Siem Reap in Cambodia has always been a destination I wanted to visit due to its unique temples and history. My trip to the former French colony lasted just two days so we had to start our day early.
Probably the best thing to do if you wish to be guided and brought around is to get a driver as we did. With around 40USD$ you will be taken care of the whole day and be driven around to all the major temples. We started our day of course at Angkor Wat, where it was incredibly hot and I nearly melted.
As expected it was very busy with tourists from all over the world coming to see this beautiful place. Make sure you bring enough water, sunscreen, comfortable shoes and a hat – also keep in mind that girls should cover their shoulders( not with a scarf like me), as otherwise they will not be allowed to enter the tower of Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat is the biggest religious monument in the world. Its 5 towers represent the peaks of Mount Meru, considered to be the centre of the universe, and the three levels represent water, earth and wind. It is based on the beliefs of Hinduism and it was built in the 12th century by 385.000 slaves. Best time of the day to visit this monument is at the sunrise.
The next stop on our tour was Ta Prohm which left me completely impressed with its beautiful reliefs and figures in stone. Seeing historical monuments from the 13th century covered by trees and roots was simply amazing. In the past it used to be the home of the Royal family plus other 12.500 people (workers, priests and dancers). Now the nature is taking over. The movie Tom Raider was filmed there, so I am sure the scenery is familiar to you.
As being one of the most visited complexes in Cambodia, expect it to be crowded and queue to take a picture:)
The last stop that day was Bayon Temple, which is the second biggest attraction after Angkor Wat and definitely worth a visit. Especially interesting were the Buddha faces carved into stone which left me astonished. Being very small but very crowded, it was pretty hard to find a nice spot to take pictures, but we hope you still like what we shot.
Other temples to make time for include the Banteay Srei, Preah Khan, Ta Som and Baphuon temples. For those with more time and are interested in museums, I would recommend a visit to the War Museum Cambodia and the Landmine Museum.
Time was passing by quickly and I came back to the hotel starving, so I went to the best spot to find a good place to eat: Pub Street. I was surprised at how busy and modern this area of the city is. Here you find all kind of pubs, bars and restaurants of all kinds, from Western, European and Asian food – and you won’t be disappointed by the quality.
When I travel I always enjoy tasting local food, and so I decided to pick and choose from the local sellers on the street which were delicious. Freshly made juices and dishes prepared in front of you – what better can you have? Try the local Khmer food while you’re on Pub Street – you’ll see several places to enjoy it. Other choices would be Cuisine WatDamnak, Genevieve’s Restaurant or the Chanrey Tree.
Close by the Pub Street is the Night Market. We strolled around for hours and found lots of handmade paintings, Buddhist statues and all kinds of souvenirs and clothes. Make sure you bargain, as the locals of course try to sell at the highest possible price. Start by offering half of what they ask for, and then take it from there. Good bargains can be made here and it’s a lot of fun too.
After a long day I finally went back to my beautiful hotel, the Sarai Resort and Spa. The rooms and the pool are very nice and made me feel I was truly in the Orient. The staff is very helpful and supportive in everything you need. I would definitely recommend it, as it’s great for what you pay.
We were very surprised to learn that there is a Raffles Grand Hotel, which I had always thought existed only in Singapore. More great hotels for you could be Le Meridien, Park Hyatt Angkor, Heritage Suites Hotel or Tara Angkor Hotel. Prices overall are modest. Most hotels have a spa, which is always a great thing to have if you wish to relax.
I was sorry to be in Siam Reap only for two days, leaving this wonderful destination but keeping it as a great memory. For sure I will come back for more days…