13 months
Dec 27:
silky smooth
Dec 27:
hanging with the monks
Dec 29:
not WAT i expected
Dec 29:
my favorite
Jan 3:
the lowdown
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sign over a cell phone shop
Phnom Penh, Jan 2, 2005

run, don't walk, to cambodia

Are you interested in visiting Angkor Wat and the other nearby temples? If so, we think that’s great; we highly recommend it. So, what you should do is stop reading this, get on the web or on the phone with your travel agent and book it now. Right now. This minute. Because at this very moment, there are thousands of other people booking *their* trips to Cambodia. Huge packaged tours from China, Korea, Japan and France are being filled. The tourism industry in Cambodia has exploded over the last few years and as you read these paragraphs dozens of gigantic, expensive megaplex hotels are being erected in Siem Reap (the closest town to Angkor Wat). New hotels are being opened every week (literally). Prices on menus are being whited out and replaced with larger numbers - in US Dollars. I was very surprised to see that "downtown" is essentially a growing tourist strip where the only locals you see are serving you a meal, driving (or pedaling) a taxi, or begging. Restaurants serve drinks named "Tomb Raider," claiming that they are Angelina Jolie's favorite when she's in town. I'm sure that you'll soon be able to sign up for a Tomb Raider tour because, well, we heard a demand for it.

everybody and their mother on top of Phnom Bakheng waiting for the sunset view of Angkor Wat

There's something very strange about going to see religious monuments and taking time to reflect on their significance when someone is pushing you out of their way to get their own look. The same goes for peacefully enjoying that romantic sunset over Angkor Wat that you always read about. It's even more difficult if, like Grace, you prefer to take photos without a bunch of tourists in them. We do a lot of standing around, crouched in perfect photo position, waiting for the one millisecond that no one is walking through the frame. In a vain effort to counteract the general over-crowdedness, we visited temples in the opposite order from most folks (certain temples in the morning and others in the afternoon). This made things a little better, but it was still crowded.

The price to hire a tour guide, car, and driver for a full day (we're here during the high season) is US$40 plus tips. It's an extra $5 to see the sunrise and an extra $10 if you'd like to go out to a more remote temple. It might not seem like much money but it's a relative fortune in this country where the average wage is $20 a month! A large bottle of water on the road will cost you US$.45 and the same bottle near the temples or in a hotel will cost you $2. There are still a large number of guesthouses available for under $30/night, but you can bet their prices will keep going up as the tourism industry keeps skyrocketing.

So snap to it and get booking.

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