siem reap town – A sound-and-light show that moves through the Angkor temples and an ambitious urban plan to connect Siem Reap town to the Tonle Sap lake —these were two of the ideas floated at last week’s conference of the international committee that oversees the Angkor World Heritage Site.
The proposals come at a time when bounding tourism is luring all manner of investors to the small provincial capital, despite investment conditions that remain difficult.
Previous proposals have also included sound-and-light shows, an escalator up Phnom Bakheng and several ideas for a visitors’ center. Most have either been vetoed by the international experts or encountered funding difficulties.
But Fabrice Cerezales believes his “Celestial Journey” can succeed because it is tasteful and low-impact, he said. “My idea is that Angkor is not one temple, it’s a civilization,” he explained.
The show would take tourists in open-topped motorized carts from the Sras Srang reservoir around several temples and through Angkor Thom, ending at Angkor Wat. Along the way they would see elephants, dancers and shadow puppetry while hearing narration and seeing light projections.
Cerezales estimates that the project would cost $6 million to $8 million and take about a year to build. Because of its mobile nature, it would require no permanent installations, an important factor for the fragile temples.
The urban planning project is the brainchild of Hakchul Kim of South Korea’s Handong Global University. Kim would renovate the Siem Reap river and create 70 new villages along its banks all the way to the lake.
Kim’s project would take 20 years and require working with local authorities. He said it would aim to resurrect the water culture of ancient Angkor.
Currently the average tourist stay in Cambodia is just two days. “[Cambodia] has to offer tourists other things to do, not just a day at the monuments,” said Azedine Beschaouch, head of the international committee.