Smiling Albino’s Cambodia team have been exploring Angkor for years, looking for more intimate and historically valuable experiences. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is by far Cambodia’s main tourist destination – drawing well over two million visitors a year. Our new discoveries, lesser-known but important sites emerging from the landscape, are becoming more appealing as Angkor’s main attractions become more and more crowded and the overall scale of the civilisation becomes better understood.

In 2007, an international team of researchers including Dr. Damian Evans established through their Greater Angkor Project that Angkor had been the largest pre-industrial city in the world providing for around 0.1% of the entire world’s population. To support this, Angkor created a complex water management system to store and disperse water throughout the extreme dry and wet seasons.

One of our discoveries is ‘The Secret Lake’, a natural reservoir that formed when the Angkorians built the East Baray. It’s a beautiful body of water at the base of Phnom Bok a small hill, providing sanctuary for many breeds of birds, small mammals and fish.

For those who want to get away from the crowds and out into nature, while still discovering hidden temples and learning about the ancient water management systems, there are a variety of activities to engage in around this area such as hiking, cycling and kayaking, as much or as little as you like. A major benefit of this area is the Secret Lake is only about a 20 minute drive from Siem Reap, making for a perfect half-day excursion.

Of course, it may not stay secret for long, particularly after this splendid blog, but at the moment, our guests have this lake to themselves besides a fisherman or two, flocks of birds and the odd herd of buffalo grazing along the banks. It’s a refreshing reprieve from the growing crowds of visitors at Angkor’s main sites.

Imagine a short bike ride or hike along the walls of the East Baray, through a pagoda and small villages where you can meet families and get an understanding of how they live. Smell and hear the forest and small cultivated plots of land along the way with the breeze in your face. Here, you will also discover remnants of the Angkorian hydrology infrastructure that allowed the empire to flourish for 500 years. At the end of the bike ride or hike, kayaks will be waiting for you at the edge of the lake. Paddle across to Prasat Tor, a 10th century temple hidden in a patch of dense forest where your picnic and a bottle of wine will be waiting. We can even have Dr. Evans or other prominent Angkor archaeologists join you to give you an in-depth appreciation of what you’re experiencing.

To thoroughly enjoy the beauty, nature and hydraulic designs of Angkor beyond the main sites, this is a fantastic half-day trip demonstrating experiential travel at its best. Enquire about our Angkor experiences here.