Center of the Conflict
Trip Start Dec 26, 2010
40Trip End Feb 03, 2011
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For an hour on the road, I saw countless military barracks, some with chinese donated tanks under camouflaged nets. Bora reminded me only Prasat Preah Vihear is at stake. The Cambodian government is doing everything they can to ensure that this ancient world heritage site remains on cambodian soil. However at the other western Thai/Cambodian borders, relations are alot different
Approaching Kor Muy and the foot of the mountain, more soldiers with AK47 were roaming but decidedly in low key mode. The government had also commenced on improving the road starting at the bottom route, hence major civil works were pounding away. What was even more major - they found gold deposits when demolishing rocks, creating a big buzz with the villagers visiting, hoping to collect scraps of gold rock. It was here that I had to transfer to a sturdier scooter with a boosted up coolant tank. This driver spoke no English but the ride up the insanely steep route was over in twenty minutes. I remarked "Huh? We are here?". It was another 500 metres walk to the mid point of the monument stone steps. Right there, I can hear the market chatter coming from the Thai border.
Wasted no time, I took on the challenging stone steps, at times on fours, navigating the grandiose entrance. Preah Vihear, built 889 -1115 AD is nothing short of breath taking spectacular
In near future, a new road linking Sra Em to Tbeng Meanchey will be completed, bringing busloads of Angkor circuit tourists to Prasat Preah Vihear. Although the new roads would mean tourist dollars to the local communities and will drastically improve their livestyles, I considered myself lucky to be able to visit Prasat Preah Vihear without the bustle of obnoxious aunties and uncles. Within two hours, I was out of here and having lunch back in Sra Em. My plan was to stay the night and catch 7am bus back to Siem Reap. This all changed when I passed the taxi booth and was offered a US$15 shared taxi back to Siem Reap. I merely exclaimed 'What? My bus fare is only US$7!" And I was offered US$10 for the ride which I took up without hesitation. With only twenty minutes to departure, I quickly returned to pack up and was on my way.
It took another thirty minutes waiting in the car for the driver to snatch (literally) another two passengers so that we would not travel half empty
So I was on my way in a right hand driven car on a left hand road system. I truly thought that I was in trouble when I sat at the front. There were a few close calls with oncoming trucks but otherwise the traffic was light. Back in Siem Reap at the door of my guesthouse, Pov my tuktuk driver from the bus terminal yelled out "I was waiting for 3 days!" He was relieved to have found me again especially after I moved from Greentown guesthouse to Heart of Angkor and disappeared for two days to Sra Em. Pov turned out to be a fantastic tuktuk driver for my next three days around Angkor. A bubbly and honest Khmer.
I had my room changed to one that faced away from the pubs and enjoyed my sleep peacefully.