd, 2010 01:51 AM

Thanks for the report. Great to see you and your Dad making the trip together. The temples are truly an unbelievable sight. They don't disappoint the way many grand tourist sttractions can. Prompt report, no penalty.

Luisah May 2nd, 2010 07:05 AM

Wow. I enjoyed reading your summary, sounds like a wonderful experience despite the stomach problems.

Kathie May 2nd, 2010 07:31 AM

So glad you enjoyed the temples. They are truly one of the wonders of the world.

By the way, the guidebooks for sale at the temples are photocopied editions. I always encourage people to buy a real copy out of respect for Dawn Rooney and her rightful intellectual property.

rhkkmk May 2nd, 2010 08:02 AM

nice report, thanks

Femi May 2nd, 2010 09:40 AM

Thanks for posting your report.

tongsa May 2nd, 2010 05:48 PM

Kathie - knew there was a catch but the glossy paper and finish was very good - fooled us for sure! And, absolutely agree, visiting the temples is an overwhelming experience! Reminded me of the time when I had visited the Great Wall even though its been redone and some Indian temples (Halbeid and Belur, near Bangalore)- fills you with a sense of awe!

Now onto planning the next vacation!

Leslie_S May 4th, 2010 04:56 AM

Great report - thank you! It's helpful to hear people's opinions of different temples & times of day to go.

Would you recommend a day at Tonle Sap or do the unpleasurable aspects outweigh the good?

tongsa May 6th, 2010 04:31 AM

Leslie, I was quite put off, to be honest. Plus, there is a lot of work going on to I suppose de-silt, deepen the basin. I had meant to write earlier but it was like a bad version of Kevin Costner's Water World, and just as filthy! I am told that the best time to visit is when the water levels are higher which would be the monsoons. So, may be if you are considering a trip around that time, might be okay.

panecott May 6th, 2010 12:56 PM

Nice report, thanks for posting.
Cambodia may well be my next big trip.

Leslie_S May 7th, 2010 05:10 AM

tongsa - thank you - good to know.
We'll be doing the Mekong Delta in Vietnam - so maybe the Tonle Sap lake experience is similar enough that we don't need to do it also.
Maybe just spend time on temples since we'll only be there 4 days.

Gpanda May 7th, 2010 02:54 PM

Tongsa-I wanted to note that we appreciate your reporting of your trip. Soemtimes those of us with no actual lives get too caught up in our Fdors personnae that we fail to acknowledge the contributions from poster like you who appear to be fairly normal. Thanks.

silverwool May 7th, 2010 07:15 PM

Glad you and your father enjoyed Angkor Wat.

Leslie_S Personally I didn't find the Mekong Delta similar to Lake Tonle Sap. However I would not necessarily advise going there! Perhaps go to one of the remote villages, not the tourist trap near Siem Reap. You could easily fill in 4 days at the temples.

Leslie_S May 8th, 2010 03:48 AM

thanks silverwool - always glad for advice! I think I'm more into temples so I'm leaning towards more temples

Elainee May 8th, 2010 09:31 AM

Really agree about Tonle Sap. Only for people who want to see extreme poverty. Seeing children in water loaded with filth going beside our boat to beg was most upsetting. Most be a better way for tourists the help locals. Yes, we did go to a local school and provided lunch and other help.

Leslie_S May 8th, 2010 09:54 AM

Just re-reading my post above and boy I should start doing that before I hit submit. Lot of "more temples" going on.
Anyway, I am hearing you guys loud & clear about Tonle Sap. You're right about helping in other ways, such as donating to schools or foundations.

tongsa May 8th, 2010 07:10 PM

Leslie, 4 days is plenty for the temples around Siem Reap - you should probably go to the 1000 lingas temple which is carvings on a river bed, a bit strenuous which is why Dad and I didn't go.

Gpanda - LOL, thanks! and yes, the forum IS addictve! Not too far from facebook, you reckon!!!

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:18 PM.