Home' A Plus Magazine : March 2013 Contents 56 March 2013
Cycles of boom and bust are no sur-
prise to the denizens of Siem Reap.
Once the site of a sophisticated me-
dieval Hindu civilization, the city’s
economy was devastated by decades of war
and revolution in the 20th century.
Today, Siem Reap is a gem of world tour-
ism, albeit in a country that is overall one of the
poorest in the world. Cambodia has bounced
back from the Vietnam conf lict of the 1960s
and 1970s, the subsequent revolutions, civil
war and genocide, to be one of the most tourist-
dependent economies in Southeast Asia.
Its main attractions are of course the glob-
ally recognized temples known collectively as
Angkor. They are the remnants of the capital of
the Khmer Empire, a civilization that emerged
in the 7th century and dominated much of the
region until its gradual subsumption by bellig-
erent neighbours in the 15th century.
The temple of Angkor Wat itself is the
jewel in the crown. This three-tiered pyra-
mid of car ved stone, crowned by five towers,
was built between 1113 and 1150. The colon-
naded lower gallery is lined with bas-reliefs
showing stories from Hindu mythology.
The other must-see temple is Bayon, just
500 metres further on. Its 37 stone towers are
among the most immediately recognizable
images of the temples. Other notable temples
include Angkor Thom and its walls and moat;
Preah Khan, a former university; and the rela-
tively untouched Ta Prohm.
Some of the finest examples of architec-
ture are located away from the central com-
plex. Bakong, a prototypical but appealing
10th century sandstone temple dedicated to
Shiva, is 13 kilometres east of Siem Reap. Ban-
teay Srei, the pink “Citadel of Women,” is 35
kilometres northeast of Siem Reap and hardly
visited by tourists, yet its intricate carvings
can entrance a visitor for hours.
Because of the long timescale of the tem-
ples’ construction, as well as the distances
between them, there is no correct order in
Travelzoo Asia Pacific CFO and Institute member Honnus Cheung visits the ancient
temple complex near the Cambodian city of Siem Reap
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