Contacts: Angkor Wat Wholesalers
" Pacific Delight Tours
Phone: (800) 221-7179
" Pleasant Holidays
Phone: (619) 282-3131
" Sita World Travel
Phone: (818) 990-9530
ANGKOR WAT, Cambodia
-- It is spoken about in hushed tones, the mysteries of this
citadel from centuries past. But Angkor Wat is just one of 72 major
monuments in the worlds most expansive temple complex, and it isnt
On arrival at the lake before the
entrance, my guide designated this as the only vantage point
allowing a view of all five spires of Angkor Wat, Cambodias most
At last, that dream
visit to the golden temples was happening, but missing was the
golden glow in my mental images, suggesting another Taj
Instead, I was
knee-deep in gray ruins. I wasnt exploring just one temple. It was
a maze. Stepping through one walled area brought me into another,
and more followed in rapid succession.
Sacred niches held
candles lighted by the faithful, in spite of the crumbling
conditions. Boulders with ornate carvings lay next to a resolute
tomb seemingly untouched by the decay of centuries.
In the center was
the masterwork, its delicately carved spire rising high above the
entire complex and surrounded by smaller spired temples at each
I climbed on a ledge
and surveyed this ancient wonder. Even in its dilapidated state, it
elicited awe as well as admiration for those early ill-equipped
Gone was the golden
image Id harbored for so long, but the real thing is every bit as
Lost City of
Although the oldest
building dates to 967, King Suryavarman II ordered the construction
of Angkor Wat in the 12th century. It took 30 years to
The largest edifice is Angkor
Thom, where towers with giant faces guard the five entrance gates.
My favorite here was the well-preserved wall of elephants, not all
marching in the same direction.
At Ta Prohm, tall,
healthy trees protruded eerily from the stone ruins, emphasizing
centuries of neglect. In 1992, Unesco declared this a World
Heritage Site. Now, archaeologists from around the globe have
undertaken its restoration, a long and arduous task.
explorations ended too soon but on a high note, literally. I rode
an elephant up the mountain to explore
Phnom Bakheng and view Angkor Wat at sunset.
The ride on that
obliging pachyderm was an unforgettable adventure, culminating with
one last ancient mystery. In the setting sun, Angkor Wats spires
This pleasant town,
an hours flight from Bangkok via Bangkok Airways, serves as hotel
headquarters for Angkor Wat visitors.
Numerous hotels line
the airport road and cluster in the town center. Most hotel
packages include guide services to the temples, but be sure that
the elephant ride is added.
silk and basket weavers, a leather puppet workshop, open market and
Tonle Sap Lake cruises (not advisable early in the year, when water
Cultural Village offers an excellent, if somewhat Disneyesque, look
at local lifestyle and history, all in one location.
The Sofitel Royal
Angkor Hotel, closest to Angkor Wat, provides quiet
Its wide lawns,
sensuous spa, affordable dining choices and attentive staff
delivered just what I needed after a day spent climbing around the
Rack rates range
from $280 to $340, including breakfast and tax. A private tour with
driver, English-speaking guide, bottled water and cold towels costs
$25 per full day, commissionable at 10%. Phone (800) 221-4542 or
Intimate luxury in a
compact setting is found at nearby Amansara Resort. Twelve suites surround a central, grassy courtyard,
with pool and deck at one end. Guest lecturers and a library
provide extensive Angkor history. Suites are $775, double, to Oct. 31, 2005, and include
breakfast and lunch or dinner with wine, driver/guide and temple
tours. Visit www.amanresorts.com.
Angkor and Princess Angkor Hotels, at the edge of town, offer
comfortable accommodations at $50 to $129 per person nightly. Visit
A Cambodian visa
costs $25, available at the airport. One-day Angkor passes are $20
per person, $40 for three days. Both documents require passport
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].