After a good night’s rest and a pretty heavy breakfast, we were both ready to start exploring.
Our guide, Phat, met us at 8.30am in the hotel lobby and our first stop was to buy the 3-day Angkor temple pass costing US$20 per person. The ticket counter takes a photo of each tourist and imprints it onto his/her ticket. I was quite surprised to hear that the revenue from the ticket sales does not entirely go to the Cambodians but is shared with a Vietnamese company who has been granted ticket concession rights to the Angkor Archaeological Park for a number of years.
Phat also showed us a map of Angkor (attached in the thumbnail below) and highlighted the locations of the 7 temples which we would be visiting over the next 3 days.
Aside from the Khmer Rouge genocide between 1975 and 1979 and the legendary Cambodian landmines, I know every little about Cambodian history and culture. Not surprisingly, I had a bit of a difficulty trying to absorb Cambodia’s history recounted by Phat along the way – the good husband was naturally nodding away enthusiastically.
Very (very) briefly, present-day Cambodia came under Khmer rule sometime around AD 802. At its peak, the Khmer Empire was the biggest and most powerful in Southeast Asia, with its boundaries stretching as far as the Thai-Burmese border in the west and Laos in the north. Hinduism and Buddhism were the Khmers main religions.
The Khmers were architectural genius, building remarkable temples and irrigation systems, as well as being master stone sculptors.
The Khmer civilisation came to an end in 1491 when the empire was invaded by the Sukhothai Kingdom.