Trekking be­comes a new at­trac­tion at Angkor Park

The Phnom Penh Post - - LIFESTYLE - Hong Raksmey SIEM REAP town

RAIS­ING sheets of white pa­per with num­bers writ­ten on it, Ch­heav Taing Kouch a travel agent from Peak DMC Cam­bo­dia calls each one as he as­sem­bles his group prior to trekking in­side the Angkor ar­chae­o­log­i­cal park.

This was the first-ever trekking jour­ney or­gan­ised by the Cam­bo­dia As­so­ci­a­tion of Travel Agents (CATA) on Novem­ber 4, in the park and its jun­gle fringes that’s lo­cated be­yond the fa­mous Angkor tem­ples.

As the trekkers pro­gressed through each of the 12km jour­ney, sweat be­gan to soak their t-shirts. The heat of the morn­ing sun added to the strain of their long walk.

The first-ever or­gan­ised jour­ney through the park served to pro­mote and ex­pand tourism pack­ages be­yond the tem­ples. It also in­cluded plant­ing trees and a char­ity fundrais­ing for the Angkor Hos­pi­tal for Chil­dren, says CATA pres­i­dent Ch­hay Sivlin.

“We want to ex­tend our tour pack- ages by in­tro­duc­ing trekking to tour op­er­a­tors. This way, they can ar­range pack­ages for visi­tors apart from just ex­plor­ing our beau­ti­ful tem­ples,” Sivlin says.

Fif­teen tem­ples in a small cir­cle and seven oth­ers, in­clud­ing Ban­teay Srei have al­ways been the main at­trac­tions in the Angkor area, says Meas Sopha, a tour guide in Siem Reap.

Speak­ing to The Post as the group walked along a small path in the jun­gle, Sivlin ex­pressed pride at the at­ti­tude of younger Cam­bo­di­ans who are keen to dis­cover more than what is usu­ally of­fered.

“Our ini­tial aim to in­clude trekking as part of the Angkor tour was to at­tract for­eign visi­tors with a zeal for ex­plo­ration. But it was an eye-opener when we no­ticed more lo­cals turn­ing up to join this maiden trek. Our youths seem keen and ex­cited to ex­plore some­thing out of the or­di­nary,” she says.

Sivlin says in plan­ning the trekking ad­ven­ture through the park, the or­gan­is­ers did not ex­pect al­most 300 par­tic­i­pants to turn up. All of them were from the hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tor, such as ho­tels and restau­rants. Tour op­er­a­tors were the main tar­gets though, con­sid­er­ing the event was to in­tro­duce new tourism pack­ages.

Sit­ting at the Ta Nei tem­ple com­plex, the smile of Taing Kouch’s face spoke of his sheer ela­tion at be­ing part of the maiden trek.

“I am so very sur­prised,” he says, of the over­whelm­ing suc­cess of the first trek through the park and jun­gle. “At first, we did not ex­pect that this event would at­tract such a huge num­ber of peo­ple. Surely, this suc­cess will en­cour­age the or­gan­is­ing team and pro­mote trekking for years to come.

“We are think­ing how we can trans­form this ex­pe­ri­ence into a pro­gramme within our reg­u­lar tour pack­ages for Angkor. We are con­fi­dent of at­tract­ing more for­eign­ers if we pro­mote it cor­rectly,” he says.

Hav­ing seen first-hand the huge par­tic­i­pa­tion of youths from the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, Sivlin ex­pressed her in­ten­tion of set­ting up a trekking ad­ven­ture in the fu­ture

“We plan to pro­mote trekking and in­tro­duce it to our new and more ex­pe­ri­enced tour guides so that they too can ex­pe­ri­ence the trek through the park and jun­gle be­fore or­gan­is­ing their own tours,” she says.

Af­ter break­ing for lunch at Angkor Bridge, the par­tic­i­pants had a joy­ful time plant­ing trees.

As the trek ended, there was a good feel­ing through­out as $5,000 was raised for the Angkor Hos­pi­tal for Chil­dren in Siem Reap from the $12 fee that each par­tic­i­pant paid for the priv­i­lege of join­ing the day’s event.

The park re­ceived 2.45 mil­lion for­eign tourists last year, earn­ing a record­high $108 mil­lion in rev­enue from ticket sales, ac­cord­ing to the state-owned Angkor En­ter­prise.

PHA LINA

A group of visi­tors trek in­side the Angkor ar­chae­o­log­i­cal park in Siem Reap.

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