- Angkor Wat developments during Covid-19
Once thriving, the tourist attraction of Angkor Wat and surrounding temples now sit almost empty during these strange times. In their own unique way, the temples seem to be relaxed during this pandemic. Here I will be sharing experiences of the current situation and some info along the way.
- Covid-19 in Cambodia.
From my observations, Covid has not been a big issue here. There has been limited testing within the community. Initially, only people who had been in touch with incoming tourists from China, or a person who had tested positive, could get a test. Now, all incoming travellers are being tested.
Observations from local expats within Cambodia show many with ‘symptoms’, but were not able to get tested during January February and March. Some people have mentioned increased funeral activity during this time. It is entirely possible people died of the virus but were not diagnosed. FYI, it is common here for cremations to happen a day or two after a death. It is also possible many have had the virus but with no or limited internal testing, it is entirely subjective. Since the initial scare back in March / April, things have drifted back to normal. Some wear masks, but I can assure you, many do not. Things seem ok here now. Borders remain closed to tourism, affecting locals within the trade.
- Entering Cambodia.
Tourist visas are not being issued (Nov, 2020). As things stand, unless you have a company letter of invite or valid business / retirement visa, you will not be able to enter. If you are eligible, there is a requirement for covid free signed health certificate within 72 hours of departure and 14 days of quarantine to deal with. There were reports of the quarantine being a bit lax, but a new scare from a Hungarian government official has tightened things up. He was tested positive entering Thailand after visiting Cambodia, putting over 600 into compulsory quarantine.
- Ticket Pricing.
No change for tourists. $37 – 1 day, $62 – 3 day, $72 – 10 day. Tourist visa holders here are those that have been stuck since borders closed. These people have had their visas waived until things open up, unlike us on business / retirement visas, still having to do the usual paperwork. There are some new arrivals, mostly Chinese / Korean. Some good news for long term visa holders, Angkor park has finally granted long term passes for residents. The prices for long Angkor passes are: 1 month – $100, 3 month – $150 and 6 month – $200. The process is simple, just goto the ticketing office with your long term visa and ask. The whole process takes 10 minutes.
- Siem Reap Changes.
Many tourist related businesses are closed. Some restaurants remain open, probably hoping for a customers this coming season, now looking unlikely. Some stall holders remain but the majority are closed. Most trade is local. Food markets remain reasonably busy.
The government has taken this opportunity to improve the road network. 100 km of road upgrades are planned in and around Siem Reap. Unfortunately, for many, this means the government is reclaiming land alongside roads. Many kilometer of walls, and some parts of houses are being demolished to make way for the road widening. The town looks like a building sight. There is no road widening going on in central Siem Reap, Pub Street and Old market area. These improvements are supposed to be complete over the coming year. The government took 10 years to widen Sok San road, which is now complete. However, it looks like this new work is being done at an accelerated pace. Of interest, one house remains, even though the powers that be have marked it for demolition. It is supposedly the house of a witch. Nobody wants to take on the responsibility for the demolition.
- Angkor Park Changes
There are a scattering of reconstruction projects within the temple park. East gate of Ta Prohm is being rebuilt. The original gate floor is around 12” below the existing path height, quite amazing the amount of silt that has built up over the years. More scaffolding is up on Pre Rup temple, the top is still accessible. Work is under way on the small structure in the middle of Srah Srang lake. It looks like they may be building a walk way to the center. Some good news, the main causeway renovation to Angkor is due for completion is 2021. Parking at the front of Angkor is now a block back, a longer walk! This area in front of Angkor is in the process of ‘beautification’, along with a scattering of gift shops. A new cycle path around the temple complex takes you off the sometimes congested main circuit, a welcome addition. On that note, many of the local Khmers, with excess time on their hands, have taking to cycling.
- Other News from around Siem Reap.
There are roomers of a Siem Reap second City north of Damdek. Work on the new airport in this area is well underway. Several big attractions are mentioned in the local press including a wildlife underwater centre and an Angkor Them Park. North of Angkor at the gate to Phnom Kulen there is a new orchid centre. It is in early stages of development. Visiting is possible, however I do not believe it is officially open. There is a new road up Phnom Kulen from the rear. This is still under construction and is not yet open. Once complete, the plan is to close the front road for upgrades, access will be from this new road which is a nice addition. I fear it will lead to more development on Phnom Kulen. Roads are being improved from Siem Reap to Svay Leu (the start of the new road).
To summaries, things are changing fast. Right now, if you can get into the country, the Angkor Temple complex is most enjoyable. With hardly any tourists, the temples seems to have come alive with nature. I expect things will change dramatically over the coming years. The old days are over but there is still the possibility of some enjoyable times as the tourist industry slowly opens, the sooner the better.