Angkor Gondola, also known as Kongkear boats, offers a serene boat ride on the calm moat of Angkor Thom. An attractive backdrop is provided by the laterite walls of this ancient city which creates a photogenic and memorable setting for a gentle cruise, lasting around 40 minutes as you drift between the South and West Gates.
Occasionally locals might be seen fishing at the water’s edge; kids bathe in the waters. This is an opportunity to remember that slow is sometimes better with the boats propelled by an oarsman with a wooden paddle; there’s no motor to disturb the stillness.
However, before we get too carried away with the romanticised picture of a traditional wooden boat skimming over the water lilies in your own tranquil corner of Angkor, it is worth mentioning that the boats do bring a whole lot of kitsch to the party. Modelled as a small-scale replica of those during the Angkorian era, it’s not a splash of colour but the spilling of several paint cans that adorn the gondolas, with a carved bird at the front of the vessel. Nonetheless, this activity still makes for a romantic excursion in the heart of the Angkor Archaeological Park.
There are two embarkation points for Angkor Gondola. The first is a couple of hundred metres west of the very busy South Gate of Angkor Thom, located by Prasat Bei temple. The second is by the little frequented West Gate of Angkor Thom. Both are well located to combine with a day out visiting the temples, since they’re close to major sites such as Bayon temple.
If launching from the South Gate, the boat will leisurely meander up past the South West corner of the walled city of Angkor Thom and loop back on itself. The advantage of starting at the West Gate and is that fewer do – so you’ll have the first stretch quite possibly to yourself, not that it gets that busy anyway – and, if you aren’t cycling, you can coordinate with your vehicle to end and get picked up at the South Gate where you can disembark.
Along the gondola’s short route there’s no main highlight to photograph – just sit back and enjoy the journey itself. However, it is possible to hop out for a quick look at Prasat Chhrung temple, on the corner of the walled city — you’ll need to ask your boatman / ticket seller to do so as, for reasons unknown, they won’t automatically take you there. If you’re just along for the ride, you can still see brick ruins from the water.
Small boats fit four people and larger boats seat a maximum of eight. Costing US$15 – sadly per person, not per boat – this adds up as an expensive excursion which, although very pleasant, isn’t worth splashing out for if you’re on a very tight budget. However, especially if you’re looking to do something a little more romantic, buy some drinks to take on board and time it at sunset (there are some stalls by the South Gate) and it might become an unexpected highlight.
Alternative waterborne adventures include a boat ride on the North Baray, run by Baray Reach Dak Community Tours, or a cruise out on the West Baray – all of which are an appealing way to round off a day out.
By Caroline Major
Last updated on 12th October, 2014.