Exploring the Funny Side of Angkor Wat

Temple Tourism 101

I know I know. Everyone takes Angkor Wat seriously seriously. And rightly so.

Cambodia holidays: Angkor Wat

Our guide showing us how big his new backpack needs to be. Read on. I’ll explain later…

We’re talking about the mother of all temples. 900 years old. The largest religious site in the world.

Angkor Wat is the mother of all temples. 900 years old. The largest religious site in the world. Click To Tweet

All self-respecting Cambodia holidays should include at least a look at Angkor Wat, shouldn’t they?

You can’t come home from your Cambodia holidays and say you didn’t visit any temples. Can you?

Well you can cheat. If you’re like the other captain and have a low threshold for temple tourism you can play Temple Golf instead of visiting the archaeological sites.

Cambodia holidays highlights: Mini golf
Playing mini golf at Angkor Wat Putt is a kind of religious experience

 

Angkor Wat Putt is a miniature golf course with nine crumbling, accurate scale miniatures of the famous Angkor Temples. A bizarre spiritual experience.

Hey and by the end of the nine holes you can say you’ve visited nine of the Angkor Wat Archaeological Park temples. Bargain.

A tour guide with a sense of humour

If being loose with the truth doesn’t work for you I recommend choosing a guide with a sense of humour.  We got lucky. Our guide, Kim, was both a funny guy and a gold mine of information.

After watching sunrise at Angkor Wat, then checking out the Tomb Raider temple we tuktukked our way to Phnon Bok.

During the half hour ride, Kim pointed out the skinny cows,  explaining they look anorexic because they were fed on noodles.

And talked about his vision for buying his own tuk tuk and starting an independent tour guide business.

Dreaming of a dwarf wife in a backpack

Over the next bumping half hour, we discussed his business plan, adding helpful suggestions, as you do.

My chef brother in law suggested catering would work as a value add. My archaeologist sister wondered if our guide had family, maybe some kids, who could help out with the barbecue planned for the roof of the tuk tuk?

Well no, Kim said, he was still single. But looking. And came up with the idea of marrying a dwarf so he could carry her in a backpack in the tuk tuk.

Our guide came up with the idea of marrying a dwarf so he could carry her in a backpack. Click To Tweet

The idea was for Kim to drive the tuk tuk and do the tour guiding, while his mini wife cooked the satays on the barby on the tuk tuk roof. From within Kim’s backpack.

An innovative twist for solving the space constrictions involved in turning a tuk tuk into a part time food truck.

Do you think it will take off on Shark Tank?

Graffiti or religious recycling?

Angkor Wat was originally constructed as a Hindu shrine, then transformed into a Buddhist temple, spawning some interesting artistic repurposing.

Hundreds of images of Vishnu had beards drawn on them (well, carved into the sandstone). And his crown had been given a makeover to turn it into Buddha’s crowning glory curls.

Cambodia holidays: beautiful ruins
What are they going to do with all these spare parts? My nine year old niece contemplating the ruins.

Beautiful ruins

Of the three temples we visited one, Angkor Wat has been restored. Another, Ta Prohm (the Tomb Raider temple) is being refurbished. Although it looks like the trees, not the reconstruction teams, are winning.

And the third, Phnon Bok is still in a beautiful ruin.

Or, according to Tourism Cambodia Phnom Bok is

“a state of ruin, a state of beauty, which is investigated with delight and left with regret”

Part of our regret on leaving was having to face the 635 steps back down the hill with jelly legs (from the 635 steps climb up) in the dusty heat.

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Temple Golf

I loved exploring Angkor Wat, it was one of the highlights of my recent Cambodia holidays. It was a barrel of laughs despite the dust and heat and 635 steps.

Have you ever been to Angkor Wat, or on holiday to Cambodia? What were your impressions? Did you love it or laugh about it or take it all deadly seriously?

5 Days in Siem Reap

Remember the Dead Kennedy’s song Holiday in Cambodia?
When I was a teenager, the idea of taking holidays in Cambodia was a joke. Back then, under Pol Pot’s regime, the combined effects of executions, strenuous working conditions, malnutrition and poor medical care caused the deaths of approximately 25 percent of the Cambodian population.

Holidays in Cambodia are full of surprises

Now it’s totally different.
Siem Reap is gritty, it’s dusty, it’s charismatic, it’s cosmopolitan. It’s dirt cheap. It’s hedonistic, spiritual and surprising.
As the other captain remarked,

“This town’s got grit.”

True. I even had to wipe the dust off the bank machine screen so I could see how many $US I was withdrawing.

The hotel we’d paid for was a construction site

Holidays in Cambodia highlights: Fancy Boutique Hotel construction site
We had paid for our stay at the Fancy Boutique Hotel, but it was still being built

Day 1. We arrived at Siem Reap around 8 am after an obscenely early start. Our hotel transfer driver was at the airport holding up a card with my name. Yay, great start to my holiday in Cambodia!
The confusion began when our tuk tuk stopped outside a hotel we’d never heard of and the driver proceeded to unload our bags.
When we pointed to the name of the Fancy Boutique Hotel on the printed booking voucher, our driver said the Fancy was all booked out so we’d been moved and asked if we’d like to see for ourselves.
Hey why not? Sure enough. The Fancy Hotel was under construction. So we stayed at the Dinata Angkor instead. Nothing wrong with the Dinata. Once the dust had settled on our confusion. It was comfortable, clean and the staff were fantastically friendly and helpful.

Temple Golf

Holidays in Cambodia highlights: mini golf at Angkor Wat Putt
Mini golf at Angkor Wat Putt

Day 2. If you’re looking for a kooky spiritual experience check out Angkor Wat Putt, a miniature golf course with nine crumbling, accurate scale miniatures of the famous Angkor Temples.
We hired bicycles and rode the dusty hot roads past it in convoy. It was easy enough to miss.
How much fun can you have in the heat? Beers are a buck (US$1). There’s even a butler button so you don’t have to interrupt your game if you get thirsty. And a cool soundtrack. Early eighties Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Doors.

You get a free beer for a hole in one. What’s not to love?

You get a free beer for a hole in one. What’s not to love? Click To Tweet

Angkor Wat

Holidays in Cambodia highlights: Phnom Bok temple
We climbed 635 steps to the crumbling, peaceful Phnom Bok temple. The panoramic views were spectacular

Day 3. Sunrise at Angkor Wat is awesome and sublime. Even if it was another obscenely early morning.
The Angkor Wat Archaeological Park covers 400 square kms. I’m going to dedicate a separate blog to our visit. Suffice to say it was worth climbing the 635 steps to see the spectacular crumbling ruins of Phnon Bok. Without the crowds.

Electric bike tour of the back streets

Holidays in Cambodia highlights: electric bike tour of the back street burbs of Siem Reap
We stopped for a (warm) beer during our electric bike tour of the back street burbs of Siem Reap

Day 4. I’d never been on an electric bike before. So quiet, so cool.
Our convoy of E-bikes followed the river, further and further out of town to the burbs where the locals live.
Kids were having fun swimming in the river.
We slowed down to let a grubby, naked toddler carrying a mobile phone get off the road.
Chickens and roosters crossed our path.
We finished the day eating tapas at Bugs Cafe… My brother in law and I were violently ill that night.

A night at the circus

I spent Day 5 recovering and regretting eating that tarantula.

Okay. I wasn’t feeling 100%. But I wouldn’t have missed our night at the Cambodian circus for the world. My brother in law wasn’t up to it so we offered his ticket to our tuk tuk driver. You should have seen the surprise and happiness on the tuk tuk driver’s face.

“Oh my God? Really?”

He obviously loved the circus as much as we did, jokingly pretending to be my missing brother in law throughout the evening.
The circus is run by Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS). PPS provides arts education for young people from the streets and orphanages who come to learn, express and heal themselves through the arts.
“Influence”, the show we saw, mixes drama and circus to explore struggles for power and survival. Impressive, moving and powerful. Some of the mime reminded me of the live video of the Dead Kennedys Holiday in Cambodia on Rage…

I’d love to spend more time visiting Cambodia. If I won lotto I’d be planning lots more holidays in Cambodia. In fact I’d like to sail there sometime…

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