Angkor Con­fi­den­tial

LUXE City Guides - Cambodia and Laos - - Angkor Confidential -

Search­ing for Bud­dhist calm and a peace­ful, spir­i­tual reawak­en­ing amongst the mag­nif­i­cent ru­ins of the an­cient Kh­mer civil­i­sa­tion? Well, for­get it. At times, Angkor Wat makes Times Square seem de­serted. In peak sea­son (Nov-early Mar) you will find your­self del­uged by the coachload tril­lions dis­em­bark­ing en masse with clip-on shades, chest-high slacks and a hereto­fore un­par­al­leled de­vo­tion to lurid syn­thet­ics, all traips­ing mind­lessly af­ter an oaf with a mega­phone. Sadly, the ru­ins are quite lit­er­ally be­ing ru­ined. None­the­less, Angkor still de­liv­ers top scores on the awe-ome­ter and if you work it right you can en­joy a de­gree of peace and re­flec­tion in this ar­chi­tec­tural mas­ter­piece with­out too many rude in­tru­sions. Bear in mind, the tire­some tourists are like mosquitos who are most ac­tive at sun­rise and sun­set, but van­ish be­fore lunch. If you can bear the heat and rain, go out of sea­son and tour the sites dur­ing the day.

The Angkor com­plex and its tem­ples open for sun­rise and close af­ter sun­set, and the only real way to fully ap­pre­ci­ate them is to hire a lo­cal guide (see V. Use­ful). Don’t be conned by your tuk-tuk driver, who won’t know the dif­fer­ence be­tween a Linga and his fin­ger. You’ll need a pass; one day – $20; three day – $40; or seven day – $60. Passes can only be bought at the main en­trance booths on the road to Angkor, or bet­ter yet, get your ho­tel or guide to or­gan­ise it for you while you lounge pool­side. An­noy­ingly, passes can’t be bought in ad­vance, and start from the day of pur­chase, though smarty pants will buy a pass af­ter 5pm, use it im­me­di­ately to catch Angkor Wat at sun­set, and it’s valid for the next day. So, what to see? One day will see you run­ning around like a head­less chicken, two days is suf­fi­cient to breeze through tem­ples and squeeze in a mas­sage, while three al­lows you to ex­plore the here and now. (Seven days will mean you are an ar­chae­ol­o­gist and im­mune to tem­ple-itis). Thank­fully, most of the sites are an easy car ride from each other and tend to fol­low a ‘Small’ or ‘Grand Tour Cir­cuit’. Don’t think about try­ing to see ev­ery­thing, there’s far too much, and be­sides, there are other life-en­hanc­ing things to at­tend to, like retail, spa and co­pi­ous amounts of gin-based bev­er­ages. Cin, cin!

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