The Temples of Angkor: bring money

After two days of strolling around 800 year old temples, I am templed out. It was a mostly pleasant experience, putting aside the expense.

Our tuk tuk driver was acting a bit awkward the whole two days, I think he was expecting us to turn around at any minute and say your fee is ridiculous buddy, let's halve it. But too polite to insist, we paid him.

If you plan on eating or drinking whilst touring the temples, get your guesthouse to make you a sandwich. The food is about three times worse than anywhere in town, and three times more expensive. Too hot to bother, we paid for the stupidly priced food as well.

I'm not kidding when I say bring money. Paul and I usually get around town eating and internetting all day with a $20 note and some reil in our pocket. It was out of laziness that we left the entirety of our most recent atm withdrawl in the daypack, and lucky we did.

Entry to the Angkor area for three days is US$40. If you actully manage to fill three days, the tuk tuks will cost you more than the entry fee. After day one we were wishing we only got the one day pass (still US$20). Tour guides are available to hire from town, but three days of this will also exceed your entry fee. They do have a lot to say though, and in a number of languages. We heard French, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, English and German. While Paul and I wandered around making up stories to explain the various objects we saw lying round (this is where they must have sautéed the goats, and this is what they used to preserve the monkeys) and pointing at random stuff and saying 'gee that's pretty', the less stingy tourists were getting a history of the empire. The goat sauté block was in fact a basin for collecting and channelling rain water that fell through the hole left at the top of the tower.

We find out after visiting that the ticketing is run by Sokha Hotel, a division of Cambodain petroleum company Sokimex. They pay the Cambodian government a fee of one million US dollars annually for the privilege. A portion of takings after that get given to the Apsara authority, who are in charge of preservation and restoration. For a number of years, it was estimated that only 5c of every dollar (after that first mill) was put back into the park. Today the distribution is better. This is pretty evident, on pretty much all of the sites areas were roped off for restoration, but nobody was there and nothing had been done. When there were workers on site, they weren't doing anything. Seriously. The most construction work I saw was in a hammok being erected. (ok I did see a tent of about 20 people, and at least 3 of them were chiseling at stones, and another place had a crane that did have a driver sleeping in it) One site we visited was due to be fully complete in 2002, but were no where near it when we were there.

There have been criticisms of the ticketing, saying a lack of transparency leaves heaps of room for 'miscalculating' ticket sales. In 2005, Cambodian tourisim reported 1.4 million tourists entering, but Sokimex only reported 300,000 ticket sales.

Speaking of oil giants and conspiracies, did you know that BP owns stonehedge? Ya-huh. And just to drive home my point, the killing fields (pol pot's dumpng ground for bodies when he killed a third of the Cambodian people in the 70s) is now privately owned by a Japanese company. Oh the humanity.

Is it time I moved on? The tuk tuk ride was great fun, taking us through some thick forested areas, countryside and towns. I won't go so far as to say it was my favourite part, but it was awesome. Over two days I took about 800 or 900 photos, (seriously!) 600 of which were on day one. We saw the tomb raider tree (the one where Angelina Jolie did her thing) and then saw some much bigger, better, more impressive and more awesome trees at other temples (I hear the location scout was fired).

I will upload a whole host of photos, as soon as I can process them all on my good for nothing (good for solitaire) laptop.

Paul and I have just run our finances and holy jesus the Australian dollar is a piece of crap right now. We've been operating in USD for so long, and have been patting ourselves on the back (before Siem Rip Off anyhow) about how fabulously low our spending is. But we finally add it up and convert it to AUD and we'll be skipping dinner tonight!

The even worse news is I'm back on the souvenir trail! So I buy a gift for mum for christmas, then Paul's mum, then me, and then something else for me, and what do you know I'm off the wagon.

My apologies for the long post - the internet here comes free with the food! There's just one more thing I must mention - lemongrass sorbet.

Bec,
Siem Reap