Angkor Monks

Angkor

Heart of an Asian Empire
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Angkor Tour

Angkor

Heart of an Asian Empire
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Angkor Temple

Angkor

Heart of an Asian Empire
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Bantey Srei, Cambodia

Angkor

Heart of an Asian Empire
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Bayon Temple, Cambodia

Angkor

Heart of an Asian Empire
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Ta Phrom Touring

Angkor

Heart of an Asian Empire
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Vreah Angkor

Angkor

Heart of an Asian Empire
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Cambodia Tours


Here then are those temples which for so long seemed like visions... Here are the foundations, the plinths, the galleries, the extraordinary domes resembling multi-ringed tiaras Claude Farrere, L'illustration, 1931

South Gate Angkor Thom stone headIf you've come this far to the region, you will not want to miss the "Prize of Southeast Asia" — the Temples of Angkor which are only a short one-hour flight from Saigon or Bangkok.


Angkor what? Many people have heard of the main temple, Angkor Wat, of course, but Angkor consists of over seventy discovered ruins spread over two hundred square kilometers. Angkor Wat itself is a kilometer-wide and the greatest Buddhist monument ever constructed. There are astounding structures of equal impact surrounding it. This density of ruins is unparalleled anywhere else in the world, and has been aptly called the "Nile Valley of Asia."

Visit our Angkor Tours page for ideas on your custom, private trip or continuing read below for suggestions of other places to expore on Cambodia.

We recommend, time permitting, spending a day in Phnom Penh for an authentic glimpse of Khmer culture away from the temples, and post-trip, relaxing on Song Saa Private Island, a newer resort located in a marine preserve off Cambodia's southern coast.

Beyond Angkor

Classrooms Visit

Room to Read sponsors the building of libraries (rooms to read) in the region and one of their great successes is Cambodia. We'd be happy to arrange a visit one of their partnership schools in either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap where you children can meet with local children and teachers informally and learn about each other's lives. Read more about Room to Read.

Cambodia also enjoys a presence of numerous other charities and NGOs, including those focused on assistance to women and families including the Somaly Mam Foundation. We would be pleased to arrange visits with these organizations as well. Please see our list of regional charities and NGOs.

Traditional Khmer Hospitality

Horseback Riding Angkor

Enjoy a traditional Khmer-style picnic lunch in a beautiful wooden Khmer home just outside Siem Reap. If we are visiting the earliest capital in the Angkor area, Hariharilaya (now known as Roluos) after a morning spent traveling back in time with a visit to the giant pyramid Bakong, the earliest of the temple mountains which later became the signature of Khmer kings we can also arrange a Khmer-style picnic lunch at the beautiful wooden home of one of the country’s foremost archaeological experts. This may also be arranged en route to the floating village of Kompong Pluk.

Designed by renowned Khmer architect Hok Sokol from the Center for Khmer Studies, where he worked as a co-leader of a three-year study program funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, this two-story house is a striking contemporary take on the traditional Khmer house and is located near the rural town of Roluos. A picnic lunch will be provided as you rest and relax, admiring the pleasant setting and learn about Khmer traditional architecture as well as history of the temples themselves.

After lunch, we can plan to visit the medieval floating village of Kompong Pluk, where the houses stand atop stilts as much as seven yards (meters) above the water. Everything lives on the water, pigs, dogs, crocodiles and people, all jockeying for space in this incredible floating town and its nearby flooded forest. [View Hok Sokol's projects]

Helicopter Excursions

Preah Vihear Helicopter Tour

We can organize short flights over the temples to longer flights of one ot three hours, including the stunning clifftop setting of Preah Vihear, landing to explore the temples by foot.

Photography

Vietnam & Angkor Photography Series Our last photography series tour of Vietnam & Angkor concentrated on places providing exceptional photography opportunities, including the stoic capital, Hanoi, overnight on Halong Bay, hilltribes and mountain vistas of Sapa, and the emerald green vistas of the Mekong Delta. In Cambodia, the now bustling capital city of Phnom Penh was visited, and the tour culminated in shooting at what was the center of a great civilization, the grand temples of Angkor. View some of the the images taken by participants on the trip here: Vietnam & Angkor Images Gallery.

Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding Angkor

Although horses are unable to visit Angkor Wat and surrounding temples (due to traffic), there is pleasant riding on quiet footpaths outside of town to visit Wat Athvea, a secluded Angkorian temple southwest of Siem Reap through the scenic countryside (right).

For longer rides, there is a half-day excursion that also visits Wat Chedai, an Angkorian monastery, passing through several villages.

For family rides we recommend a morning two to three-hour ride on trails venturing through villages, rice fields and to the temple although rides can be arranged to suit the day's schedule or experience (though we recommend early morning starts due to the heat or later in the afternoon).

There are also countryside cart rides to Wat Athvea for those who do not want to ride. By preference, English or western saddle will be fitted. Note: Horseback rides are organized during the dry season only, from October until May.

Elephants

More than an elephant ride, as you take your journey, you will begin to understand how the elephant has been so important in the creation of the fabulous Kingdom of Cambodia, serving many kings and queens as they have traveled to and from the temples and were integral in the construction of the temples. Unfortunately, the elephant has also been used by soldiers in war time.

Founded in 1997 with the vision of bringing elephants back to Angkor 
the Compangnie des Eléphants d’Angkor has grown over the years improving the facilities for its Cambodian elephants and its service to the visitors at Angkor. The elephant is a highly regarded and respected animal, and one of our their concerns, is to educate the people of Cambodia to preserve and sustain the elephant, and all wildlife, especially those that have become endangered because of warfare. They are committed to using our resources to help improve the quality of understanding of the animals.

An Elephant ride in Siem Reap is a great way to soak up the atmosphere under the shade of the huge trees and also offers a different view on the temples. The first elephant ride starts in the morning at 08:00 from the South Gate of Angkor Thom to the Bayon Temple. The elephants then are stationed next to the Bayon Temple for rides around Bayon temple. The last elephant ride is at 10:30 from Bayon back to the South Gate. Take an elephant ride around the Bayon temple and appreciate this marvel of fifty-four towers while the giant serene face of Avalokitesvara gazes down upon you. The Bayon really is one of the most spectacular sites of Angkor and we'll ride our gentle friend to the temple and around the area.

Temple Safari

Indiana Jones and Lara Croft come alive during this one-of-a-kind adventure! Escape the crowds, heading off-the-beaten-path to explore abandoned and unvisited jungle temples beyond Angkor. Tented camping next to the walls of the more remote monuments, such as the massive Ben Mealea "Lotus Pond", captures the experience of early French explorers, encountering unrestored temples left to the jungle. would have experience of old, timeless temples with not a visitor in sight. For children, an exciting night safari with flashlights, exploring the temples under the dark skies will be an unforgettable experience.

The tents will be familiar to anyone who has been on safari in Africa, include fully-appointed hotel-style bathrooms, complete with flush toilet, wash basins and stylish toiletries. All wooden furnishings, including full-size single beds, tables and chairs and clothes rails, complemented by antique brass fan.

The best season for undertaking a safari is from November through to April. Contact us for detailed information on safari options.

Phare | The Cambodia Circus

Opened only in 2014, Phare is a circus with a unique format and social mission. Uniquely Cambodian, the circus shows tell stories that touch on themes strong in Cambodian tradition, ethos and spirit; A modern ghost story – many Cambodians are petrified of ghosts, A run-away boy – abused by his mother, ignored by his drunken father – tragically too real in Cambodia, A man shunned because of a disability, wreaks revenge, until the whole situation gets out of hand... These are authentic Cambodian stories. Accompanied by Khmer music there are feats of daring, including contortion, juggling, acrobatics, balancing mixed with dance, and modern and traditional theater.

Performers are from an art school, founded to provide education for poor, impoverished children from Battambang who would have no options for schooling. The school now provides services for over 1,200 students, include work with the circus. As well as the circus, we can arrange a visit to the school to meet with students.

Preak (Prek) Toal Biosphere

Picture yourself in Humphrey Bogart's African Queen during this day trip to Preak Toal biosphere, your guide chopping a path through the reeds as you float by boat through the villages and flooded forest on a traditional wooden boat to the premier bird-viewing destination in Southeast Asia, Preak Toal, home to rare, large water birds such as the painted stork, ibis, crane and pelican. Guide Michael Buckley writes: "Preak Toal, which encompasses nearly 52,737 acres of wetlands and flooded forest, is recognized as Asia’s premier habitat for large waterbirds. In 1997, the United Nations declared Lake Tonle Sap and its shores (including Preak Toal) a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Over 100 species of birds have been spotted here, 15 of them endangered." The day trip also affords visiting local villages in the area where few other travelers venture.

Bicycling

Cycling Angkor

Angkor on two wheels! We offer a range of original rides to some of the most spectacular temples and sights in the area through our adventure wing, VeloAsia (www.veloasia.com). We can organize a variety of half-day or full-day rides, which include the temples, beautiful countryside and floating villages, all on back trails and paths away from the crowds.

As well as new innovative rides, we also offer the classic rides of old, including the Grand Circuit of Preah Khan, Neak Poan, Ta Som, Eastern Mebon and Pre Rup over the course of a leisurely day, or the Small Circuit of Ta Keo, Ta Nei, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei and Sra Srang.

Finally there is the option of exploring Angkor Thom on bicycle for those who want a short ride among the temples, perfect for families with younger children. The shorter trips can be organized for children of all ages (most rides are flat on packed dirt roads, away from traffic, with support).

Longer, full-day rides will keep even the fittest rider pleased. Note: Like horseback riding, cycling is organized during the dry season only (from October until May) and we recommend rides starting earliest in the day to avoid the high heat.

Angkor Tours


All of tours are private, custom-tailored trips. Below is a simple itinerary, although our custom trips typically differ. Please click here to request more information on a private tour.

Example Three-day Angkor Tour

Day 1 | Arrive Siem Reap

Ta PhromAfter arrival in Siem Reap airport, meet escort upon exiting plane for expedited immigration and transfer to your resort. Over refreshments, enjoy an orientation and overview of Siem Reap, our base for exploring the nearby temples of Angkor and then guided tour of the world-class Angkor National Museum which provides the perfect introduction to the temples.

For lunch, dining on local cuisine in the traditional Khmer home of the former director of the Apsara Authority, the organization that manages the entire Angkor temple complex. After learning about the temples, begin exploration of the temples complex, visiting Angkor Thom and the famous gigantic stone faces of the Bayon.

Tonight, a delightful traditional dinner with traditional dance performance provided at the resort. Afterwards, strolling in downtown in the cooler night air, exploring the central market, galleries and shops. Note: No visa in advance required for Cambodia, visa issued upon arrival with formalities handled by your escort.

Tonight, dinner accompanied by a traditional Khmer dance performance.

Siem Reap is always warm and sunny year round with little rain expected outside the monsoon season (late July through mid- to late-September).

Day  2 | Angkor

At dawn, exploring Ta Prohm at sunrise. Dedicated by king Jayavarman VII largely to his mother, but also other family members, Ta Prohm ("ancestor Brahma") has been abandoned to the elements, a reminder that while empires rise and fall, the riotous power of nature marches on, oblivious to the dramas of human history. Left much as it was found by French explorer Henri Mouhout in 1860, the tentacle-like silk cotton and fig tree roots here are slowly strangling the surviving stones of the ancient monastery and university, creating a surrealistic juxtaposition (especially in the morning light), a perfect time for photography and to marvel at the special setting of the ancient monastic complex (one of the largest sites in Angkor) before the tour buses arrive.

After soaking up the unique atmosphere of Ta Prohm, exploring nearby Ta Keo ("tower of crystal"), one of the great "temple-mountains" of Angkor. Like Pre Rup, Ta Keo has five sanctuary towers arranged in a quincunx, built on the uppermost level of five-tier pyramid consisting of overlapping terraces (a step pyramid), surrounded by moat, as a symbolic depiction of Mount Meru. The walls of Ta Keo are plain, as the temple was abandoned just as carvings were started on its large sandstone blocks (one theory posits it was stopped after lightening had struck it). This simplicity separates Ta Keo from all other Angkor temples.

Following Ta Keo, visiting Chau Sey Devada and its sister temple, Thommanon, a pair of symmetrical Hindu shrines strategically located outside Angkor Thom's east gate. Thammanon was restored extensively and the small and elegant temple is worth a short visit for its lovely carved figurines.

Following return to Siem Reap for lunch and refreshing dip in the pool, traveling north to visit the temple of Banteay Srei (25 kilometers outside Angkor). This petite pink temple is known as "the jewel of Khmer art" for its fine Angkor-era sculpture. The elaborate carvings here are the finest found in Cambodia and the name translates as "Fortress or citadel of the Women," thanks to the intricate detail here, which Khmer’s consider too fine to have been crafted by hands of men.

Banteay Srei

Originally believed to date from the latter part of the Angkor period, inscriptions at the site suggest it was built by a Brahman in 967. However, some architectural historians have suggested that the inscriptions may date from an earlier structure on this site. It's interesting to note this early temple (consecrated on the 22nd of April, 967 A.D.), Banteay Srei was the only major temple at Angkor not built by a monarch, it's construction is credited to a courtier named Yajnavaraha.

Following Banteay Srei, if not visited on the previous day, pause at the well-preserved Banteay Samre constructed around the same time as Angkor Wat and whose style of towers and balustrades bear strong resemblance to Angkor. The carvings here are in excellent condition.

On the return to the temples, visiting the unique Landmine Museum, a non-profit education project seeking to spread information about the country's long, terrible history with landmines. The museum was founded by ex Khmer Rouge child-soldier Aki Ra as a way to tell the world about the horrors landmines had inflicted on his native Cambodia, offering tourists and Cambodians the chance to see (safe) landmines up close, understand how they work, and what they can do to help rid Cambodia and the world of their continuing threat.

The day's sightseeing concludes with a dramatic panorama view at sunset from the summit of Pre Rup (less crowded than the popular Phnom Bakheng), overlooking area. Dinner in town.

In the evening, restaurant recommendations include Viroth's, serving up traditional Khmer cuisine, Abacus (with owner Renaud on hand to discuss wine), and Cuisine Wat Damnak (with wine pairings from Johannes Rivieres).

D A Y  3 | Angkor

At dawn, exploring the grandest of all Asian temples, Angkor Wat with a professor of archeology from the University of Sydney and expert on the temples of Angkor. Built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat marks the climax of Khmer architecture. It is believed to be the world's largest religious building and a perfect fusion of symbolism and symmetry and is a source of pride and strength to all Khmer people. At the center, Angkor Wat was the centerpiece of what is now thought to have been the largest pre industrial city in the world (Angkor is a Khmer term meaning "city"), with an elaborate system of infrastructure connecting an urban sprawl of at least 1,000 square kilometers.

Helicopter Tour AngkorAfter consolidating his political position through military campaigns, diplomacy, and a firm domestic administration, King Suryavarman launched into the construction of Angkor Wat as his personal temple mausoleum. With walls nearly one-half mile long on each side, Angkor Wat grandly portrays the Hindu cosmology, with the central towers representing Mount Meru, home of the gods; the outer walls, the mountains enclosing the world; and the moat, the oceans beyond. Suryavarman had the walls of the temple decorated with bas reliefs depicting not only scenes from mythology, but also from the life of his own imperial court. In one of the scenes, the king himself is portrayed as larger in size than his subjects, sitting cross-legged on an elevated throne and holding court, while a bevy of attendants make him comfortable with the aid of parasols and fans.

After exploration of Angkor by foot, enjoying a bird's eye view of the central temples area with a thirty-minute flyover by private helicopter. Upon landing, proceed to the immense and sprawling Preah Khan ("sacred sword"), built on the site of king Jayavarman VII's victory over the invading Chams in 1191 and served as a monastery that used to house over a thousand monks during the Khmer empire. The extensive passage, galleries, and extensive carvings are a breathtaking sight. For a brief period Preah Khan also served as the residence of King Jayavarman VII (during the reconstruction of his permanent home in the walled city of Angkor Thom) and the king dedicated Preah Khan to his father. Notable here are the Buddha images which were vandalized in the later rise of Hinduism the columns on the building west of the main temple, a rare example of round columns and may be from a later period. Preah Khan has been left largely unrestored, with numerous trees and other vegetation growing among the ruins creating a surreal milieu of root and stone.

Preah Khan

After, visiting Neak Pean ("coiled or entwined serpent"), one of Angkor's most unique temples. Neak Pean is a smaller temple located on an island in the middle of a several pools or ponds, within a larger but now dry baray (lake). Neak Pean was originally designed for curative purposes, one of the many hospitals that Jayavarman VII built. It is based on the ancient Hindu belief of balance with the four connected pools represent Water, Earth, Fire and Wind. Khmers believed that going into these pools would balance the elements in the bather, thus curing disease.

Following return to Siem Reap for lunch and refreshing dip in the pool, traveling north to visit the temple of Banteay Srei (25 kilometers outside Angkor). This petite pink temple is known as "the jewel of Khmer art" for its fine Angkor-era sculpture. The elaborate carvings here are the finest found in Cambodia and the name translates as "Fortress or citadel of the Women," thanks to the intricate detail here, which Khmer’s consider too fine to have been crafted by hands of men.

Originally believed to date from the latter part of the Angkor period, inscriptions at the site suggest it was built by a Brahman in 967. However, some architectural historians have suggested that the inscriptions may date from an earlier structure on this site. It's interesting to note this early temple (consecrated on the 22nd of April, 967 A.D.), Banteay Srei was the only major temple at Angkor not built by a monarch, it's construction is credited to a courtier named Yajnavaraha.

Following, visit Banteay Srei (if not visited on the previous day).

The day's sightseeing concludes with a dramatic panorama view at sunset from the summit of Pre Rup (less crowded than the popular Phnom Bakheng), overlooking area. Dinner in town, further exploring Khmer culinary delights. (B)

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