Wednesday, 26 April 2017

CAMBODIA: Angkor Wat Is Eighth Wonder Of The World

They say Angkor Wat is the eighth wonder of the world, with the intricacy and symbolism of the Taj Mahal and the scale and symmetry of the Egyptian pyramids.

It had been on my travel wish list since I was a teenager and our two-week trip through Vietnam and Cambodia was designed around seeing this one building - albeit the largest religious building in the world.

The launchpad for Angkor is Siem Reap. Friends who visited ten years ago described it as 'dusty little streets with artisan crafts'.

Getting there was supposed to be an exclusive expedition. Today, however, giant neon signs point to 'Pub Street' and Western cover bands blast from the bars.

Cheap flights connect Siem Reap to the rest of Asia and tourists come in their thousands, every day. However, our sweltering seven-hour bumpy bus from the capital, Phnom Penh, meant we were at least earning our wonder.

And we hoped that a dawn start at Angkor the next day might allow some privacy.

Arriving outside the temple, the moonlight caught a huge body of water, a moat over a mile long. I hadn't been ready for such scale and ambition in architecture.

My girlfriend and I picked our way across the bridge and through the outer wall into the inner complex. And there it was, appearing in the half-light as the sun rose behind it, the towers of Angkor Wat. It was reassuringly breathtaking.

But we weren't alone - the soft light revealed thousands of others, almost clambering over each other, all sold the 'dawn package'.

As the temple moved out of its cloak of silhouette, we stood as a saluting army of raised arms and our cameras clicked, echoing the surrounding jungle of crickets.

Of course, there are dozens of temples at the Angkor complex. We persisted through the heat and humidity to giant Buddhist carvings and fig trees growing entwined in ancient bricks as if building sets for Indiana Jones.

All the while the others were there, and I persistently and carefully angled my camera to avoid them, as I tried to convince myself we had the place to ourselves.

But it was an illusion. It was like taking photos at the zoo and pretending you were on safari.

We made it through to sunset on the top of view-giving Pre Rup temple, with 150 others vying for space. The selfie sticks were clashing against each other as the excited crowd posed by pretending to catch the sun or even swallow it.

As our illuminating companion for the day was finally consumed by the trees, the others descended, ushered by an officious guard. But we loitered, still trying to catch our private moment and here it was.

The guard, thinking the temple top was cleared, paused and softened. He sat down and looked out to the distant red sky and he smiled. The secret pleasure he'd been waiting for all day was the exclusive experience we'd come to find.

Te Teuk Pus Hot Spring, located near the mountainside village of Phnom Te village in Oral district, about 60 km west of Kampong Speu town.

Cambodian government will soon develop the area into a special attraction.

Tourism and provincial environment officials will work together to establish the hot spring area. this is a rare tourist attraction and has features that can attract international travelers.

After a recent inspection, experts from Japan concluded the hot springs have good quality water with minerals that could be beneficial for skin care and beauty.

Te Teuk Pus Hot Spring is 100 meters in circumference. The hot spring water comes from six sources and has a high sulfur content emitting a pungent smell. Water temperature is 70 degree Celsius, according to the reports.

Kampong Speu province borders the provinces of Pursat and Kampong Chhnang to the north, Kandal to the east, Takeo to the southeast, Kampot to the south and Koh Kong to the west. Its capital is Kampong Speu town.

Last year, Cambodia welcomed 5,011,712 international travelers increasing 5.0% compared to 4,775,231 visits in 2015.

The country targets to welcome 7 million tourists by 2020.

Apsara authority has announced it will restrict visits to the top of Phnom Bakheng hill, a popular spot for for sunset photography where an ancient temple is located.

A maximum of 300 visitors will be allowed to visit the hill top temple at any one time.

Agence Kampuchea Presse quoted Apsara’s Tourism Management Agency president, Phoeun Sophoan, saying the limit on visitors will help to protect the ancient hill top temple .

“The authority has also arranged places for tourists to see the sunset on the hill without going up to the hill top temple.”

The report did not explain how Apsara will manage the crowd, but to ensure not more than 300 people are on the hilly knoll at any one time would probably require a head count through entry and exit points to control the flow.

Located in Angkor region, Siem Reap province, Phnom Bakheng is a 65-metre-high temple mountain built between the end of the 9th century and early 10th century, during the reign of King Yasovarman I.

Located on the top of a hill, it is now a popular tourist spot for sunset viewing with excellent views of the bigger Angkor Wat, which stands about 1.5 km to the southeast.

The large number of visitors makes Phnom Bakheng one of the most threatened monuments of the Angkor Historical Park.

Since 2004, World Monuments Fund has been working to conserve the temple in partnership with Apsara.