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If the temples and town crowds are getting you down, here is one of the best escapes to take you beyond Siem Reap’s limits and goes on into the ancient forest where the only sounds are the leaves falling and birds calling. Abandoned centuries ago, the spectacular ruins of Beng Mealea and Koh Ker lay buried in the jungle, still mostly untouched by restoration and the prying eyes of tourists. This full day’s adventure offers a temple experience far removed from the much-visited Angkor complex.
We suggest an early start, leaving around 7.00 am with a direct 2.5-hour journey to Koh Ker. Situated 130 Km from Siem Reap, even fewer tourists visit Koh Ker. Briefly the site of the Khmer empire’s capital in the 10th century, today Koh Ker’s tranquility leaves you to explore without distraction. Originally dedicated to Hindu gods, Koh Ker is dominated by Prasat Thom, a 30-meter masonry temple mound that rises above the surrounding forest. Carved garuda, the mythical mount of Vishnu, still stands guard atop the temple pinnacles. Meander at your leisure among the many tower sanctuaries here. Several houses have spectacular stone linga, the phallic-shaped symbol honoring Shiva, which has led scholars to question King Jayavarman IV’s ego as they are truly enormous. Afterward, take a break to enjoy a picnic luncheon box.
On your return detour to explore the jungle temple of Beng Mealea. Originally enclosed by a moat nearly the size of Angkor Wat’s, Beng Mealea is a 12th-century temple now disappearing as the jungle encroaches. Undiscovered for centuries, Beng Mealea is one of the few temples of which elevated wooden walkways allow you to walk above the ruins of Beng Mealea’s collapsed galleries and towers while shaded by the jungle canopy, giving a very ‘Indiana Jones’ feel to the experience.
End today with the famous Banteay Srei temple, the 10th-century unique temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. Built in pink sandstone, the walls are covered in exquisitely preserved carvings of unusual delicacy. Because of its small size, fairy-like atmosphere, and extraordinary examples of Khmer sculpture, this temple is often a favorite among visitors. Afterward, return to your hotel and enjoy evening time at your leisure.
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Full Day (8.00 am – 4.00 pm)
Explore the countryside with an ox cart ride and offer alms to a Buddhist monk
Discover Cambodia’s Golden Threads and pink sandstone temple of Banteay Srei
6 Hours (Morning / Afternoon)
Introductory briefing, Elephant meet and greet & observation trek. (2km)
Make enrichment and watch the elephants play by the pond