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Boat trip proves Kingdom highlight

Boat trip proves Kingdom highlight

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A chicken makes a dash across the road near Angkor Borei. Why? Well, we think you might know the answer to that question.

A chicken makes a dash across the road near Angkor Borei. Why? Well, we think you might know the answer to that question.

THE 20-kilometre boat trip from the town of Takeo to Angkor Borei is one of the most spectacular in Cambodia. Water buffalos take turns with ducks to swim in the vast canals as local villagers grow rice in the nearby fields. This is rural Cambodia at its most idyllic.

“In the wet season the land around Phnom Da is flooded with water,” says Bun Sopbin. “Everywhere is flooded.”

Few know the waterways around here better than the 35-year-old boatsman. He has taken tourists to the temple at Phnom Da, a couple of kilometres from Angkor Borei, for the past 10 years, ever since he quit his job as a bodyguard upon getting married.

“When I was single I could go everywhere,” he says.

“But after I got married, my father-in-law did not want me to be a bodyguard. He wanted me to live with my wife.” Now, Bun Sopbin has four children.

Mainly he takes international tourists to the temple that dates back to the 11th century, although in October and November more Khmer tourists come. “There are plenty of fish to eat at that time,” he says.

The ride costs US$35, but Bun Sopbin only receives 10,000 riel (US$2.25) for each trip, as the boat is not his own. “If more tourists come I can improve my standard of living,” he says.

The temple of Phnom Da itself is a disappointment compared with the journey getting there. The site is littered with rubbish.

“Lots of people came here yesterday,” says Sok Try as he sells us tickets for the temple. “People do not understand the environment. They throw rubbish wherever they want and this makes it difficult for the people here to keep the site clean.”

Employed by the Department of Tourism in Takeo, Sok Try, 38, has been fighting a one-man war on litter since 2001.

“Mostly I clean the site on my own,” he says. “Sometimes we hire children to collect rubbish, but they don’t do it. They are lazy. The children here follow the foreign tourists. Sometimes when I tell them not to disturb the tourists, their parents get angry with me, so it is difficult to manage them. Today I will go alone to collect the rubbish again.”

Sok Try believes that to make the site into a bigger tourist attraction both facilities and access needs to be improved. “We should renovate both the main road and the waterway,” he says.

“We have to build a place for people to sit, and also [provide] more bins for rubbish.”

According to Bun Sopbin, when the water gets really low his customers have to make the final two kilometres of the trip by foot.

Unlike many similar sites around the country, the small street at the foot of the temple lacks anything for tourists to buy apart from cold drinks.

“If the road and facilities improve, more vendors will come here,” says Sok Try.

“Especially in the rainy season, when it is more beautiful here.”

INTERPRETER: RANN REUY

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