Don't overlook anything
Take a break from the tourist hordes and visit the quieter wonders of Overlooked Angkor. Wander at your own pace through serene stone courtyards, incense-scented chapels, ruins of training academies for angelic dancers, and hallways inscribed with a floral tapestries textured with moss and splashed with colored lichen. Experience something of the thrill of an early adventurer, rediscovering the echoes of surprising splendor and haunting enigmas. For guests using our Essential Angkor or Angkor Adventure packages.
Entrancing Banteay Kdei is an intimate and seductive ruin, sensuously celebrating the devotees of heavenly apsara dancing. The naga-ringed entry porch is largely complete, invoking the intended feeling of a supernatural bridge to paradise. Recent excavations have unearthed dozens of buried Buddha statues. Especially splendid is the hall of dancers, whose pillars are graced with exquisitely stylized women frozen in fantastical poses and wreathed with flowered garlands. Look carefully and you may discover a tender scene depicting a student paying homage to her teacher. Courtyards sprout pillars for long-vanished wooden spirit shrines. Windows frame surprising vistas. Colorful offerings witness that Banteay Kdei is still an active place of worship for the local people. The west side of the temple is a grand puzzle of stones, tumbled about like the abandoned toys of a fickle leviathan.
Grand and regal, Preah Khan was built in 1191 to honor the father of great King Jaravayaman VII. It is a huge site, slightly smaller than Angkor Wat, but almost entirely engulfed by jungle. This temple is slowly being repaired by American citizens and companies, including the Andy Warhol Foundation. Gigantic strangler fig trees tower above a maze of chambers that once sheltered more than 500 gem-and-gold-encrusted statues. After the death of Jaravayaman VII, Buddhist imagery at many Angkor temples was destroyed by chisel-wielding Hindu zealots. But Preah Khan was just too gigantic and some serene Buddhas escaped defacing, remaining to be admired by later generations, although without precious adornments. Here you will also discover an oddly-shaped two-story structure that resembles a Greek temple, but its purpose remains an intriguing mystery.
Neak Pean was a divine bath complex inside a sacred medicinal sanctuary. It is a cyclopean cosmic symbol comprised of five sacred pools radiating in sublime proportion from a lotus-shaped prang. At one time the central pool featured island-like sculptures of which only one partial fragment remains. Even so, its exquisite strangeness conjures visions of artistic singularity. Medicinal waters from this pool were poured by bathers into four tiny chapels, each containing a sculptured water spout to shower patients inside. Jungle herbs are still sold here to those wanting to experience the cure in the privacy of their own home. Neak Pean is especially gorgeous in "green season" when its pools fill after rain showers and their reflecting effects, a hallmark of Angkor temples, may be healthily relished.
INCLUDES: personal guided sightseeing with private car and driver. Not included: Angkor admission pass. Please offer lunch to your guide.
Where We Shine: Purple Dragon highlights unique and offbeat insights to Cambodian life that most tourists overlook.
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