Before I begin…
Despite the best efforts of a rampant rooster, I am still on this earth. The rooster, however, is not; though it may be said he brought it upon himself trying to cross the road in front of a van. Nobody was injured, and I have just been informed that the van has already been repaired.
Well before we came to said rooster, I got the opportunity to grab a quick shot of construction work on the new road bridge over the Mekong. It’s a large undertaking indeed, and will reduce journey times between Phnom Penh and Prey Veng. The bridge appears to bypass Neak Loueng, though they should still get plenty of business from tour buses passing through to and from Vietnam.
On the way to Preah Vihear, we had cause to stop overnight in Kampong Thom. It’s a nice town, though fraught with traffic, as it lands on a major intersection between several national routes from around Cambodia. The road getting there was treacherous, with poorly demarcated roadworks and copious amounts of potholing and washouts from the flooding that afflicted the country two months ago.
Preah Vihear is one of Cambodia’s plethora of ancient temples, though generally not as well known as Angkor Wat in the international community. However, this all changed over the course of the past six years or so, thanks to its geographic location.
Preah Vihear lies on the Cambodian-Thai border, and was the location of a heated border dispute over the ownership of the temple complex and surrounding land. While the ICJ has ruled unambiguously that the temples are Cambodian, they have not defined the exact location of the border. As a result, border tensions are continuing, which may be seen in the large military presence on each side. Fortunately, no shots have been exchanged in recent times, and the complex remains open to tourists.
There are five temples in total, with each successive one higher up the hill, before the final one, which sits on the peak. An ancient staircase asceneds one side of the hill to the complex. It’s rather a steep staircase, so wouldn’t really be a recommendation for anything beyond viewing. Due to its location, climbing the stairs also risks encountering military patrols, which doesn’t seem like the best thing to do while on holiday.
Thanks to a more temperate climate, sublime vistas, and the sheer beauty of the temples themselves, I’d highly recommend taking the time to view Preah Vihear.
After seven hours in the back of a van, we lumbered into Siem Reap by night. The bright lights were made more spectacular by the handiwork of the rooster.
Since Siem Reap is a larger tourist hub than Phnom Penh, the whole town is bedecked with yuletide frippery, including a myriad of christmas trees (made from fairy lights) and carollers (by way of a very good PA system). However, the town itself isn’t the attraction, it’s merely the gateway to Angkor Wat; a gateway I eagerly anticipate passing through.