Angkor

Angkor

Angkor is the historical and architectural jewel of Cambodia, a wondrous place that can inspire the most jaded traveler. Whether humbled by its majesty or moved to smiling comparisons with Indiana Jones epics, no one is untouched. Located 240 kilometers north of Phnom Penh, Angkor is not one site, but several groups of temples spread over 200 square kilometers. The nearby town of Siem Reap provides a base for exploration, which is best savored over a period of two or three days.

The most well-known monuments of the Angkor complex are located within easy cycling distance of each other, and can be explored in a day. The famous Angkor Wat, is a vast multileveled structure (built with an equivalent amount of stone as Cheops, the great pyramid of Egypt) surrounded by a moat and topped with the three towers which now grace the flag of Cambodia. As impressive as the scale are the details, particularly the intricate bas-relief carvings that line the walls of the lower galleries. Nearby Angkor Thom is even larger, surrounded by 3-kilometer long stone walls. Within this complex is located the Bayon temple, famous for its huge carved faces of deities with enigmatic smiles. Venturing further afield, one can wander through Ta Prohm, where the huge banyan trees have intertwined with the carved stone, creating an otherworldly effect. Bantay Srei (literally, the citadel of women), is famous for its exquisite pink sandstone and superb carvings of the decidedly female angels known as apsara.

After what can be an exhausting as well as stimulating day exploring antiquity, nothing is more agreeable than relaxing on the terrace of a café in the French Quarter of nearby Siem Reap, sipping a cool drink and watching the river flow south.