‘Three down!’ “My husband trilled, as the children roasted under the relentless Cambodian sun. ‘Only 997 to go!’
It may be heaven on earth – Angkor is the world’s largest religious site with more than a thousand temples in an area roughly the size of Orkney – but you’ll need stamina, sleeves and a clear idea of what to leave out before you start. .
Temple addicts could easily spend a week visiting all the shrines in the region and would be rewarded with a scale of spiritual devotion not seen anywhere else on earth.
But there’s no shame in squeezing the big four – the almighty Angkor Wat, the walled city of Angkor Thom, the so-called ‘Tomb Raider’ temple Tạ Prohm and the enormous, enigmatic faces of Bayon – into a single day. Starting early is key.
Once Felix, 11, got over the shock of the 3 a.m. alarm call and Rose, 17, and Evie, 16, got over the shock of the dress code (shoulders, arms and thighs covered ), we set up. The pilgrims proceed, albeit in an air-conditioned limousine with ice-cold bottled water and a constant supply of lavender-scented face towels. It does not mind if I do.
Fiona Hardcastle and her family checked into the five-star Anantara Angkor Resort.
Fiona found herself photographing every artifact in her sumptuous family suite with pool (above)
The “perfect courtyard pool” was a tonic for 3am departures and long days spent exploring the nearby Angkor temples.
Here, being closer to the divine is the name of the game – something in which the Anantara Angkorour luxury boutique base for our three-day tour, stands out.
As if the deep reverberations of a gong marking our arrival hadn’t been majestic enough, as soon as we stepped out of our car, we were decked out in silk stoles, taken to the spa for a ceremonial foot bath, and taken to a series of rooms. Fit for top-notch working royalty.
The interiors showcased traditional Cambodian design so tastefully that I found myself photographing every artifact in our sumptuous pool family suite.
The five-star hotel is a faithful guardian of the architectural flame lit by neighboring Angkor Wat.
For its size, symmetry and complexity of detail, Cambodia’s iconic 12th-century temple has been compared to the Great Wall of China, the pyramids and the Taj Mahal all rolled into one. However, it is strange how this masterpiece of the human mind, body and spirit is often overlooked on life’s bucket list.
“As soon as we got out of the car, we were adorned with silk stoles and taken to the spa for a ceremonial foot bath,” Fiona says of her arrival at the five-star resort.
The “shock of the 3am alarm call” is worth it for sunrise views like the ones above over Angkor Wat
Impressive: The temple called ‘Tomb Raider’, Tạ Prohm, is one of the region’s must-sees
Even stranger given the ease of combining a few nights in the region with a broader tour of Southeast Asia. Our three-night fun was part of a longer trip to Vietnam and the flights to Siem Reap, the nearest airport to the sacred site and a lively and stylish city in its own right, were like buses.
Certainly, we all agreed from the coolness of the perfect patio pool, few experiences had been as chilling as crossing the road at dawn, catching our first glimpse of what is often considered the eighth wonder of the world.
And after eight hours of illumination in 35-degree heat, the cool, relaxing sanctuary of Anantara Angkor left us all feeling like we’d stumbled onto the ninth.