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Angkor by elephant

Beat the crowds and heat at UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Wat and ride an elephant instead



Like an ancient Khmer king and queen, my wife and I climb atop the elephant.

We settle into a cushioned red-velvet seat for two on To's back, which is draped in a bright-red robe, just behind our elephant handler, Woo, who is also sporting a sharp red uniform.

Forget the fact To has just pooped on the trail, this will be a regal ride high into the Cambodian jungle to catch a peek-a-boo view of the country's biggest tourist attraction — Angkor Wat.

Just a glimpse of the ruins of the 12 Century temple is all we need.

We'd fought the crowds and heat the day before at the UNESCO World Heritage Site and are looking for a reprieve.

Ascending ever higher on the quiet and shaded jungle path fits the bill.

While we imagine the hordes traipsing through Angkor Wat, we congratulate ourselves on choosing this pachyderm pleasure.

Don't get me wrong, Angkor Wat is a sight to behold.

It's one of the seven man-made wonders of the world; it's the largest religious building on Earth and a pilgrimage for every Khmer (Cambodian) and bucket-list tourist.

We're glad we circled its five towers, climbed the tallest central tower and received blessings from Buddhist priests the day before.

By the way, it took 4,000 elephants, 6,500 engineers and 70,000 labourers almost four decades to build impressive Angkor Wat.

But today is about alternative Angkor via elephant.

The concierge at our hotel, the luxurious Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Resort, told us about the elephants and we signed up immediately.

A tuk-tuk, that wonderous open-air buggy attached to a motorcycle, picks us up at the hotel and whisks us off to the elephants.

We first make friends with To, a three-ton, 35-year-old female, by feeding her a coconut, one of her favourite foods right up there with pineapple and sugar cane.

She gently takes the coconut out of our hands with her trunk and then swiftly and surely cracks it with one mighty snap of her jaw, chews and swallows it in two bites.

With the introductions over, we climb a set of stairs and settle onto her back.

Being a former French colony, Cambodia still has a lot of Franco influence.

For more information

Visit Compagnie De Elephants D'Angkor's Facebook page and VikingRiverCruises.com


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