• Rolf Graf

The mysteries of Angkor

I organized a one-day team building event in Siem Reap for Coopervision, the US-based manufacturer of contact lenses on 12th March 2015 (the day of publishing this article).

It was our first team building event in Cambodia, and the event took enormous amount of time to prepare. I arrived in Siem Reap two days earlier to inspected dozens of temples in search for clues and historic tales. Hidden off-road tracks were identified and tested for drivability.

The event started at Raffles Hotel, where I met Bobo and Kung, my co-facilitators in the lobby of the hotel. It was 7 a.m., temperature a perfect 25 degrees and a cloudless sky. Coopervision corporate delegates were taken by 35-seater coach to the ticket gate just outside UNESCO heritage site. I was amazed how fast and efficient the group ticketing procedure was; we bought 25 tickets in less than 10 minutes (each delegate was given a bath with their own photograph).

The journey continued by couch until the North gate of Angkor Tom (35-seater coaches can’t enter the gate).



The mountain bikes were lined up neatly and labeled with each delegates name. To increase the challenge, one pair of each team was asked to ride a tandem bicycle.

Bicycles were tested, and saddle height adjusted before leaving towards Preah Pitho.


This was a short 5-minutes test ride to the starting place of this team building activity.

Due to its central location I decided to set the start and end of this team building activity at Preah Pitho, a set of 13th century temples built by King Suryavarman II. Constructed on a plateau overlooking the terrace of the Leper king, they are one of the most ignored temples at Angkor Wat and off the beaten track. What a good fortune for my group, each team was assigned to a private temple for holding their strategy meeting.

Coopervision delegates were split into three teams, consisting of:



Team 1: (Facilitator Rolf)

• Dr. Fan

• Fe

• Khalid

• Richard

• Eric

• Franco

• JG

• William


Team 2: (Facilitator Kung)

• Jo-Ann

• Robert

• Joe

• Young

• Teddy

• Yoshiko

• Alejandro

• Anika


Team 3: (Facilitator Bo Bo)

• Bruce

• Jeremy

• Helen

• Su

• Taku

• Samantha

• Peggy

• Kwan Hee

• Stella



After that teams were asked to enter their assigned temple they received the instructions and were about strategize and plan their route.

Teams were handed out a clue sheet with cryptic instructions, a marker pen as well as a map of Angkor Wat. The clue sheet consists of poetry verses that needed to be deciphered to pinpoint the location on the map.

Teams were awarded points for the correct locations. For each location, there are a set of questions to be answered and challenges to be solved.

The six locations were:



Angkor Wat

Built between 1113 and 1150 by king Suryavarman II and covering 200 hectares, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. This microcosm of the Hindu universe is the best-preserved temple in the UNESCO heritage site and the main attraction for our group as well as tourists alike. Main activities for my group was deciphering Bas-Reliefs in the west gallery.


Bayon (Angkor Tom)

The state temple of Jyavarman VII is one of the most enigmatic and powerful religious constructions in the world.

The temple was built in the late 12th century and is assumed to be abandoned by the 17th century. It went through several architectonical changes and was first a Hindu, then Mahayana and later Theravada Buddhist temple.

The distinctive features of this monument are approximately 200 in sandstone engraved faces. The main activity took place on the third platform.



Bapuon (Angkor Tom)

This enormous temple-mountain can be reached over an elevated pathway. The sight is impressive. Bapuon was the state temple of the Yasodharapura of King Udayadityavarman II and was described by a 13th century Chinese diplomat as the “Tower of ‘Bronze. The team building activity took place on the top level.


Leper King Terrace (Angkor Tom)

The main sight is the zig-zag course that is leading up to the terrace. Well-preserved bas-reliefs await the teams on this fantastic path going back in time. The main activity is deciphering bas-reliefs along the zig-zag course. On top of the platform there is a golden Buddha statue.


Ta Phrom

Ever since it was discovered in the 19th century, Ta Phrom was left at its nature state. Giant trees, intertwined among the ruins, are responsible for Ta Phorm’s special atmosphere. It’s one of the must-see temples after Angkor Wat when visiting Siem Reap’s UNESCO archeological site. The main team building activity is finding a hidden Buddha statue.


Preah Khan

Built on the graveyard of the Cham king, this temple once was a major Buddhist university employing more than 1000 teachers. One of the highlights is discovering the fantastic off-road path through the jungle and along the swamps to the West gate. From there, the bikes can be carried inside the temple and continue off-the beaten track to the North and South gate. Distinguishing gates were the major team building tasks at Preah Khan.


Teams left Preah Pitho at about 9 a.m. and returned to the same place at midday. Some teams struggled with the heat and left their bicycles at Angkor Wat and returned to Preah Pithu by tuk-tuk, which was all part of the race.



Teams were asked to return the sheets to the facilitator for marking.

Some delegates who didn’t visit Ta Phrom as part of the team building activity, decided to do so on their own at the end of the event. Other delegates waited in the coach.

On the way back to the hotel, I did a thorough debriefing in the coach. First, I went through the clue sheet recapped the locations. Then we discussed the questions and had a closer look at the photo tasks.


Finally, I announced the score and announce the winning team.


• Team 1: 44

• Team 2: 47

• Team 3: 24


There was thunderous applause for the winning team and gifts were handed out ceremoniously.

For more information, please visit our Cambodian website or call +66 84 629 05 07.




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