Ancient Angkor

Ancient Angkor (River Books Guides)
By Claude Jacques, Michael Freeman

A Guide to Angkor

A Good Deal or Exploitation?

This book is sold at every temple in Angkor and was offered to us at least 10 times. Every conversation went pretty much the same.

Before we entered Ta Prohm, we were approached by a young gentleman who was selling copies of the book Ancient Angkor. This book carried a price of $27.95 on the back, but he was willing to let it go for $12.

It looked like a quality book—thick, glossy paper, full-color pages, plenty of maps—and covered nearly every temple and attraction within the confines of the Angkor Archaeological Park.

After considering it for a moment, we passed and kept walking. He immediately dropped his price to $10. We hesitated. It seemed like a good deal—maybe too good. But we didn't really want to carry a big book around with us on our tour, so we passed again.

As we walked away, the price dropped again to $8. We turned him down and started to head into the temple but got distracted by one of the temple adjacent shops. As we browsed the shop, the book peddler kept pushing, eventually dropping the price to $6.

We turned him down once again, having made the decision not to buy, but then he asked "How much you pay?" I told him we didn't want one and thanked him for the offer. We started to walk toward the temple, and by the time we reached the entrance, he was willing to let it go for $1. That saddened us. At this point it seemed more like exploitation than a good deal.

There are signs everywhere in Siem Reap telling tourists to not buy things from the kids that are selling outside the temples. But often, the book peddlers were not kids, but young adults, sometimes with disabilities. We weren't sure if the "don't buy" rule applied to the book sellers, but if the salespeople are willing to let a $28 book go for $1, it's definitely not above board. We decided we weren't going to contribute to whatever organization was behind it.


On the way out of the country, we saw a copy at a bookstore in the Siem Reap airport. This one had a different cover and a yellow band in the bottom right corner emblazoned with "Genuine Edition" (which was absent on the temple-sold edition). It had a retail price of $20 printed on the back.

So somewhere in Southeast Asia there's a printing press churning out bootleg copies of this book by the thousands. I'm glad we didn't buy it.

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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Ancient Angkor
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