The peak season had just begun when I arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia last November. I knew from experience that the usual popular spots for sunset at Pre Rup and Phnom Bakheng would be packed. No way I was going to jostle with ill-mannered tourists again. Instead, I took a ride to Phnom Krom, a hill on the edge of the lake known as Tonle Sap.
Just minutes into the journey, I was passing riverside villages, traditional stilted wooden houses and paddy fields. I could see as far as the mist allowed, and there was little of it in the air. Before long, my destination appeared, a lonely giant karst emerged in the distance. The village of Chong Kneas at its foot was bustling with preparations for a feast, accompanied by loud Khmer pop songs.
The climb to the top was a steep one that should only be attempted by the moderately fit – or the mountain goats that inhabit the site. However, even just half-way up Phnom Krom, the views were spectacular. I could see most of the village on one side. On the other side, the paddy fields extended as far as the eye could see. Water buffalo grazed on the slopes nonchalantly, leaving little “obstacles” behind them on the path. [Read on]