Friday, January 15, 2010

Cambodia : Sunset at Phnom Bakheng and Tonle Sap

Hey :), I'm back to tell my Cambodia story, in pictures :

A few days before, planning my trip. Thanks Debs for the RG.

When in Siem Reap, pick up the free Visitors' Guide from your hotel or restaurant. There were really helpful as information and maps are the updated versions. Got one at Phnom Penh as well. I also bought the book Ancient Angkor (albeit not the real thing) to read more on the temples. Very good guidebook.

At the Apsara Authority Complex to buy entrance tickets - the lines started as early as 4:30 pm. It's peak season apparently so the crowd was everywhere.

Got my one-day pass USD20 for the next day and get to use it the same evening for the sunset. You can choose to go to Angkor Wat or Phnom Bakheng or other nearby temples to view the sunset, your choice. Ask your guide/driver to bring you there.

On the moto, heading towards Angkor Wat and sunset at Phnom Bakheng. It was a nice cool evening. Dusty though, so it's a good idea to have a bandanna or scarf to cover your lower face. If you are fit, you should consider going to Angkor using bicycles; available for rent in town or at your hotel/hostels.

The moat surrounding Angkor Wat greets you first.

Vendors are aplenty; this one sells temple wall/relief rubbings. A lot of children and ladies will try to sell you something.

You can opt for an elephant ride up the hill to Phnom Bakheng, otherwise it's a short 10-15 minutes walk on a trail.

Getting on the trail.

Get ready to climb the steep steps.

Got another tourist snap this for me.

All waiting for ...

This sunset. On the right background is the air balloon (USD15). Almost everyone I asked seems to think it's not worth it; 10 minutes or so and half of that is take-off time.

A calm, warm evening atop ancient stones.

Brown selipar shot :)

Looking down - everyone was snapping away.

The sunset crowd. Some restoration work was ongoing at the top of the temple, hence the green netting and scaffolding.

The best way to go down : backwards, holding on to the sides.

The boats at Tonle Sap. They charge a fixed rate of USD25 per trip, which is very costly I thought. Anyway, I didn't spend too long on the lake, just over an hour or so. It was baking hot, only went up to the first village Chong Khneas.

One of the orphans at the school building; he kept making faces at us. The boatman said all of the children lost their parents who went out to sea and never came back. There were more than fifty kids there and I asked again "All of them are orphans?" He said yes. I don't know if he actually understood what I asked.

Okay, one on the boat picture is enough. At first I wore the life jacket then took it off cos it was too hot. Don't sit at the back, the engine is very noisy.

A floating Catholic church. There was another church, not sure which denomination as the signage was in Chinese.

This boy kept on asking for "one dollar". He paddled close and then stayed on the sides, later he paddled away in his 'basin'.

Looking out on the lake - massive body of water. Just miles and miles of ... water on the horizon.

The water level is very low during this season, as can be seen from this depth marker. During raining season, the water level covers the treetops I was told.

The boat will bring you to a 'fish farm, and crocodile farm'. Not much of a farm though, just fishes and crocs in cages. They fed the crocs with live fish, look at the blood. This farm-shop-boat also sells souvenirs (marked up prices) and serve food and drinks as well for those who want some refreshment.

With one of the orphans on the top deck of the boat where they eat and sleep (!). Again I found it hard to believe that they sleep up here in the open space (apart from the roof). Maybe I misunderstood the boatman. I kind of hoped I did. There are donation boxes here and there.

Hammock - I like.

Peace :)

The rest of the children were just playing noisily inside the classroom and on the outside corridor. Two teachers were on hand, just to supervise them. I gave some donation. They also ask you to buy pencils (USD5) and books (USD10) to give to the school. Very pricey.

The boathouses. It's amazing how they survive on the lake. Living conditions are very poor, and it must be challenging for them. Made me wonder if and how much of the tourist money collected from the sale of tickets, benefit these boat families.

More in coming posts.


  1. Nice pics. Saddening is the fact that despite Angkor Wat standing out in the world tourism industry, Cambodia remains one of the poorest country in the world. I wonder where all the money goes to..

  2. Heard about the sunrise. But when I woke up, it was already bright outside. :)

  3. The cambodian floating market seems to have changed position, i mean everything else, the church, etc..maybe due to the water level kan...they seem to be closer to the banks or payah bakau (whatever that is)...when i visited, they were all in the middle of the lake...did you know that on Tonle Sap, there is a division between the Vietnamese village and Cambodian village?..anyway i love your photos, bring back memories of my trip which i had tremendously enjoyed...I had promised myself that one day i'd come back..but this time to do some volunteering work.

  4. JIPP : Yes, wondering how much their booming tourism is helping the people. Their passenger service charge/airport tax is not cheap too - USD25.

    Jason LT : Set your alarm next time! Or maybe you're not a morning person :P

    Debs : I think the houseboats shift around throughout the year, depending on water levels. The boatman did point out some Vietnamese boats. Bah, let me know when you're volunteering! :)