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Angkor - Siem Reap - Cambodia
Siem Reap, is the rapidly growing small town which is the base for visits to the world Heritage Site of Angor Wat - one of the greatest religious monuments in the world. Besides the temples of Angkor, Siem Reap is a quiet and pleasant town, offering promenades along the river, in the center and around the old market. Excursions to the fascinating floating villages, sunset cruises, tours to the inundated forest or the bird reserve of Prek Tuol are greatly combinable with a tour to the temples.
Some temples have been re-opened recently including the fabulous Preah Vihear Temple. Well over 100 km north-east of Angkor, on the Thai border, Preah Vihear Temple (or Prasat Phra Viharn) dates from the beginning of the 11th century. It dominates the plain from its prominent position in the Dangrek Mountains at an altitude of more than 700 m and was only returned to Cambodia by a ruling of the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 1963 (previously occupied by the Thais). Also close to the Thai border, just 1 hour 30 mins lies Anlong Veng, used by the Khmer Rouge leaders as their last stronghold and hideout in this remote area. It reveals the remains of Pol Pot's (Khmer Rouge Leader No. 1) house and burial site. The rainy season from May to October complicates visits in remote areas.
In the same area is Koh Ker. The road has recently been renewed and is now subject to a toll. The old capital of ruler Jayavarman IV is located north and can be visited in one day from Siem Reap. Beng Melea is a huge 12th century temple complex, 40 km east of Bayon, which was completely ruined even though it was built at about the same time as Angkor Wat. Also to the north-west of Siem Reap, is Banteay Chhmar temple, now established on many tourist itineraries. One of the capitals of Jayavarman II. It was rebuilt by Jayavarman VII and dedicated to his sons who were killed in battle repelling a Cham invasion in 1177.
Deep in the jungle, a visit of secluded Kbal Spean, known as the river of the Thousand Lingas, is highly recommended. The rocks in the river have been carved (11th-13th Century), which gives it a magical touch.