The Ultimate Gay Angkor Wat Tour
Angkor Wat, Phnom Kulen, Beng Melea, Koh Ker, Preah Vihear in comfort with a private car, driver and guide. It's the ultimate Angkor Wat experience.
Day One: Rub Elbows With the Bus Tourists
Arrive on an early morning flight today so that you can begin to see the basic essentials first. After a stop at your hotel, you and your guide enter the Angkor complex through the south gate of Angkor Thom, the city-fortress that contains the temple of Angor Wat. At the time of its construction, this was the world's largest human settlement with as many as one million inhabitants. Among the places you will visit today are the Bayon, with its towering stone faces. Nearby are the Terrace of the Leper King and the Terrace of the Elephant, with its gigantic friezes that depict the importance of these beasts in daily Khmer life.
Most of the day is devoted to the temple that has come to be known as Angkor Wat, the spiritual nucleus of an empire that once across Southeast Asia. Centered within a mile-square moat, it is the largest religious monument ever built. These are the most-visited places in the Angkor Archaeological Area, and should not be missed.
This is the ultimate trip for anyone who is really serious about exploring Angkor Wat and who wants to see things that the bus tourists miss. Choose your favorite gay-friendly hotel, add visits to stupendous historic sites with your private guide, great food, shopping and nightlife, and you have the ultimate visit to Angkor Wat! You get a private car, driver and guide throughout, admission costs, your choice of hand-picked hotel, breakfasts, a night at Phare the Cambodian Circus, legendary hospitality and more!
Day Two: Avoid the Buses
Before we take you to see two temples that the bus tourists have not found yet, you have a couple of options. First, the Angkor Museum. They have quite a good film that will give you some of the history of Angkor.
An equally unusual option is the Angkor Panorama Museum, which is the product of a humungous art studio in North Korea. Hundreds of artists painted spectacular tableaus of life during the heyday of the Khmer Empire, including scenes of battles, village life, and the construction of Angkor's major monuments. Since these are options, admission cost is not included, but may be worth the bragging rights.
Next, you head to Banteay Thom Temple, which is obscure, somewhat isolated and difficult to find. Because it is overgrown with vegetation it will immediately remind you of the kind of place where India Jones might hunt for treasure. You won't find any since the place was picked clean long ago.
Ta Nei Temple is next. You may see other visitors there, but it is unlikely they will be on a two-day bus tour since it is fairly obscure. Afterwalking about 1km to get there you will be rewarded with a photogenic and miniaturized version of Ta Phrom, which is always crowded.
The third jewel of the day, if you have time, is Baphuon Temple. Originally a Hindu temple, Buddhists later removed one face of the carvings the decorated the temple to replace them with a Buddha carving. This is one of Angkor's earliest temples, and not constructed with the same precision and engineering skills of structures like Angkor Wat. A French team of archaeologists drew up detailed plans to reassemble thousands of numbered stones. However, they narrowly escaped the onslaught of the Khmer Rouge In 2011 it reopened as "Angkor's newest temple."
Day Three: A Mountain That Was Once an Island
Drive into the lush countryside to the foot of one of the only two mountain you can probably see in any direction. Along the way you will get a close-up look at life in the little villages that appear along the road--houses on stilts, farmers tending to their rice paddies, pigs on motorbikes, and kids at play.
A winding mountain road takes you to the top of Phnom Kulen. This ancient hilltop retreat is still a mystical and holy place for the Khmer people, and among the favorite places for people living in Siem Reap to hang out on their days off. King Jayavarman II had almost two kilometers of stone stream bed carved with more than 1000 lingas (stone phalluses, symbols of fertility) and many other Hindu religious images to bless the water as it cascaded to the cities below. You can read more about Phnom Kulen here.
Next, you are off to Banteay Srei, the "Temple of Women." Discovered in 1914, this distant jewel-like temple is unique in many respects. Banteay Srei was built on an intimate, human scale of pink sandstone. Its gloriously ornate architectural details and mythical beasts with human heads are exceptionally well preserved.
Day Four: The Road to Preah Vihear
Early this morning you set out for crown jewel of the Khmer Empire--Preah Vihear. There, you will switch to a four wheel drive vehicle driven by an experience local driver to navigate the winding road to the top. You may see soldiers as you approach the summit.
Work began in the 9th century on the first of the temples and ended three hundred years later. Many generations of Khmer god-kings made their contribution to what was intended to be the empire's ultimate Hindu place of worship. Consequently practically every style of Khmer architectural is represented there.
Very large parts of the "ruins" remain intact, like the only vaulted colonnade that has ever been found in a Khmer structure. Some temples that are still actively used as sanctuaries today. You will probably see no more than a dozen other foreign visitors because only SUVs with four wheel drive can make the trip up the mountain, and it is so far away that visitors have to go to considerable effort to get there, so you may have the place almost entirely to yourself.
This is one of the largest archaeological sites in Asia, so you will want to take time to see everything. Since there are no restaurants nearby, we take a boxed lunch along. Local people sell cold beverages in and round the temples. At the end of the day you drive back down the mountain. Not far away is the surprisingly delightful Preah Vihear Boutique Hotel, where you will spend the night. The beer is cold and you will probably be ready for a swim in the pool before dinner.
Every tour is different because every customer is different. Custom Angkor Wat holidays are our specialty. If this travel package is not exactly what you are looking for, we can probably modify it to make it special just for you. Want to add extra nights, more activities, or replace some part of the itinerary with something different? We will do our best to make this program a perfect fit for you and your schedule.
Day Five: Space Aliens Probably Built It
Today's first stop is Koh Ker Temple, which is simply breathtaking. It is the only pyramid-shaped temple yet to be discovered in the Khmer Empire. Its seven tiers are taller than Angkor Wat. The top can be reached by a newly-built stairway.
Nearly one hundred smaller temples were constructed in a very small area surrounding the pyramid, and some of them are still in remarkable condition. Many have not yet been excavated. You will have a chance to make stops at as many of these temple, including one with a linga so massive that those who became rich looting many of the region's priceless statues and carving could not carry it away. Perhaps the best part is that you may not see any other foreigners here at all.
Later you continue to Beng Melea, a sprawling temple/fortress that is almost precisely one kilometer square, neatly nestled in the dense surrounding forest, the kind of place you would expect to see Indiana Jones. While many of the buildings are in total ruin, others are almost intact. Several years ago a French film crew built wooden ramps over some of the massive stones that have toppled from once-grand walls over the centuries. This makes it easy to see most of the site in relative ease.
You arrive back in Siem Reap in late afternoon. You will check out of your hotel the day you depart for Preah Vihear. If you want to keep your room during your absence we are happy to arrange that. There will be an extra night cost.
Day Six: Fascinating Odds & Ends
Continue your adventure early to take advantage of the cool morning, thhe best time to see Ta Phrom, the iconic temple that is nearly swallowed by trees. You also see Ta Keo, where five towers rest atop a five-tiered pyramid, Srah Srang, a ritual bath large enough for a thousand women; and the Eastern Mebon, a terraced pyramid that was once an island on a man-made lake larger than all of ancient Rome. Tonight, why not enjoy a culinary adventure in one of Siem Reap's traditional garden restaurants, where you can enjoy a Khmer feast for just a few dollars?
Day Seven: Time to Reflect. Or Shop. Or Fly!
Your day is free until we deliver you to the airport. If you have seen and done everything and your flight departs late in the day there is time for a well-deserved spa treatment, some shopping in the Old Market, or an unforgettable scenic flight by helicopter or hot air balloon. You can stay longer, of course. Who would not want an extra day around the pool and one more tasty Angkor Beer?