Angkor Wat, Cambodia

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, Angkor Wat is one place I’d just love, love, love to visit.  It’s got everything I am looking for in travel – archeological significance, adventure, excitement, and is physically challenging.

One company I found has a four day Angkor Wat vacation – just short enough to get enough of a taste to want to go back. The itinerary is below:

Day 1
Transfer to Siem Reap * Ta Promh * Angor Wat

Transfer to Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport where you will board your flight for Siem Reap in Cambodia where you will be met and transferred to your hotel for check in.

Have an afternoon visit Ta Promh and Angkor Wat temple until sunset. The temples of Angkor, built between the 7th and 11th c., represent one of the most impressive examples of man’s creativity.  From their dazzling temple structures the rulers of Angkor controlled an empire which expanded over six centuries to cover a region extending from present day Vietnam in the east, to the shores of the Bay of Bengal in the west. Explore the site of one of Asia’s most magnificent archeological ruins, the religious citadels of which were part of one of the most powerful kingdoms to rise in Southeast Asia

The estimated 100 temples, which constituted the foundation for Angkor’s administrative network, were made of wood (long since decayed) as construction of buildings from stone or brick was reserved solely for the gods.

Ta Prohm was built by King Jayavarman VII, 1181-1219.  There is hardly a temple anywhere else that shows so clearly the destructive power of the luxuriant tropical vegetation. When French archaeologists first discovered the site of the temple, they left the giant trees standing, even though their huge roots were coiling themselves like enormous snakes around the temple, penetrating its stonework and breaking it up.  But now some of these giants will have to be felled in order to save the temple.  Jayavarman VII has the monastery built as a residence for his mother, who had been deified as Prajnaparamita.  Ta Prohm looks rather like a smaller version of Angkor Thom.  B Angkor Palace Resort & Spa (4-star)

Day 2
South Gate of Angor Thom * Bayon * Phimeanakas * Elephant Terrace * Terrace of the Leper King

After breakfast visit the South Gate of Angkor Thom (WHS), Bayon, the Royal enclosure, Phimeanakas, the Elephant Terrace and the Terrace of the Leper King. The Bayon (WHS) is considered the single most outstanding monument of Khmer culture and also the most mysterious.  Constructed during the reign of King Jayavarman VII (1181 – 1201), this temple complex marks the exact center of Angkor Thom, making it the most venerated of the city’s temples.  Early archeologists (beginning in the mid 19th century) debated the identity of the great faces ornamenting the central tower with many believing the temple to be a shrine dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, others to Bahamas, while later specialists concluded (through the assistance of ancient Chinese records) that this was a Mahayana Buddhist temple.  The faces depicted however were not the Buddha, but rather the benevolent Bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara.

The structure is staggering in its construction and most Angkor specialists agree that it is one of the finest examples of classical Khmer architecture.  Its third level is stunning – 49 towers adorned with 172 smiling faces of the omnipresent Avalokitesvara.  Sixteen chapels inside the structure indicate its religious importance while on the outer perimeter over 1,200 meters of exquisite bas-relief record scenes of daily life from 11th century Angkor.

Terrace of the Elephants (WHS), built by King Jayavarman VII, at the end of his reign, early 13th century.  The terrace has three platforms of different heights, to which five flights of steps lead up; the northern one was probably built later than the others.  The terrace takes its name from the outstanding depiction of elephants and of an elephant hunt, which takes up the major part of the frieze.

Terrace of the Leper-King, built by King Jayavarman VII at the end of his reign, early 13th century.  There is no path connecting the two terraces.  This one owes its name to a sculpture which used to stand here.  It was of King Yasovarman, 899-910, who originally founded Angkor and was popularly known as the “Leper-King” because he died of leprosy.

In the late afternoon, embark on a boat trip to visit a floating village on the Tonlé Sap. The residents of the floating village literally reside on houses, which stay afloat on the river and the lake.  An unusual characteristic of this river is that its water flow changes, depending on the season.  As the rainy season sets in and with the water level rising, residents move their houses by boat closer to the shore.  And during the dry season, when the water level goes down, they again move their houses, this time towards the center of the lake.  Since their houses float, movement is not an inconvenience.

Tonle Sap is known to the natives as the ” Sea of the Fresh Water. ”  The river links the Mekong River to the southern end of the Great Lake.  The Great Lake was the lifeline of the Khmers as its pattern of movement provided the rhythm of daily life and served as a source of fish and rice to an agrarian society.  B, Dinner with Apsara Dance Show at local restaurant. Angkor Palace Resort & Spa (4-star)

Day 3
Flight to Saigon
After breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport for your departure flight to Saigon where you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.  B, D Sofitel Plaza Hotel (4-Star)
Day 4
Return to U.S.

Depart on your flight(s) returning home.

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