"What LiDAR takes away is a little of the Indiana Jones stuff of whacking through cactus, spiders, thorny trees and mud puddles," says American archaeologist Dr. Miriam Stark, onsite in Siem Reap.
"You can still have your spiders, snakes and bugs, and all those rich experiences, but now you know you're getting somewhere, which is a lot more satisfying."
A taste of that Indiana Jones stuff awaits our party at 492-meter-high Mount Kulen, a 90-minute drive from Siem Reap.
Near Preah Ang Thom, home to a colossal 16th-century reclining Buddha carved out of solid rock, my photographer husband and I swap our four-wheel-drive vehicle for motorbikes, riding behind local guides for a daylong bone-rattling exploration of the eight-kilometer-wide and 32-kilometer-long mountain plateau.
We cling on tight as our guides, familiar with every cave and cranny on the landmine-riddled mountain, tackle muddy trails up hills, bump over log bridges, fly through fast-flowing streams, get stuck in sludgy puddles and go off-road, bouncing along jungle tracks only they can see, every now and again alighting to slash away vines and branches with a scythe to create our own paths.
We hike to see enormous carved stone statues of an elephant and lions at Sras Damrei (Elephant Pond) buried deep within the forest and scramble about the ruins of Prasat Rong Chen, the three-tiered laterite temple where the Brahman priest made Jayavarman II a god-king.
We emerge from thick jungle to gaze at the red brick temple of O Paong, grass and trees sprouting from its cracks.
Another day we visit beautiful Beng Mealea, taken captive by tangled roots and a forest that grows within and around the moss-covered temple, and the remote, sprawling Koh Ker, where temple after crumbling temple wait to be explored.
We see a total of four tourists the whole day.
"Digging" for ruins in the air
We also board the helicopter that was equipped with the LiDAR instrument to view the area's splendid temple-cities and grasp the size of the colossal new cityscape that's been recently uncovered.
From the air it's easier to understand how challenging the archaeologists' job must have been before the device bombarded the ground with laser beams -- a million pulses every four seconds -- to record data that ultimately provided the precise information that has forever changed how archaeologists work.
At a traditional Khmer stilted house on Siem Reap's riverside that serves as the Robert Christie Research Centre, I meet archeology professor Dr. Roland Fletcher, co-director of the Greater Angkor Project.
"I like to explain it like this," begins Dr Fletcher.
"When you came here you landed at the airport and thought of yourself as driving to Siem Reap, then driving from Siem Reap to Angkor. But when you were at the airport you were really 15 kilometers inside the Angkor city and Siem Reap is in the suburbs of Angkor ... at Angkor Wat you'd be right in the middle of the city and everywhere you turned you would be looking across rice fields and see rows and rows of timber houses with smoke rising from them in the morning and the towers of shrines sticking up through the trees ... it must have been an unbelievably beautiful place."
It's still a beautiful place -- as the one million tourists who visited Siem Reap and its Angkor temple-cities in 2012 would no doubt attest.
And hotel and tour operators are predicting a significant increase in tourist arrivals for 2013.
It could be some time before more of the "lost city" of Mahendraparvata's sites are excavated and its temples are made more accessible -- there's still much de-mining to do on the plateau, too.
In the meantime, however, locals are hoping the new discoveries inspire more travelers to explore remote sites such as Koh Ker and Beng Mealea, and that the intrepid will hop on the backs of motorbikes at Mount Kulen.
Several airlines fly directly to Siem Reap in Cambodia and 30-day tourist visas are available upon arrival for many nationalities for $20. Bring passport photos.
Most visitors employ a local guide or hire a tuk-tuk or bikes to explore the Angkor Archaeological Park (open daily, 5 a.m.-6 p.m.).
An Angkor Pass can be purchased at the entrance gate: one-day $20, three-day $40 and seven-day $60.
ABOUTAsia Travel offers tours of the Angkor cities.
Backyard Travel offers one-day expeditions to Mount Kulen and day trips Koh Ker and Beng Mealea.