A visit to the temples of Angkor is a profound experience, as few sights on earth can match the immense majesty of Angkor Wat, the overgrowth of nature run amok at Ta Prohm, or the mysterious faces of the Bayon. The temples of the Angkor complex are situated in the northwest province of Siem Reap, close to the town of the same name. There are more than 1000 temples, built between the 9th and 13th centuries and the remaining structures are the sacred skeleton of what was once the social, religious and administrative centre of the Hindu Khmer Empire. Almost a thousand years ago, this was the largest city in the world, and truly is one of our planet's most special places. Make sure you see it in your lifetime!Nestled under the hill of Phnom Krom, the floating village of Chong Kneas changes location with the waters of the lake. Floating schools, floating shops, floating petrol stations, even floating karaoke bars... Let's get on the water to discover more about this way of life.
• The uniquely magnificent, breathtaking temple complex of Angkor• Chong Kneas, a village floating on the vast Tonle Sap lake
• Let's take our time visiting a variety of temples for a richer exploration• Cruise the Tonle Sap waterways through a colourful, remote floating village
[Day 1] Preah Dak - Banteay Srei – Preah KhanMeals: N/A | Accommodation: hotel
In the morning, we travel to the 12th century Banteay Samre. Built by King Suryavarman II, the genius behind Angkor Wat, this temple has been extensively restored and is unique for its use of red laterite and many expert carvings. Further north lies Banteay Srei, a petite pink temple whose name translates as 'Fortress of the Women', as the intricate carvings here were considered work too fine for the hands of a man.
In the afternoon, we travel to the mighty of Preah Khan or 'Sacred Sword', built by King Jayavarman VII in the late 1100s. The cruciform corridors and the spectacular hall of dancers are great highlights here. This temple is dedicated to both Buddhism and Hinduism, and the original eastern entrance was for Mahayana Buddhists while the other cardinal points represent the Hindu trinity of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.
We continue to the elegant curves of Neak Poan which was once an island at the centre of a vast reservoir and was the ultimate ornamental fountain, with a series of elaborate spouts including the heads of lions and elephants.
We next journey to the mountain temple of Phnom Bakheng to see the sunset cast its soft light over Angkor Wat. We can take a winding path through the jungle or there is the option of an elephant ride to the summit. While this temple is a signature sunset spot, it can become crowded, so you may wish to ask your guide for alternate sunset viewing locations, and we'll be happy to accommodate you.
[Day 2] Ta Prohm – Takeo - Angkor ThomMeals: N/A | Accommodation: hotel
We travel to Ta Prohm in the dawn light. This temple has been abandoned to the elements, a reminder that while empires rise and fall, the riotous power of nature marches on, oblivious to human dramas. The tentacle-like tree roots here are slowly strangling the surviving stones, man first conquering nature to create, nature later conquering man to destroy. You can't help but feel the march of time as the sunlight slants through the leafy trees and crumbling blocks.We'll also see the remains of an ancient bridge which once spanned the Siem Reap River. Like the Romans before them, the Khmer kings built long roads to connect their empire which included many magnificent bridges.
In the afternoon, we visit Angkor Thom, an immense walled city whose causeway depicts the Churning of the Ocean of Milk from Hindu mythology in which the devas (gods) and asuras (devils) play tug of war with a naga (7-headed serpent) to obtain the elixir of immortality.We visit the Terrace of the Leper King and the Terrace of Elephants from which the king presided over parades, performances, and traditional sports. To the south lies the Baphuon, one of Angkor's most beautiful temples which has undergone a massive renovation by the French and is now once again open for viewing. Our climax today is the enigmatic temple of the Bayon. Its 54 towers are each topped with four faces of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), which bear more than a passing resemblance to the king himself. These colossal heads stare down in each direction, exuding power with a hint of compassion - just the mix required to keep a hold on such a vast empire. Before climbing up, we check out the amazing bas-reliefs and their intricate scenes of ancient battles and snapshots of daily life a millennia ago.
[Day 3] Angkor Wat - Tonle Sap LakeMeals: N/A | Accommodation: N/A
Rising at sunrise, we journey out to the mother of all temples, Angkor Wat. The world's largest religious building, this gorgeous temple is a source of pride and strength to all Khmers. Be awe-inspired as you approach the main temple along the long stone pathway.
Following in the footsteps of the devout and the destructive before us, we climb to the upper levels. The final steps are the steepest of all, as pilgrims were meant to stoop in humility on their pilgrimage to encounter the Gods. We finally reach the top, the sacred heart of Angkor, to soak up the views of the vast complex and thick jungle all around and to cherish the realization of finding yourself in such a place.
Taking a break from the temples, we travel to the mighty Tonle Sap Lake and the floating village of Chong Kneas. Nestled under the hill of Phnom Krom, this floating community changes location with the seasons. During the wet when the lake swells in size, the village is near the hills, but in the dry it moves as much as 4km away.Everything floats on water here. There are floating schools, floating shops, floating petrol stations, even floating karaoke bars. Many of the houses are also fish farms with large fish pens underneath. If you wish, we can make a stop at the Gecko Environmental Centre to learn more about the lake's ecology which is the heartbeat of Cambodia and which provides sustenance to millions of Khmers.
After returning to land, we drive back to Siem Reap with a heart and a camera memory card packed full of fantastic images.
Note: Pick up times:Day 1: 7amDay 2: 6amDay 3: 5am
PRICE PER PERSON
• Accommodation with breakfast• Drinking water during sightseeing• Travel in an appropriate air-conditioned vehicle with an experienced driver• The services of an experienced English-speaking guide• All entrance fees
• International flight tickets and airport departure tax• Visas, currently $20 per person• Meals• Beverages, guide gratuities and personal expenses.• Camera fees (if any)• Surcharge in peak season (Christmas & New Year)• Insurance
Mid-range• Angkor: Angkor Land hotel (Deluxe Pool View room) or City River hotel (Superior room)
Superior• Angkor: Royal Bay Inn Angkor Resort (Deluxe room) or Tara Angkor Hotel (Superior room)
Deluxe• Angkor: Victoria Angkor hotel (Superior room)
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