Tag Archive: ancient temples


There’s a reason Angkor Wat is one of the most popular tourist spots in Southeast Asia. The complex of ancient temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia, is an elegant formation of awe-inspiring architectural wonders.

But the Khmer Empire’s reach extended well beyond Angkor, and those other temples are also well worth a visit.

One of them is Banteay Srei, which is near the quiet lake villages of Kampong Kleang and Kampong Phluck. Another is Beng Melea, which actually pre-dates Angkor Wat. It’s about an hour and a half from Siem Reap and features the same layout as Angkor Wat. But the central tower has completely collapsed and most of the structure is overgrown by trees. It is the only temple where you can climb over the stones on a fixed circuit, and you hardly ever see any other tourists on your way.

Farther north you’ll find Koh Ker, which has only recently been made accessible. The place was briefly the Angkorian capital during the 10th Century.

“Koh Ker is interesting for its huge, pyramidal temple and unique style,” says Phan Sophea, a Cambodia-based travel specialist. “And the newly-paved road out there takes you through gorgeous farmland.”

Phan also marvels at Preah Vihear, which rests on a clifftop overlooking the vast Cambodian plains, making it one of the most spectacular of all Angkorian temples.

“Getting there is an adventure in itself,” he says. “First you have to climb the cliff — either on motorbike or in a pickup truck — but once on top you are rewarded with amazing views, hardly any tourists, a beautiful temple and the feeling that you are doing something not everybody does.”

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Consider Cambodia by Bicycle

Say ‘Cambodia‘ and most people nowadays instinctively think of Angkor Wat, an awe-inspiring collection of ancient temples in Siem Reap that draws millions of tourists every year.

Phan Sophea

Phan Sophea

But there’s more to this tranquil country than its famous ruins of a lost civilization, says Phan Sophea – a Cambodia-based travel specialist.

“Angkor Wat is amazing, but if you want to experience the real Cambodia, there’s no better way than to cycle from Phnom Penh to Udong, which is also steeped in history,” he says. “In fact, it was home to a succession of kings for more than 200 years, starting in the early 1600s.

“The trip to Udong offers a great look into the culture and local way of life. And along the way, you can try fishing at beautiful Ta Mok Lake.”

If anyone would know it’s Sophea, who’s passion for biking is rivaled only by his love for Cambodia. In fact, he still rates cycling around Koh Trong Island, in northeast Cambodia, as his all-time favorite adventure.

“Planting a tree at the local wat was an unforgettable experience for me,” he recalls.

As for why Sophea enjoys travel so much, the answer might surprise you.

“All credit goes to rugby,” he says. “The sport has allowed me to travel and meet people from all over the world. In turn, it created a desire in me to experience the ‘real world.’ I work in the travel industry now because I want to make the world a less foreign place and help people experience the beautiful country of Cambodia.”

But of course, exposing globetrotters to one of Southeast Asia’s most historic and bucolic destinations is not the road warrior’s only goal in life.

“My dream is to do the triathlon event in Kampot, on Cambodia’s coast,” Sophea says. “My mission is to be an ‘iron man’ one day.”

Tour to exploring Cambodia by bike, including Angkor Wat.

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ta Prohm, Siem Reap, Cambodia