SIEM REAP

Siem Reap is synonymous to Angkor Wat, Cambodia's most famous sight.

Angkor Wat
The reflection of Angkor Wat in the morning sun.

And this will very soon put the final nail in Siem Reap's coffin.

SIEM REAP


But still it has areas completely ignored by large tourist crowds. Especially the south bank of Siem Reap river is quite pleasant and can be walked or cycled in the shade of many big trees. There are many guest houses and almost all of them have a restaurant so that you can take a break as soon as you need one.

Siem Reap
Thr north river bank has definitely a very relaxing impact.

Going east, you can visit three Wats: Preah Polanka, Preah An Kau Sa and An Kau Sey - all three of them with adjacent monastries and schools.

Siem Reap
Crossing the bridge to get straight to Preah An Kau Sa.

Once you're all the way out here and in case you don't have a ticket to Angkor, go on and turn right into street 60. At the next big junction you'll see the huge ticket center on the left hand side.
Find the different ticket options and some practical info in the Angkor section below.
Coming back from the ticket center, cross the bridge on street 60 and turn either left to go back along the river or go on one block and turn left into Charles De Gaulle road.
Here you find a couple of the big, expensive hotels catering mainly to large groups of Chinese and Korean tourists and some stores selling souvenirs of higher quality, but also at exorbitant prices.
At number 968 is the Angkor National Museum where you can get further information on the ancient Khmer culture.

Angkor National Museum
No. 968, Vithei Charles de Gaulle
Siem Reap
Phone: +  855 - 63 - 966 601
Email: info@the-anm.com

This road leads to a traffic circle from where the Royal Residence can be admired, but not visited, since the this is actually the King's permanent residence.

If you turn right, you are on road no. 6, Siem Reap's principal road with heavy traffic, many major stores and banks, but also two temples: Preah Ang Chek and Wat Kesararam.

Preah Ang Chek
Traditional temple music at Preah Ang Chek - and a Buddhist nun.


Going straight along the river, you'll get to the tourist area with the quite beautiful Wat Prom Rath, some markets like e. g. the 'Old Market' which actually caters to tourists and all sort of souvenirs of more or less good quality are sold. Be prepared to haggle a lot - and possibly still end up paying too much. Not only the market, but also allthe little shops and restaurants and bars - including the infamous 'Pub Street' - are designed for tourists.

Wat Prom Rath
Siem Reap's most glorious temple: Wat Prom Rath on the north bank of the river.


That's about it for downtown Siem Reap, which could be an agreeable little town, but isn't because it's spoiled by mass tourism.


ANGKOR


Nobody goes to Cambodia without paying Angkor a visit. And it's undoubtably one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. On an partly forested area of about 400 sq km / almost 155 sq mi is an archeological park of remnants from the different epochs of the Khmer Empire between - from the 9th to the 15th century.

As mentioned in the Siem Reap section above, tickets have to be purchased at the visitor center on the road to Angkor Wat between 5 a. m. and 5.30 p. m.
There are three types:
a one day ticket for 37 $, three day ticket for 62 $ and a seven day ticket for 72 $.
These tickets are not transferable, actually they take your picture and print it on the ticket.
You do not need to use your multi day pass on consecutive days: for the three day pass you have a week and for the seven day pass a month. The ticket is also valid for further temples and sights around the area like e. g. the Ruolos temples mentioned below, so try to plan your stay well.

Hint: If you are on a budget, a visit to Angkor will burn a big hole in your pocket - not only do you have to pay the quite high entrance fee, you'll need also transportation. While the short circuit might be makeable by bicycle, that should cost you about 5 $ per day, the long circuit isn't (and even the short one is rather for the sporty bunch...). However, riding a bike, you are exposed to sun and possibly rain. The roads will often be dusty and it can get very hot and humid, especially during the hot months of April and May. Apply sun cream, wear a cap or hat and drink plenty of water.

If you hire a tuk tuk, you have to add another 13 to 15 $ for the short circuit and about 18 $ for the large one, sun rise and sunset cost another 5 to 7 $ each.

Tuk tuk drivers do offer the short and the long circuit in one day so that you need to buy only a one day ticket, but be aware that this does not reduce your costs for transportation since the drivers simply add the fee for the short and the long circuit; and I assume that doing both in one day is not enjoyable but simply stressful. I arrived for the sun rise and did eventually the short circuit on one day and the next day the long one. I skipped the sun set since I was a bit exhausted - you are spending a long day climbing dusty rocks and many, many high stairs in the heat.


THE SHORT CIRCUIT


The small circuit starts at Angkor Wat and runs 17 km / 10.5 miles. Like I said, I did it including the sun rise which was good - not only because of the sun rise, but because there are a little less people there in the early morning. The large groups of mainly Chinese tourists arrive a bit later - and then it gets horrible.

Angkor Wat


Angkor Wat is a massive three-tiered pyramid with five towers rising 65 m / 213 feet from ground level. It's Cambodia's most iconic structure and its silhouette adorns the Cambodian flag. The structure of the size of 1 sq km / almost 0.4 sq mi is surrounded by a moat and a wall.
Angkor Wat was built in the early 12th century as a Hindu temple by King Suryavarman II (approx. 1095 - 1150)

Angkor Wat
Only four of many, many beautiful ladies welcoming the visitors. Please pay attention to all the details - they are mindblowing!


Angkor Thom South Gate
No matter which mean of transportation - everybody is heading for Angkor Thom through the South Gate.
It is flanked by Gods (to the left) and demons (to the right), both holding a serpent.

Gods holding a serpent
Looking over the Gods' shoulder to get a good look at the moat.

Bayon


This temple got extremely popular because of its beautiful giant stone faces, a sign of classic Khmer art and architecture. It consists of 37 towers, many of which adorned by four carved faces, looking towards the cardinal points. Bayon was built in the late 12th century as a Buddhist temple by King Jayavarman VII (dates not precisely known)

Bayon
Another classic...that never gets old: The absolutely fascinating face carvings at Wat Bayon.

Baphuon


Baphuon is a large temple-mountain in Angkor Thom that was only recently made accessibly to visitors after extensive restorations. Baphuon was built in the mid 11th century as a Hindu temple by King Udayadityavarman II (died in 1066)

Baphuon
Peek-a-boo! A nice side effect from visiting Angkor was overcoming my acrophobia.

Phimeanakas


Phimeanakas is a tall temple amidst Angkor Thom - at this moment not accessible. It was built in the late 10th to early 11th century as a Hindu temple by King Jayavarman V (958 - 1001)

Phimeanakas
This temple in the Royal Place's very centre is not accessible at this moment

Terrace of the Elephants 


Terrace of the Elephants is a terrace of 2,5 m / over 8 ft height and 300 m / 984 ft lenght. The entire wall is adorned with carved elephants and garudas, humanoid birds in both Hinduism and Buddhism.

Terrace of the Elephants
Besides the fancifull carvings of the elephants, there are also these stylized heads an trunks. In the background you can see the garudas making an effort to hold the balustrade up.

Terrace of the Leper King 


The Terrace of the Leper King was called after the discolored and moss covered statue, that looked like a person with leprosy - like i. a. King Yasovarman I who actually suffered from leprosy.

Terrace of the Leper King
There is hardly one stone undecorated.

Both terraces were built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII (1125 - 1218)

Angkor Thom North Gate
Exit through the North Gate. Please note the beautiful faces on the towers.

Ta Prohm


Ta Prohm was overgrown by hug fig and silk-cotton trees and only partly cleared, so that there is a very enchanted, almost bewitched atmosphere to it.

Ta Prohm
Ta Prohm is the most enchanted temple along the short cicuit. However, on the long one you'll get to many picturesquely decayed temples, covered with moss and mildew and overgrown by the jungle (basically everything you do not want to happen to your own house).

Ta Prohm was built between mid of 12th to early 13th century as a Buddhist temple by King Jayavarman VII (1125 - 1218)

Ta Prohm
Does this tree ruin the house or does it hold it together?


Note: There is a fifth temple on the short circuit, but I was too tired (after having arrived at Angkor Wat before 5.30 a. m.) and saved that one for the second day.


THE LARGE CIRCUIT


The long circuit runs about 26 km / 16 miles and includes the less famous and popular temples - which are in no way less spectacular and often much more atmospheric and dreamy since the big tourist groups don't get there.

Preah Kahn


Preah Kahn was initially a Buddhist monastery and school, catering to more than 1000 monks. Eventually, it was also King Jayavarman's VII residence - during reconstruction of his permanent home in Angkor Thom.

Preah Kahn
The temples make you develop a thing for mold and mildew.

Preah Kahn
At the central point of Preah Kahn, miracles do happen.

Preah Kahn was built in the late 12th century as a Buddhist monastery by King Jayavarman VII (1125 - 1218)

Lake at Preah Kahn
The cherry on the cake is the view over the lake. No impressionist painter could make it more appealing than nature did.

Girl selling at Preah Kahn
One of many little girls selling souvenirs at Preah Kahn - and
everywhere else in Angkor. I bought a pendulum mobile from
a lady she was with, so I took the libery to ask her for a picture
(I always ask before I take a picture - I find it common cortesy
and hate it seeing tourists just snapping away). I did not buy
from her nor from the other kids since I believe that they shouldn't
be trained to sell or beg.

However, here is a little tip: Things get cheaper the further you
go on the circuits, i. e. at the first temples along the route the base
price is much higher and it's harder to haggle. At the last temples
they practically throw the stuff at you. Anyway, if you really love
a particular piece e. g. for its design, it can happen that the following
vendors do not have the same.
Helas, avoiding being duped is almost impossible.

Neak Pean


Neak Pean was originally dedicated to Buddha, however, it's decorated with some Hindu images, too. The temple served probably an absolution purpose whereby the waters were believed to have healing powers. The central temple is locaten on the axis of a cross of eight pools.
NeakPen was built in the late 12th century as a Buddhist temple by King Jayavarman VII (1125 - 1218)

Neak Pean
Island temple of Neak Pean


Ta Som


Ta Som, the most distant temple on the Large Circuit, is a small monastic complex. With its face tower and cruciform interior is deems like a miniature of Ta Prohm.
It was built in the late 12th century as a Buddhist temple by King Jayavarman VII (1125 - 1218)

Ta Som
More faces, more moss, more beauty.

Eastern Mebon


The Eastern Mebon is a large fragment of a temple mountain. It consists of  three levels which are crowned by five towers. The temple is dedicated to Shiva in honor of the king’s parents. The Eastern Mebon was built in the late 10th century as a Hindu temple by King Rajendravarman II (reign 944 - 968)



Banteay Kdei


Banteay Kdei was initially constructed as a Buddhist monastery over the site of an older temple. It is pretty much the same style as Ta Prohm. The reason why it is in a very poor condition so that some parts are not accessible is that it was constructed using an inferior grade of sandstone and poor construction techniques.

Ta Som
The buildings or the lush vegetation - difficult to say what's more beautiful.

Banteay Kdei was built in the late 12th and early 13th century as a Buddhist monastery by King Jayavarman VI (reign 1080 - 1107)

Srah Srang


Srah Srang is decorated with naga balustrades and guardian lions. The very remnants of a temple can be seen rather during dry season when the water is low.
Srah Srang was built mid of 10th and then again late 12th century as a Buddhist temple by King Jayavarman VII (1125 - 1218) (second part in the late 12th century)

Srah Srang
View over the waters at Srah Srang.
(Photo Kars Alfrink/CC 2.0/https://www.flickr.com/photos/kaeru/)

ROLUOS GROUP


The Roluos group were the first temples built to last and are made of brick with some carved plaster reliefs. The group consists of the three temples: Preah Ko, Bakong, and Lolei. Many of the later temples in the Angkor group are based on these earlier temples.
The Roluos group is one of the attractions included in the Angkor ticket, so take this into consideration when buying your pass.

Preah Ko


Preah Ko consists of six beautifully carved towers on a platform. It was one of the first major temples of the empire at the early Khmer capital of Hariharalaya. Preah Ko was built in the late 9th century as a Hindu temple by King Indravarman I (reigned approx. 877 - 890)

Preah Ko
It's always good to have a large scarf on you: To cover you legs, your shoulders, your head...


Bakong


Bakong is a very impressive, 15 m / 49 ft tall temple. Its outer wall measures 650 x 850 m / 2132.5 x 2788.7 ft. Constructed by King Indravarman I (reigned approx. 877 - 890), Bakong is the first temple built in the temple mountain shape with influenced the temple architecture for the then following 400 years. Bakong was built in the late 9th century as a Hindu temple.

The temples in the outskirts of Angkor are definitely worth a visit, too.

There is a third temple part of the Roluos group, the tower temple of Lolei which was under renovation and complete covered by a scaffolding, hence I didn't take a picture.

KAMPONG PHLUK

Kampong Phluk


A trip to Kampong Phluk, one of the floating villages on the beautiful Tonle Sap Lake, can be easily combined with a trip to the Ruolus temples. You are gliding through a flooded forest after having taken a good look at  the stilted houses of the village itself.

Kampong Phluk
A village in the water.

You pass a scenic panorama of floating markets, fish farms and rice paddies. The village is home to approximately 3000 fishermen and their families, mostly Khmer. If the water levels at the flooded forest of Kompong Phluk are too low to be rowed by one of the ladies, you can as well walk along a treetop canopy walkway. At the end of the tour the boat man takes you to the Tonle Sap Lake, which actually looks like an ocean.

Water forest at Kampong Phluk
Rowing the Barang through the water forest.

By the way, not only the tour through the floating village is a truly Cambodian experience, also along the way it's worth keeping the eyes open and looking around in order not to miss all the picturesque sceneries of rural Cambodian life.

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