Last year on my honeymoon to Southeast Asia, I was lucky enough to meet Andy Booth, the founder of the Siem Reap-based tour company ABOUTAsia (and a member of the T+L A-List). A 2013 Global Vision Awards winner, it donates 100% of profits to local schools, buying them uniforms and supplies, digging wells, and providing training and fair wages to teachers. The tours themselves—to the temples and surrounding villages—are perfectly crafted and designed to avoid the crowds; we were always going opposite traffic and even had a few of the smaller temples of Angkor completely to ourselves (an impressive feat for a popular tourist destination).
Now, Andy has created one more thing to celebrate: a guidebook on Angkor Wat, which traces the history of the UNESCO World Heritage site and profiles more than 20 temples with detailed yet succinct descriptions. It also presents visual reconstructions produced by artist Bruno Levy, which overlay transparent illustrations (approved by leading academics) on top of modern-day photographs, giving visitors a sense of what the temples looked like when they were built and how they appear today. “I was surprised there wasn’t a book for the non-specialist—one that was accurate, but a little more visual and a little less wordy,” says Andy, who spent three years on the project.
Other highlights of the book—the proceeds of which benefit ABOUTAsia schools—include useful symbols indicating which temples are the busiest or the most tranquil and how much time to allow at each site; tips for avoiding crowds (trust me, those early morning wake-up calls are worth it!); a wildlife guide; and a “spot the following” checklist.
Every last detail was well thought-out, showcasing Andy’s passion for the temples and their history. That fold out map in the back? It purposely does not lie flat so there’s no struggle to put it back together. The paper is uncoated so as not to reflect the sun. And though it’s hard cover, it weighs less than other guidebooks and features a spiral bound.
The book will soon be available on Amazon, and many hotels in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh have copies in guest rooms and sell them at the front desk—but arrange a tour with ABOUTAsia (which I highly recommend), and you’ll receive one free of charge.
Brooke Porter Katz is an Associate Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.