The temples of Angkor are situated in the northwest province of Siem Reap. There are more than 1000 temples, built between the 9th and 13th centuries, and these remaining structures are the sacred skeleton of what was once the social, religious and administrative centre of the Khmer Empire. This trip brings us to the biggest lost temple of the complex, whose ruins are being swallowed by the surrounding lush nature.
• The lost temples of the magnificent Angkor complex
• Commanding views over the surrounding forest from the "Mayan-style" Prasat Thom• Overnight in a safari tent, camping in the forest, sounds of nature all around
[Day 1] Beng Mealea – Koh Ker – Prasat ThomMeals: lunch and dinner | Accommodation: tent
We travel to the lost temple of Beng Mealea, the titanic of temples, a slumbering giant lost for centuries in the Cambodian forests. It is the most accessible of Angkor's lost temples, a mirror image of Angkor Wat, but utterly consumed by the voracious appetite of nature. Constructed by Suryavarman II (1113-1150), the genius builder of Angkor Wat, the forest has run riot here and it is hard to get a sense of the monument's shape amid the daunting ruins.
It is possible to enjoy an Indiana Jones experience clambering about the vast ruin, but please be gentle in this sacred place for the sake of future generations. For those who prefer a more gentle adventure, there is also a sturdy wooden walkway running right into the heart of the temple. It is also possible to visit a nearby Angkor-era quarry from which stone was cut to build these massive monuments.
We then head into the bush to the remote Angkor city of Koh Ker. The history of Cambodia is riven with dynastic spats and political intrigue and one of the most memorable came in the 10th century when Jayavarman IV (928-942) fell out with his family, stormed off to the northwest and established the rival capital of Koh Ker. Although the capital for just 15 years, Jayavarman IV was determined to legitimise his rule through a prolific building programme that left a legacy of 30 major temples and gargantuan sculptures that are on display in the National Museum in Phnom Penh.
We then climb to the summit of Prasat Thom, a seven level step pyramid, more Mayan looking than Khmer, with its commanding views over the surrounding forest. Nearby is Prasat Krahom or the Red Temple, named after the pinkish Banteay Srei-style stone from which it is built. There are many more temples in the area, including the five towers of Prasat Ling, each enclosing a giant linga (fertility symbol), the biggest and best found in situ anywhere in Cambodia. We then return to our camp for the night, spending the night in a smart safari tent in the forest near the walls of Prasat Thom.
[Day 2] Koh Ker – Siem ReapMeals: breakfast and lunch | Accommodation: N/A
We rise early to enjoy a sunrise across the temple complex of Koh Ker and explore some of its smaller sites before setting out for the return trip to Siem Reap where we check into our hotel and enjoy some rest and relaxation. It is also possible to combine this short temple safari with an optional trip to the incredible stilted village of Kompong Khleang on the Tonle Sap Lake or the holy mountain of Phnom Kulen with its sacred River of a Thousand Lingas.
Note: Pick up at 7.30 am
PRICE PER PERSON
• Meals as specified in the program• Drinking water during sightseeing• Travel in an appropriate air-conditioned vehicle with an experienced driver. Depending on weather and road conditions of the trip, a 4WD is for 3 persons max.• Boat trips/ Ferry as in the itinerary• 'Adventure' and 'In Style' safari tent• The services of an experienced English-speaking guide• All entrance fees
• International flight tickets and airport tax, currently $25 per person• Visas, currently $20 per person• Drinks, gratuities and personal expenses.• Camera fees (if any)• Surcharge in peak season (Christmas & New Year)• Insurance
'Adventure' vs 'In Style'
So how do we differentiate the new 'Adventure' and 'In Style' classifications? There are several differences in the equipment we use. If the original Temple Safari is thought of as a 3-star camping experience, then 'In Style' is more like 4-star boutique camping, akin to the level of service and experience at a boutique hotel. The premium tents include fully appointed hotel-style bathrooms complete with flush toilet, wash basin and stylish toiletries. The furnishings are all wood, including full-size single beds, tables and chairs, clothes rails, plus an antique brass fan. Service is taken to another level, including bath robe, slippers and orchids on the bed with turndown service provided. Meals are fully catered for both options, but 'In Style' includes a butler service, and beer and wine is also included, rather than only soft drinks and water.
The Angkor Safari Tents of our partner Hanuman takes guests to places in Cambodia that currently have little or no tourism infrastructure, ensuring a truly unique experience. The tents are based upon the tried and true African safari design and are fully waterproof. Each day they are pitched at our destination by our experienced staff on a durable tarpaulin and consist of two wall layers. The inner layer comes with complete mosquito and insect protection and includes five meshed windows for light and breeze during the day. The overall dimensions of the tent are 3m x 4m x 2.5m high. Yes, you heard right, 2.5m ceilings offering standing room throughout. The 'Adventure' tents include a separate bathroom and shower tent located near the main sleeping tent, while the new 'In Style' tents include a connected bathroom, linked to the rear of the main tent by a small ante-room for luggage storage.
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