SiemReap Serenity in


The peak season in Siem Reap’s Angkor temple complex had just begun when I arrived. Knowing that the usual popular spots for sunset at Pre Rup and Phnom Bakheng would be crowded, I took a ride to Phnom Krom, a hill on the edge of the Tonle Sap lake. The climb to the peak is a steep one that should only be attempted by the moderately fit – or the mountain goats that inhabit the site. Even just halfway up the hill, the views were spectacular. I could see most of the village of Chong Kneas on one side, while on the other, the paddy fields extended as far as the eye could see. At the peak, the ruins of a small temple complex stood a few metres from a handsome monastery. They were a long way from becoming as popular as the fully restored ones at Angkor. Swifts darted in and out of the doorways, a reminder that nature hasn’t completely given up on reclaiming the buildings. I found a little clearing in the bushes near the southern tower. I took a few careful steps down the steep slope and was rewarded with a view of the sun setting over Tonle Sap. I could count the number of people around me with the fingers on my hands. Three “no’s” made the experience a lot more pleasant: no selfie sticks, no noisy tourists, and no children who should be in school (just a few couples who perhaps should have gotten a room!). It was early November, and the great lake stretched from under the houses of Chong Kneas below to the horizon. From this distance, the village looked a lot prettier than it did up close on the dreaded boat tours. Soft golden sunlight seems to make everything look better.


Getting there: SilkAir and Jetstar both fly direct to Siem Reap (2 hours 10 minutes). Trivia time: Phnom Krom hill is said to have originally been uncovered by the monkey king Hanuman as he was searching for medicine. | theskaman306


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