About Siem Reap
Start your Cambodia itinerary with Siem Reap. It's located in the northwest part of the country.
Best Time To Visit
Best time to visit Siem Reap is from December to February
How To Reach
Book a Package Tour
Ta Prohm has been abandoned to the elements, a reminder that while empires rise and fall, the riotous power of nature marches on, oblivious to the dramas of human history. It has been left as it was ‘discovered’ by French explorer Henri Mouhot in 1860. We continued towards the giant pyramid of Takeo, one of the highest temples in the Angkor area. In the morning we also visited the remains of an old Angkorian bridge which once spanned the Siem Reap River.
Angkor Wat was first a Hindu, then subsequently a Buddhist, temple complex in Cambodia and the largest religious monument in the world. The temple was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yasodharapura, the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum.
Angkor Wat is the central, most well known temple of the Temples of Angkor but there are about 35 temples in total. Its so vast, you're going to need at least one full day to explore this world heritage site and maybe even return for another trip. A lot has been said and written about the Temples of Angkor and I was hesitant that I might find it too touristy for my liking. However it is nothing of the sort and you're sure to be awestruck by the beauty and majesty of the place. I found myself lackadaisically wandering about and snapping shots of all the beauty before me. Besides Angkor Wat, also visit Ta Prohm colloquially known as the "Tomb Raider Temple". A one-time Buddhist monastery and university, Ta Prohm now seems like a temple the jungle wants to reclaim. It’s absolutely gorgeous and makes you feel a bit like Indiana Jones. Preah Khan is the largest temple but not as impressive as the others. There's also Bayon and Ta Keo. Make sure to go in the off-season so that you can enjoy the temples in solitude.
This was our favourite place to hang out and enjoy a nice cold beer! There are many pubs to choose from so enjoy picking one out. Through these streets you will also enjoy seeing the small push carts people have offering snakes, grasshoppers, spiders and scorpions to eat... I must say, I didn't like the look of any, let alone tasting them!
Tonle Sap Lake
A visit to the calm waters of Tonle Sap lake and its luring boat ride are a must to-do in the Siem Reap province. As exciting and exhuberating is the local experience around the lake, you can find much interest in exploring the shifting boundaries of this great central lake. You can even enjoy a visit across the floating villages, fish sanctuary, bird sanctuary and the swampy forests in the region.
Watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Return to your hotel for breakfast. Then proceed on a tour to Angkor Thom city and the huge Bayon temple brooding at its centre. Bayon is filled with engrossing bas-reliefs and over 200 massive faces carved on stone towers. An amazing (and pretty surreal) experience. Continue to the other temples of Angkor Thom- Baphuon and Phimeanakas, and the Terraces of the Elephants and the Leper King. Each of these enthralling spaces has a drama all its own. In the afternoon, you'll get the grand circuit tour including Preah Khan, Neak Pean and East Mebon temples. Overnight Siem Reap.
This is one of the most enigmatic buildings. Huge faces carved on the stone embellish the towers. Whose face is carved on the stone is still not certain. Most of the scholars, however believe it is that of the Mahayana Buddhist King Jayavarman VII's face due it's similarity with the 216 gigantic carved faces. It constitutes as a fascinating mystical place.
Probably what has come to become the iconic image of Angkor Wat -- of tree roots exquisitely framing a stone entrance -- comes from Ta Prohm. Add to that the fact that Tomb Raider was shot here, that keeps the tourists coming in shameless hordes, and you have in front of you the veritable celebrity of the group. The irony of it is: for a place that has come to be the face of the greatest temple complex in the world, Ta Prohm is not as much about the genius of man as the devastating arrogance of nature. Left in the state as it was found to recreate for the discoverer the feeling of a primeval, untouched archaeological site, most of the structures have trees growing through them and their roots simultaneously destroying and holding them together. However much the hype may be, it will never fail to astound.
Phsa Leu Thom Thmey
Built on a massive sandstone rock is the 16th Century Preah Ang Thom Monastery. This houses a huge gold reclining Buddha, again, carved out of sandstone. The monastery is reached via a flight of stone steps. The approach is lined with stalls selling offerings, such as flowers, fruit, fake 100 riel notes, and incense sticks. There is also a good selection of food and drink stalls, the smell of BBQ meat wafting past is enough to tempt anyone. Valley of A Thousand Lingas
While not run by an NGO, many of the sophisticated restaurants had projects with the community or donation boxes and flyers to help. Others, like the Butterflies Garden Café had a little shop selling items from disadvantaged communities as well as a portion of their profits going into literacy and schooling programs.
New Leaf Book Cafe
As a tourist, you spend a lot of money on food and entertainment, and in Siem Reap, it's very easy to spend that money in a way that helps make a difference to the greater community, whether it's buying a cup of coffee from Common Grounds or New Leaf Book Café, enjoying a fabulous modern Khmer meal or seeking out top class entertainment.
Temple Club Restaurant and Bar
For all those budget travellers out there, we really wanted to go see an Aspara dance and dinner show but couldn't afford some $40.00 pp price tag, so instead we found out Temple Club Restaurant and Bar offer free Aspara Shows in the evenings between 19:30 - 21:30 hrs as long as you ordered some food or drinks. We therefore, made this place our dinner location and if you do the same, please please order the Garlic Prawns for starter.... Out. Of. This. World.
Karavansara Retreat and Residences
Tucked in a quiet lane just a few minutes from Pub Street in Siem Reap is the elegant Karavansara Retreat. With tastefully decorated apartments, cosy yet spacious rooms and the most amiable and helpful staff, this boutique hotel has something for every traveller. The Taberu Restaurant (located on the property itself) which offers Khmer fusion cuisine and a wonderful breakfast spread is a plus. Additionally, if in case you miss big names, a Hard Rock Cafe is located just down the street.
With so many temples and places to visit, Siem Reap extends to the second day with a visit to the Ta Prohm, Phrah Khan and Neak Pean temples. After that we head to Artisans D’Angkor and the local market created in 1999 to provide jobs to the rural workers and artisans as well as revive certain Khmer arts and crafts. This is a great place to understand the local culture through its handicrafts as well as pick a souvenir or two to take back home (and support young Khmer artists). After completing the last day in Seam Reap we leave for the capital- Phnom Penh
Kbal Spean in Khmer means the “valley of thousand lingas”. Situated 10 KM from Banteay Srei, it is at the start of the Kulen mountain range and one has to trek up the hill to reach the site. This is not exactly a temple but a shrine of sorts carved on the mountain side itself with a waterfall flowing over it. The trek up the mountain is a good 45-60 min one and the sights along are as unusual as the site itself.
Golden Temple Villa
There are several hostels that offer cheap rates in Siem Reap, but I specifically chose Golden Temple Villa because apart from the usual room features and freebies, they have free bicycles exclusive for guests. The hotel has this quaint and charming vibe, and we were welcomed with refreshing drinks and a bowl of local peanuts. The complimentary breakfast was good and the staff willingly packed it for us so we can take it to our Angkor Wat tour.