water, and lots of it!
The clumsy steps and heaps of jagged rocks found throughout Angkor were only made more difficult by the torturous heat and never-ending stream of sweat beads that poured from our brows. There’s a reason why the locals all where those colorful checkered scarves all the time (see “goodies.") Yes, quite honestly, it’s survival of the fittest out there under the intense sun of Cambodia, especially if you are not already acclimated to the intense temperatures of Southeast Asia!
This may seem like common sense, but don’t try to act tough and outlast Mother Nature. She will trump you every time. Make sure you keep yourself well-hydrated while on-the-go as you do not want to end up with heat exhaustion after only one morning in Angkor! Bottled water is pretty much available anywhere you go in Cambodia, and in Angkor, is usually sold by the always present adolescents that pester you as you enter or exit the various temples (see below). But trust us, when they are selling two larges bottles of ice-cold bottled water for only $1 USD, you are not going to be annoyed in the slightest!
Unfortunately, recycling did not seem so prevalent so try your best to dispose of your water bottles as best as possible.
the precocious children (and tour guides) of Angkor
“Mista, mista... wanna buy a bracelehhhhhht?”
Get used to it. Here in Angkor you are a “farang” and, whether you like it or not, that also makes you a target! A target for whom, you ask? The vendors of course... and there are many at the Angkor Archaeological Park. After visiting only a few temples, we quickly caught on to their rigmarole.
The surprising thing is that the most savvy of vendors are actually children no older than 11 or 12 years old! Yes, at Angkor, it’s the precocious children who are running the shops here, and if you think you are going to get the better of them, guess again! These charming children are so funny and bright that you can't help but buy from them, even funky little items that you have absolutely no use for. (Wooden flutes anyone?) And guess what, that’s exactly the way they have designed it!
After our interaction with Peer and her family outside of Preah Neak Poan on Day 1, we headed out on our second day, having already decided to pretend that we didn't speak any English. Boy, were we in for a surprise. No matter what language we used to try to throw them off, the Cambodian villagers were one step ahead of us, proving that they knew each language by counting to ten.
Seemingly in efforts to generate conversation and a rapport with their potential customers, these young children are being schooled somewhere on the basics of each tourist language... and apparently, the capitals of the 50 states of America! When we would finally reveal that we were from California, the first words in reply would always be the same, no matter which kid we were chatting with, even temples apart: “Ohhhh, Sacramento!” We were shocked! (We would have thought they would have mentioned Hollywood instead!)
Now, don't just think you can simply run away from these kids! They are persistent, and very clever, with a humorous answer for any retort you may throw their way during this little cat-and-mouse game. One of our favorite exchanges went something like this:
Young Cambodian girl no older than nine: “Mista, mista... Would you like to buy a scarrrrrrrf?”
Brady: “Uh, no.”
Sister of Young Cambodian girl, no older than seven: “Come on mista, very pretty scarrrrrf!”
Brady: “Uh, I don’t need a scarf.”
Young Cambodian girl no older than nine: “How about a scarf for your girlfriends?”
Doug: “Uh, we don't have girlfriends..."
Young Cambodian girl no older than nine: "You know why you haven't got any girlfriends? Because you do not buy a scarf from me." (Chuckles ensue.)
Love it. Anyway, whether you may find the kids pesky at times, they are really comical. Do yourself a favor and engage in some banter with them. And if you see a trinket or piece of clothing that you really do like, buy it. These kids are ready to wheel and deal!
Set of Drifters tip: Another thing you might want to be wary of when touring the temples are locals who suddenly may assume the role of your personal tour guide! While trekking through Pre Rup, a gentlemen began following us around, offering us informative tidbits about the site and its history. Now we don't have anything against tour guides per se - sometimes it’s quite nice to get a local’s perspective on things - it's just that we prefer to have the interaction made on our own terms, and more specifically, when we have made the decision to pay for said perspective ahead of time!
We knew to keep our distance from them after our first “guide” asked us for a tip. Still, it was next to impossible to deny the young ten year old Cambodian kid near the Royal Enclosure who spewed off stories about the king's many concubines as though they were from a textbook! (See "sights" for more information).
Naturally, if you are stranded at the top of Phnom Bakheng, and are desperate for a little more background on the mountain temple, perhaps a local guide is exactly what you are seeking after all! Go ahead and listen, but rest be assured, your guide will expect some money in return.
Set of Drifters video: Check out our YouTube channel for video from this event!
ticket packages, bathrooms and further away temples
You may be saying to yourself by now, “Gee, I want to see all of this this stuff. How much does it cost?” Surprisingly cheap, once you get there. You may visit any of the temples at Angkor you like on one-day, three-day, or seven day passes for $20 USD, $40 USD, or $60 USD respectively. We chose the three-day pass that allowed us to see most of the main temples of Angkor, albeit on a tight schedule. If you need a break in between and want to hang out around the pool one day, the three-day pass is a nice deal since it allows for in-and-out privileges to Angkor on any three days within a seven day period.
Keep in mind that one passport-sized photo is required at the time of purchase for either three or seven day pass. If you do not have an extra photo with you, associates at the checkpoint will take one at no additional cost, though this may slow down your entrance considerably so plan ahead if you can! While personal drivers, and the young local children looking to sell you their T-shirts, can wander through Angkor Park without a pass, only those with tickets have access to the temples themselves! Expect to be checked upon entrance to any of the main sites!
Angkor Park is open daily from 5:00AM until around 6:00PM though some temples, such as further afoot Banteay Srei, close at 5:00PM. If you plan on visiting some of the destinations outside of Angkor’s perimeter (Koh Ker or Beng Mealea come to mind), be prepared to pay separate entrance fees of at least $10 USD each! (You will also have to arrange your own transportation.)
Set of Drifters tip: What about bathrooms? An unexpected surprise at Angkor is that most of the larger temples feature modern new facilities nearby that offer a comfortable place to heed "Mother Nature’s" calls. Many of them even come complete with sensored faucets and hand dryers! (This is certainly not the Angkor of the 1980's or early 1990's. There is nary want for much else... other than air conditioning!)