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The Angkor Guidebook

By Andrew Booth

THE ANGKOR GUIDEBOOK is a beautiful, compact travel guide to the temples of Angkor in Cambodia. The spiral-bound 9” x 6” book is the perfect size for a backpack and is aimed at the first-time traveller to Angkor, written by a nationally recognized travel specialist with input by academics. Including artistic renderings of the sites during the peak of their splendor on translucent pages superimposed over pictures of the sites as they stand today, the guidebook manages to evoke the Angkor of the past while providing practical advice for the modern visitor.

The thorough guide begins with a short history of the Khmer Empire and the historical importance of the Angkor region, and ends with tips on travel planning and suggested sightseeing itineraries. The main focus is on visiting the temples, however, so potential tourists would need additional guidebooks on travelling in Cambodia more generally. The book focuses on a few of the more than one thousand temples in Angkor, organized by location: “Central Angkor Thom,” “Outside Angkor Thom,” and “Temples Further Afield and Lesser Visited Sites.” Each temple description includes a key, indicating how much time to spend at each site and how crowded it can get, as well as suggestions on what time of day to visit and where to focus your sightseeing. For example, at Angkor Thom, Booth suggests hiring a bicycle to ride around the walls, in addition to sightseeing inside.

The prose is simplistic and more didactic than evocative, with a few grammatical errors. Problematically, Booth presents opinions such as “one authority believes…” without citing anyone in particular, and many of the historical descriptions of Angkor are drawn from the writings of 13th century Chinese Emissary Zhou Daguan without citing a source. But the numerous pictures—of the temples at different angles and artistic details up close—are the crowning achievement of this guide. These glimpses into an artistically rich heritage will compel many a reader to start planning a trip to Southeast Asia.

This concise guide for armchair travelers, as well as budding historians and anthropologists achieves its goal of successfully shepherding visitors through the Angkor temples, whether or not that trip is taken only in the mind.