Kingdom of Cambodia
The hills beyond Banteay Srei Temple were the original home of much
of the sandstone which the ancient Khmers used to build Angkor Wat.
Blocks of stone were somehow moved to the temple complex, probably
using the Siem Reap River. Successive kings of Angkor built shrines
to appease the gods in the hills, and they had dozens of linga carved
intot hes tone riverbed, in order to thank the gods for allowing
them to carry stone from the hills to Angkor. The carvings at Phnom
Koulen are remarkably well preserved and, to see them properly,
you need to wade in the river. A walk through the forest takes you
to Preah Ang Thom, where a reclining Buddha statue lies on top of
a huge natural rock (approximately 50 m high). From the top of this
rock, you can enjoy views out over the surrounding forest and plains.
You can also visit a few caves with Buddha statues nearby. A short
forest walk takes to you a waterfall, with more impressive stone
carvings in the riverbed. This is a popular spot for Khmer people
to come and picnic at the weekends. Note: Adventurous tourists are
now visiting this site.
A similar site to Phnom Koulen, located on an adjacent hill. There
are are linga carved into the stone river-bed, an enjoyable forest
walk and an attractive waterfall.
Beng Melea Temple
This temple complex, spread over 91 hectares, dates from the 12th
Century and is heavily overgrown. It is said that this temple pre-dates
Angkor Wat and, being of a similar size, it could have been the
model on which Angkor was based, although it does no have nearly
so many detailed carvings and decorations. The central area was
enclosed by a moat measuring about 1 km square. Note: The road to
Bang Malea is still in poor condition and only accessible by 4-wheel
drive in dry season.
Preah Khan Temple
This is a huge laterite and sandstone temple, originally Hindu but
re-dedicated to Buddha in the 11th Century. There are several other
temples in this heavily overgrown and inaccessible complex. Note:
it is currently extremely difficult to visit this site.
Preah Vihear Temple
Altough actually in Cambodia, this temple is easiest to reach from
the Thai side of the border. It dates back from the 11th Century
and is located on top of a ridge (730 m) of the Dangkrek Mountains.
Note: It is still extremely difficult to get to this site from the
Banteay Chlmar Temple
This complex is also not far from the Thai border. Banteay Chlmar
was Jayavarman II's capital city in the 9th Century. The Angkor
era reuins include an impressive 11th Century sandstone monastery.
Note: It is currently extremely difficult to visit this site - a
visit would start from the town of Sisophon.
This was a capital city in the 10th Century. Ruins include Prasat
Tom (or Prasat Kompong) which features a 40 meters high sandstone-faced
temple on 7 levels. Note: it is currently extemely difficult to
visit this site.
On Tonle Sap Lake
Tripls in traditional wooden boats on the Tonle Sap are now regularly
offered to visitors. The Tonle Sap is the largest fresh-water lake
in South East Asia. It flows into the Tonle Sap River, joining the
Mekong in Phnom Penh. At the beginning of the rainly season (June/July),
the flow of the water changes direction aand flood-waters from the
Meking River force water back up the Tonle Sap River and into the
lake. At the height of the monsoon (September), the lake can be
up to 5 times its normal size. This accounts in part for the rich
biological diversity and abundance of fish in the Tonle Sap.
Boat cruises are available, and recommended, from Chhong Kneas "port"
close to Siem Reap. See "floating villages" - people live
on boats, converted to look like houses, and the "villages"
move from place to place according to water levels and fishing grounds.
Longer cruises are available from Chhong Kneas
"port" to visit Preak Tuol National Park and Bird Sanctuary
(small groups only). Amongst other birds, it is possible to see
pelicans, storks and ibis.
Express boat service between Phnom Penh and
Express boats operate daily between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The
boat trip takes approximately 4 to 5 hours. Please note that these
boats are not very comfortable and normally very crowded. Seats
cannot be reserved. You should bring some water and light snacks
with you. We anticipate that houseboats (or floating villages) will
soon be available for overnigth stays on the lake - this will be
an exciting option for the future.