Prasat Preah Vihear
Once in Phnom Penh, we decided to visit Prasat Preah Vihear before rallying Siem Reap for the temples of Angkor. After much searching, we found out that GST was the only bus company offering a direct connection to Sra Em, the nearest “town” to the temple (27 km). Ticket price was 37,000 Riels per person. We left at 8.30am and it was a very slow and irritating drive until we reached Kompong Thom: lots of traffic out of Phnom Penh and many road works. After that, it was pure bliss: the road is new, there is hardly any traffic. We finally arrived at 5pm. Sra Em is not really a town, more a line of haphazard buildings stretched along two roads meeting at a crossroad where the bus stops. We found a room in the hotel right at the crossroad: Sreynath Guest House where we paid 5$ for a basic room with detached bathroom. There is a new hotel with more comfort out of town on the road to the temple, but no idea of the price.
We had no difficulties in finding some moto drivers to take us to the temple the following day (actually they were waiting for us and approached us as soon as we stepped out of the hotel after checking in on the night of our arrival). They started negotiations with 16$ per person, we easily reached 10$ after a few minutes but did not strike a deal as we wanted to pay less. The following morning they were waiting for us and after further discussion, we finally agreed on a price which was acceptable to both parties.
Reaching the temple is not straight forward: we first drove to the visitor centre at the foot of the hill where we had to register with passport etc (the site is still a disputed territory with military stationed around and on the hill). From there, we had two choices: drive or walk.
- The drive from the visitor centre to the temple with a moto driver (not our Sra Em drivers but some guys from the site organisation) costs 5$ per person and includes the entry fee to the temple. For people not keen on driving on the back of a moto, it is also possible to take a jeep, but no idea how much this would cost.
- We wanted to walk which meant that we did not have to pay anything, it was just the matter of our Sra Em drivers bringing us to the start of the ancient pilgrim staircase, agreeing on a pick-up time and simply starting the climb.
We were glad we decided to walk: there is a brand new wooden staircase following the path of the old stone staircase; it is mostly shady, goes through forests and is very pleasant (but steep). We found it made our experience there that bit more special. All in all, it was a really rewarding trip. Cambodia has much improved since our first visit and going to Preah Vihear is not the ordeal it used to be anymore. The Cambodian government has been investing a lot to make the temple of Preah Vihear accessible and firmly on the tourist map, thus asserting its location as being a part of Cambodia.
$updated from: Photos.htxt Fri 15 May 2020 14:57:27 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$