Teens might find Angkor Wat tedious, but the city can offer more compelling entertainment
Photo by: KEVIN BRITTEN
A teenager comes nose-to-nose with King Jayavarman VII at Bayon.
For most normal teenagers, visiting 11th century Khmer ruins is not high on the list of vacation choices. But now, Siem Reap offers enough attractions in and around the temples to make the trip less painful for the adults accompanying the adolescents.
Lets face it, old stuff can be very boring if you're not interested in the history or art of the period.
Angkor Wat, despite its spectacular scale and beauty, is no exception to this. So how do you keep your teenage kids interested enough to make the trip fun for all?
Well, the first stop has to be the viewing balloon near Angkor Wat. It's fun to be hoisted 180 metres off the ground whether you're interested in the ruins or not.
The best panoramic photos of Angkor Wat can be taken from the air, and even the most boredom-prone teenagers will get a thrill from being suspended from a tethered balloon.
Unlike parents, teenagers seldom suffer from vertigo. So witnessing their parents' visible fear at close hand is bound to add excitement to the experience.
A new quad-bike operator has recently set up shop in the town and has just imported some large, new quad-bikes. They enforce the helmet rule for all visitors, and designated riders accompany groups until they're clear of the built-up area. One-hour tours are not expensive and are a lot of fun, as the bikes are pretty powerful.
The crocodile farm right in the middle of town can seem boring until the crocs start to thrash about. Throw in a fish and these huge creatures spectacularly burst into life, snapping and fighting over the small fish that the farm sells.
There are crocs of all ages and sizes in separate pens, and there's a frisson of fear generated by being so close to something so deadly - and so hungry.
Pub Street is another place to take the kids in search of teenage fun.
Although most teenagers get no joy out of watching old people drink, the atmosphere in some of the bars - Angkor What?, for example, with loud music and big-screen TV - will entertain the young.
Lets face it, Old stuff can be very boring if you’re not interested in the
history or art of the period.
The street is safe and clean enough during the day and late evening to let teens roam alone while the old folk relax at a nearby bar.
Then there's the shopping. Siem Reap has good tourist-trinket shopping, and the new Night Market has all the normal range of kitsch with the advantage of being open in the cooler part of the day.
Plus, there's a comfortable, big round bar for parents to lurk in at a safe distance while shopping is done, and there are two fish massage places where you can get your feet nibbled smooth for only US$3 for 15 minutes.
Fish imported from Turkey do the work, and the favourite fodder of this species seem to be dead, flaking skin. For 15 minutes of cleansing and wriggling laughter, it's hard to beat.
The shops around the Old Market, which operate during the day, also have rich pickings for teens - particularly in the fashion bargains and oddball stuff departments.
The market itself only houses mainstream tourist kitsch, but the small boutiques are varied and plentiful, and you're never far from a bar or a restaurant.
So what of the temples themselves? The sheer size and scale of Angkor Wat itself means that there's plenty of walking and plenty to see.
Keep moving. Don't get too bogged down with all that carved-wall stuff from the Ramayana, and you'll be fine.
Above all, don't take a guide, as the chances are he or she will insist that you do the whole place. Get a feel for the temples, take some photos and move on.
Some of the best photos can be taken at the Elephant Terrace, Ta Phrom and the Bayon. Humorous photos are the way to go to amuse the young, with the best being the nose-to-nose at the Bayon.
With rates the way they are, it's crazy to stay in a hotel without a pool in Cambodia. For $30 a night for a single room, including taxes and breakfast, you can pick from a range of new and comfortable hotels to make up for anything that the adults in the group feel they've missed at the temples.
Of course, you may have kids who are seriously nerdy and have a genuine interest in Khmer art and architecture and history - unlikely, but possible.
For the rest of us, Siem Reap has now graduated to being a with-teens tourist destination.