Query syntax can get very, very ugly if there are a lot of conditionals, and I always prefer coldfusion over php when it comes to writing queries, but that was before CI & AR.
I don’t intend to start to flame, but I don’t quite agree. I wouldn’t say the queries built with AR look much better than a nicely formated, hand-written sql-query.
And often I end up handwriting them because AR simply produces something which won’t work for me, if there is a certain complexity.
The only big advantage of AR over hand-written I can see so far are the automatically escaped parameters.