Thursday, February 18th, was day 1 of temple touring. First we bought our mandatory temple passes. The price was $20 for 1 day, $40 for 2 days, or $60 for 7 days. The thing about these passes, though, is that they are sold by a Vietnamese hotel chain called Sokha Hotel Inc. Guards are posted at all the entrances to the temples checking passes, so you have to buy one to see the temples. BUT this company does nothing to maintain the temples! They just give 15% of their profits to the very corrupt Cambodian government and keep the rest for themselves. UNESCO maintains the temples. This hotel company just has a huge scam going on to make a ton of money. It’s sickening and I’m sorry I participated in it.
The temples were all lovely, of course. First we went to Preah Khan, which ended up being my favorite. Built in the late 12th century as a Buddhist monastery, it is filled with beautiful carvings, reliefs, trees growing out of the walls, and tons of passages, rooms, and courtyards to explore. We were with our Intrepid group and we kind of rushed through, only staying for an hour. This wasn’t enough for mom and I so we ditched the group and stayed for another hour. I’m glad we did; there was so much more to see!
Next we took a tuk-tuk to Bayon, the temple with all the carved stone faces. Bayon was also very cool, but I’m glad we spent more time at Preah Khan and less at Bayon. Also Buddhist and built in the 12th century, Bayon has 37 huge towers and almost all of them have 4 large faces carved on them. We ran into our group at Bayon so we got a free ride back to the hotel. Good timing.
We had a rest at the hotel and a walk for ice cream in the afternoon before heading out to Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is famous because it was the setting for the movie Tomb Raider, and it is unfortunatly overcrowded for the same reason. It’s a lovely temple, notable for the many trees still growing out of and over it, but the large crowds and recently installed wooden walkways really detract from the expierience.
For sunset we went to Pre Rup, a Hindu temple built in the late 10th century. It’s quite tall so it made for a nice place to watch the sunset, despite the many other tourists who had the same idea.
In the evening we had dinner at a place on Pub Street called the Temple Club where they had cheap drinks and a free traditional dancing show, a fine combination.
Tomorrow we’re getting up bright and early to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat.