Go for a visit outside Angkor site, about 40 km North East of central area of Angkor, to discover the Phnom Kulen (which means Lychee Mountain), a mountain overlooking the plain and being in somehow a water tower. The sandstone quarries that have allowed the construction of temples were there. The waters of the Siem Reap River, so important for the Empire, flowed from there too.
Despite deforestation that has been started by Khmer Rouge who made the top of the plateau their stronghold, and stayed until 1996, nature in Phnom Kulen is still lush and the visit attractive. Aerial photographs collected by the lidar (high frequency laser beam, able to reveal under thick vegetation, reliefs, vestiges and even the smallest one!) supplemented by researches on the ground have allowed to recognize the elements of a great city. Scholars think that it may be the ancient Mahendraparvata, founded by King Jayavarman II, known as the founder of Khmer Empire. They believe that it is on this mountain that the King declared himself, in 802, King of Universe, but researches are still ongoing.
Take the time to admire the scenery, ponds, canals but also Ron Chen, a temple- mountain that stands on a platform of 5 terraces of 200 meters.
Back to the heart of Angkor site, go to walk on the Phnom Bakheng hills chosen by King Yasovarman I (889-910) to create his new capital Yasodharapura and erect his temple-State. You can still see the considerable remains of this temple-mountain (in process of restoration) built at 70 meter, and its impressive 108 towers-sanctuaries. It was dedicated to Shiva, Supreme God of Hinduism.
Climb to the hill-top and watch the view on the Siem Reap plain, with in distance, the West Baray, the Kulen Mountain, Phnom Bok, Phnom Krom and the five towers of Angkor Wat.
You can chose to stay for sunset, but we advise to experience this magical time of day along the Angkor Thom moat. Hire a boat or go for a walk to watch the sun over the moat and the West Baray and, view hidden elements of the ancient Khmer water engineering systems.