Angkor Wat Tour Off the Beaten Track
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, and hallways inscribed with a floral tapestries textured. Experience the thrill of being an early adventurer.
Entrancing Banteay Kdei is an intimate and seductive ruin, sensuously celebrating heavenly apsara dancing. The naga-ringed entry porch invokes the 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. Windows frame surprising vistas.
Some of Angkor's many ruins, temples and monuments are rarely visited by tourists. Here is your chance get away from tourist mobs to have some of Angkor's most interesting treasures all to yourself. Bus tourists in groups only see the highlights, where there is plenty of parking and room see things close-up. They completely miss these little gems that may make your exploration of Angkor Wat even more rewarding.
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, Hindu imagery at many Angkor temples was destroyed by chisel-wielding Buddhist zealots. But Preah Khan was just too gigantic and some structures 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 bathing complex inside a sacred medicinal sanctuary and something of a lavish spa in its day. Five sacred pools radiate 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. Medicinal waters from this pool were poured by bathers into four tiny chapels, each containing a sculptured water spout to shower patrons 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.