It’s a common question: Can you recommend a good guide for Angkor Wat? While everyone has their personal favourite when it comes to a real live guide for Angkor Wat, a relative newcomer to the tablet scene allows you to research beforehand and adds plenty of extra detail that even your living, breathing guide may not be familiar with. Meet An Interactive Guide to Angkor by Dougald O’Reilly.
We’ve known Dougald for years now and when he first told us about the guide, we immediately grabbed a copy and have to say it really is an excellent resource for anyone looking for a really solid look at the sites. Dougald, an archaeologist, knows his stuff — he’s been conducting research in Cambodia since the late 1990s and was also Director of Heritage Watch, a non-profit organisation that was founded to combat the destruction of cultural heritage in Cambodia. In this iBook, he has collaborated with noted Southeast Asia scholar Professor Charles Higham of the University of Otago, who provides the voiceover throughout the book.
Yes, this is much more than a simple electronic book. At 88 pages in length, it covers many of the sites most travellers to the region would be interested in, it’s illustrated with excellent photos, 3D interactive renderings of some of the main sites, maps, plans and even a “traffic map”, which illustrates the best time to visit any of the monuments.
Then, yes, there’s the voiceover. Professor Higham has narrated large sections of the book, which are accessed by touching an icon corresponding to a particular part of the monument. This means you can be standing at the southeast corner of the Bayon, tap the voiceover icon and the guide will talk you through exactly what you’re looking at. This is ideal for solo travellers who can just plug in a set of headphones, but would also work for small groups as the voiceover is clear and easy to follow.
There are also a variety of clickable icons with pop-up fact boxes that deliver another level of detail for individual statues and monuments, often detailing the legends behind what you’re looking at. Aside from information on the actual monuments, there is also a solid historical section, suggested itineraries, advice on travelling responsibly and even an easy to access glossary to save you from mixing up your Asramas and Avatars.
While the selection of monuments isn’t exhaustive, many of the favourites are included. Those covered include Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon, Baphuon, Terrace of Elephants, Terrace of Leper King, Phimeanakas/Royal Palace, Prasat Suor Prat/Kleangs, Ta Phrom, Beng Melea and Chau Srey Vibol. Those looking for other monuments should still go old school and hire a real guide.
We paid A$9.99 for the app via the Apple AppStore — this is a premium priced app, but we’d say it is definitely a premium product. If you’ve got an iPad in your backpack and want a really good going through of the monuments, this is an absolute no-brainer. Buy it today. For those without an iPad, there is an audio-only version of the Angkor guide available via Tourcaster.
By Stuart McDonald
Last updated on 31st January, 2015.