Rules are flexible everywhere, but in some places all it takes is a bit of cash to make them disappear.
So with Koh Ker’s largest temple, a crumbling Angkor-era ziggurat in the Cambodian jungle. Alongside the signs warning impending death by land-mine for any who stray off the main paths (not a joke… a serious problem in Cambodia and Laos) lay the chains strung across the decrepit stairway climbing to the ritual-turned-viewing platform atop the tallest temple in the region.
A platform where a giant linga stone was the main devotional focus of the entire Koh Ker complex. What a place to stand.
After being confronted by the young Cambodian girl working as the “guard” for the temple, my guide suggested that we try giving her a couple of dollars to see if we can get her to turn a blind eye to us climbing in spite of the prohibition. She took the money and walked away with “at your own risk” on her lips, and for good reason. What at first glance looks to be a pretty simple staircase to the top quickly shows itself as a crumbling death-trap disintegrating from termites and swarmed with ants eager for skin. The original stone walkway is crumbled beyond use, and the staircase is so bad that at one point an identical one was built across from it only to itself fall into disrepair.
Still, though, the view was nice.
This was one of those places where I was glad have a guide to take pictures at the top, or drive me to the hospital if I fell to my pain on the way down.