We travel back in time to one of the earliest capitals in the Angkor area, Hariharilaya, now known as Roluos. We begin with a visit to the brick temple of Lolei, and then continue onto Preah Ko (sacred cow), named in honour of Shiva’s mount, Nandin. Originally coated in stucco and painted, there is still some of the ancient plaster visible on the rear towers. Finally, we encounter Bakong, the earliest of the Temple Mountains, which later became the signature of Khmer kings. It is a giant pyramid, its cardinal points marked by giant elephants. We climb to the summit for views over the surrounding countryside.
This afternoon, we travel to the mighty temple of Preah Khan or 'Sacred Sword', built by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. Sister temple to Ta Prohm, the cruciform corridors here are impressive and there are some wonderful carvings adorning the walls, including the spectacular hall of dancers. We then continue on to the elegant curves of Neak Poan. This petite temple is the ultimate ornamental fountain. We journey to the mountain temple of Phnom Bakheng to see the sunset cast its soft light over Angkor Wat. Please advise the guide if you want to experience sunset at a quieter location.
2 We rise early to travel to Ta Prohm in the dawn light. This temple has been abandoned to the elements, after it was ‘discovered’ by French explorer Henri Mouhout in 1860. The tentacle-like tree roots here are slowly strangling the surviving stones, man first conquering nature to create, nature later conquering man to destroy. After soaking up the unique atmosphere of Ta Prohm, we continue to the giant pyramid of Takeo, one of the highest temples in the Angkor area. This morning we also visit the remains of an old Angkorian bridge which once spanned the Siem Reap river. Like the Romans before them, the Khmer kings built long, straight roads connecting the outposts of their empire and these included many magnificent bridges. There is also the option to visit the smaller temples of Chau Sey Devada and Thommanon for avid temple enthusiasts.
In the afternoon, we travel through the traditional village of Preah Dak to the 12th century temple of Banteay Samre. Built by King Suryavarman II, the genius behind Angkor Wat, this temple has been extensively restored. We continue further north to Banteay Srei, Angkor’s ultimate art gallery. This petite pink temple is the jewel in the crown of Angkor-era sculpture. The elaborate carvings here are the finest found in Cambodia and the name translates as ‘Fortress of the Women’, thanks to the intricate detail here, considered too fine for the hands of a man. We finish by experiencing sunset over the rice fields from the royall crematorium of Pre Rup, a classic view of the Cambodian countryside.
Rising at the crack of dawn, we journey out to the Mother of all temples, Angkor Wat. Believed to be the world's largest religious building, this temple was built in the 12th century by King Suryavarman II. We stay at Angkor Wat to enjoy a picnic breakfast and then venture into Angkor Wat to enjoy its magnificence in peace and quiet.
In the afternoon we visit Angkor Thom, an immense walled city that was the masterpiece of King Jayavarman VII. After entering through the city gates, we begin our visit at the Terrace of the Leper King and continue along the Terrace of Elephants, originally used as a viewing gallery for the king to preside over parades. At the southern end lies the Baphuon, once of the most beautiful temples at Angkor, dating from the reign of Uditayavarman 1 in the 11th century. It has undergone a massive renovation by the French and is now once again open for viewing. Our climax is the enigmatic and enchanting temple of the Bayon. At the exact centre of Angkor Thom, this is an eccentric expression of the creative genius and inflated ego of Cambodia’s most celebrated king. Its 54 towers are each topped off with the four faces of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), which bear more than a passing resemblance to the king himself.
Hanuman is a member of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents and the Cambodian Community-based Ecotourism Network. Hanuman was cited in ‘The Guide to Responsible Tourism in Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam'.