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ANGKOR WAT TEMPLES - The Jewel of Cambodia

Angkor Wat - photo Bob Loveland

 

 

 

 

 

The temples were built between the ninth and fourteenth centuries. The first development of the temples was in the 800's commissioned by Jayavarman who ruled from 802-50 - The popular Angkor Wat Temple is the largest and most intact. It is majestic in appearance and radiates history

 

 

by Roman Wanderaugh/National Radio Text Service

July 7, 2001

The famed ruins of the ancient Temples of Angkor Wat is recognized by many as one of the wonders of the world. It is also recognized as being one of the foremost architectural wonders of the world. The temples are the jewel and primary attraction of Cambodia's tourism industry.

Siem Reap town is just five kilometers from the Angkor Wat Temple gate. From there you can reach the temples by taxi. You can also hire motorcycle taxi or rent a motorbike. The temples are spread out over a vast area so you will need the transportation to get around through the course of the day. It's virtually impossible to see all of the Angkor Wat area temples in one day since there are 100 or so.

It is recommended to take at least five days to see them at a leisurely pace. Using a tour guide is advisable. The sandstone carvings on the walls of the temples each tell a story. A good guide that knows the history and can explain the stories will make your visit more informative and enjoyable.

We met a college professor at one of the temples. He was born in India. He instructs at Bowie State University in the United States. Since the Khmer's are descendants of India he knew much of the Khmer history and explained the stories that the sculptures told. He knew the evolution of Khmer history in detail. This is where we could see the value of having a professional guide.

Tour guides are available that speak English, French, Thai, Japanese, Italian, and German. They can be hired for $20-25 a day. You may also use a tour book.

There are many children on the grounds offering tour guide services for a small fee. How knowledgeable they are is the question.

Entrance Gate to Angkor Temples - photo James Loving NR

 


When you arrive at the entrance gate many children vendors who sell postcards of the temples will most likely greet you.

The Angkor Wat Temple itself is the largest of all. Many tourists arrive early to see the sunrise or late to see the sunset. You can plan your day accordingly.

The temples were built between the ninth and fourteenth centuries. The first development of the temples was in the 800's commissioned by Jayavarman who ruled from 802-50.

The popular Angkor Wat Temple is the largest and most intact. It is majestic in appearance and radiates history. It is best to see it early in the morning or late afternoon when it is cooler. The temple covers a vast area and has many steep steps.

Many of the other temples also have narrow steep steps and can be dangerous. If you can climb all of the temples steps you will have a serious physical workout. There are many steps at some temples that you should negotiate very carefully regardless what kind of shape you're in.

There will be a number of children waiting for you at the Angkor temples entrance offering to fan you for a fee when you return from your exploration.

Bayon Temple - photo Bob Loveland

 

 

Bayon is the most popular temple after Angkor. Known for it's faces it is one of the most photographed. The best time to view it is at dawn or dusk.

The entrance pass to visit the temples can be obtained at the main entrance. It's advised that you obtain the pass there to make sure that it's genuine. A one-day pass is $20. You can obtain a three-day pass for $40 and a week's pass for $60. Visiting hours are 5:00AM to 7:00PM. The three-day pass is commonly purchased.

Our driver stopped at a souvenir shop on the road on our way back to town. Most notably at the outside entrance of the shop woodcarvers were busy at work. Their crafts were available for sale inside.

With Cambodia promoting the Angkor Temples as their jewel tourist attraction it seems to be working.

Two years ago there were only a handful of tourists visiting the temples. Since that time numerous upscale hotels and low budget guesthouses have been built in Siem Reap to accommodate the new influx of visitors. There are no accommodations on the temple grounds.

There are many hotels is the area to suite your pocketbook. Rooms at the Grand Hotel D'Angkor range from $310-1900 a night. A budget traveler can find accommodations at a guesthouse for as little as $3 a day for a fan room with shared bath.

The town has a variety of restaurants catering to the foreigners tastes. Restaurants specializing in Italian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and German food are present. There are many other varieties of foods available including Khmer.

Since the upscale tourist is being heavily recruited an ad in the Cambodian Daily newspaper caught our attention. It mentioned that Jayavarman VII Hospital sits adjacent to the new Softiel Hotel that charges $320 a night.

Happy Face Khmer Children - photo James Loving NR

 


It noted that the hospital patients stay for free since they are so poor that they cannot afford to pay one dollar a night. The ad pointed out that the cost of saving a child's life costs $226 US dollars or $94 less than a nights stay at the hotel next door.

That point indicates the contrast of the native people that are living in the area who have endured the occupation of the Khmer Rouge from the profile of the tourists who visit.

This area was a Khmer Rouge stronghold. When you think of the devastation in the region over the last three decades it is hard to believe when you see the smiling faces of children playing.

We found it just as interesting meeting the people who live in the area as we were about seeing the temples. Those who have experienced tragedy will hopefully benefit from the influx of tourist's money and the new tourist economy.

To get there you can take Bangkok Airlines who have direct flights to Siem Reap from Bangkok. Thai Airways, Royal Air Cambodge Airlines and Royal Phnom Penh Airways fly there from Phnom Penh. You can arrange a connecting flight from Bangkok on these airlines. The high season is between December and May when there is the least amount of rain.

Copyright: National Radio Any use of these materials, whole or in part, is prohibited unless authorized in writing by National Radio. Contact: nationalradio@yahoo.com - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

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