Preah Vihear
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Savor sweeping views at this cliff-top temple
Few visitors to Siem Reap make it to UNESCO World Heritage listed Preah Vihear, a Khmer Empire temple built on the edge of a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains. Straddling the Cambodia-Thailand border it's around 140kms from Siem Reap and is well worth a day trip. The archaeological site was the subject of a lengthy land dispute between the two countries for many years, until last year when the International Court of Justice in The Hague ruled in Cambodia’s favor for the second time. There's still a military presence on both sides and the Cambodian soldiers will happily show off their weapons and point out where the Thai soldiers are hiding. The real highlight is the sprawling temple, unusually constructed on a long north-south axis, rather than the conventional eastern orientation that you’ll see at Angkor, along with the magnificent sweeping valley views. On my last visit, I met an eccentric Cambodian pilgrim who was traveling around the country on foot, visiting sacred sites and carrying a message of global peace that he shared through a rather endearing performance. While you can hire a driver and car to go on your own, you’ll get more out of a visit with a knowledgeable Cambodian guide. I went with local Asia specialists Backyard Travel on my last visit and they organized an overnight stay at a nearby boutique hotel so we could savor both sunset and sunrise. Tip: the poorly paid soldiers appreciate gifts of cigarettes, which your guide can share around on your behalf.
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