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Siem Reap Cambodia Travel Guide

Cập nhật: 01-01-1970 12:00:00 | Blogs about Cambodia | Lượt xem: 776

Siem Reap is the Cambodian city that has undergone an impressive fastest expansion. In the last decade, it has transformed itself into one of the major tourist centers in the whole country with luxury hotels, fine dining restaurants, world-class clubs and sumptuous spas. In case you haven’t heard much about this fantabulous place yet, its main attractions include fascinating French colonial architecture, vibrant open-air markets, historical museums dedicated to the Cambodian civil war and the Khmer Rouge, and, above all, the magnificent Angkor temples that are dubbed as masterpieces of Khmer architecture.

Since it’s fairly small on a human scale, Siem Reap can be explored easily. To be specific, a Siem Reap travel 4 days itinerary is enough to stop by famous temples as well as embrace the culture and local lifestyle here. If you want to discover all the wonders that this city can offer you, our Siem Reap travel guide will give you all the information you need for an incredibly exciting trip. 

When to visit Siem Reap

Before planning your trip to Siem Reap, you should keep in mind the seasons that characterize the city. There are two main seasons in this place: the dry season (November – April) with low rainfall, and the rainy season (May – October) with abundant rainfall and frequent thunderstorms.

The climate in Siem Reap is tropical, which means that the greatest rainfall here is concentrated during the summer period. In fact, despite the low prices, it is generally not recommended to go to Siem Reap in the months of August and September due to intense rainfall.

The best time to visit Siem Reap is from December to mid-February when the weather is driest, sunniest and the temperature is the least hot. From February onwards the heat is more oppressive and in April, it becomes almost unbearable.

Main areas of interest in Siem Reap

Siem Reap Pub Street

Pub Street, the nightlife capital of Siem Reap, is a short street filled with bars, pubs, clubs, and other places to spend the night. It’s Siem Reap’s popularity with expats, backpackers and locals that makes Pub Street a diverse crowd of interesting people.

Old Market (Psar Chas)

Not far away from Pub Street is the Old Market located along the Siem Reap River – a major landmark of this city. As the oldest Khmer market of Siem Reap, Old Market opens from 7 am to 8 pm and sells everything you look for, from household items, souvenirs, fresh fruits to delicious street foods.

Central Market (Phsar Thmei)

Located on the corner of Achamean Street and Sivatha Boulevard, Siem Reap’s Central Market offers a good selection of inexpensive clothing, souvenirs and electronics. Be prepared to bargain hard when you come here, because the prices in the Central Market are generally inflated to 100% or more.

Pokambor Avenue

Pokambor Avenue runs along the Siem Reap River through the city center and is one of the many places to stroll around Siem Reap. On this avenue, you can find Wat Preah Prom Rath, a small temple located by the river that offers a pleasant respite from the imposing Angkor Temples in Cambodia.

National Road 6

National Road 6 runs through Siem Reap and passes through the Royal Independence Gardens & Royal Residence. There are many good hotels and hostels on this road, especially east of the Siem Reap River.

Things to do in Siem Reap

Visit Angkor temples

Angkor Temples in Siemreap is the very first response to the search of Cambodia places to visit. Traversing these majestic constructions offers you a journey through out history dated back to 7th to 14th century.

Angkor Wat Temple

Of all Angkor Temples in Siem Reap, Angkor Wat (which means “city of temples” in the Khmer language) is undoubtedly the most famous and marvelous. As the largest religious monument in the world, this Hindu temple complex occupies an enormous site of 162.6 hectares and is known as the pinnacle of Khmer architecture.

Built in the 12th century, Angkor Wat was erected as the spiritual abode of the god Vishnu, thus having to observe the forms of a "temple-mountain" explicitly attributable to Mount Meru of Hindu cosmography. The five central towers are arranged as the number five on a die and symbolize the peaks of the sacred mountain, while the whole complex is surrounded by a huge wall and a large moat that symbolize the mountain ranges and the ocean surrounding Mount Meru.

It takes at least three hours to explore the ancient beauty of Angkor Wat, and it’s hard not to be fascinated by the majesty of its bas-reliefs, especially the ones that depict the Apsaras – or rather the dancing celestial demi-goddesses. Walking on moss-covered stone streets, wandering around mysterious corridors, and watching the stunning landscape from differently shaped stone windows, you will feel like falling into a time tunnel.

Bayon Temple

baton-temple-siem-reap

Another gorgeous place to visit in Siem Reap is Bayon – a richly decorated Khmer temple located in the center of Angkor Thom. The capital was founded by King Jayavarman VII. Bayon is famous for mysterious smiles and relief sculptures. There are about 200 smiling faces inside the temple, and they all face in different directions.

If you are interested in reliefs, you will be shocked by the amazing sculpting skills in Bayon. It’s highly reflected through 11,000 characters carved in the stones with different appearances and actions, which permanently record the culture, religions, and lifestyle of that time.

Ta Prohm Temple

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If you have watched the 2001 Hollywood hit “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”, you surely have a strong impression of the mystical backdrop of the film, which features a temple that’s wrapped in the trunks of ancient trees. The good news is, you can easily visit it in Siem Reap.

Besides Angkor Vat and Bayon, Ta Prohm is another ancient temple that can bring us to another world, a world where great tree roots crawl over the rocks like giant pythons. If Angkor Wat is a testimony to the strength and talent of the extraordinary ancient Khmer people, Ta Prohm reminds people of the miraculous eternal power of nature.

Phnom Bakheng Temple

Phnom Bakheng is a Hindu and Buddhist temple built on the top of Bakheng Hill. After hundreds of years, the steps at the top of the temple have been worn down and deformed, but that doesn’t stop visitors from seeing the best sunset in Siem Reap.

If you want a bird's eye view of the whole city and the splendid sunset, you should finish your trip to the other Siem Reap travel attractions and get to Phnom Bakheng before 5 pm.

Banteay Srei Temple

Banteay Srei, which means “Citadel of the Women” in the Khmer language, is located in the same-name district 20 km northwest of Angkor Thom. Built in the 10th century, this complex is quite small compared to the standard of that time and was constructed mainly from pink-colored sandstone blocks. For this reason, it’s also known worldwide under the name Pink Stone Temple.

Banteay Srei has splendid bas-reliefs, most of which are in excellent condition. The central part of the complex includes two libraries used to house sacred texts, a centrally located mandapa, and three shrines aligned along the north-south axis. The central shrine, larger than the other two, is dedicated to Shiva – the God of three worlds. This area is also protected by “guardians”, which are figures with human bodies and animal faces.

Beng Mealea Temple

60 km (37.2 miles) from the heart of the Angkor Empire is the wildest of all Angkor temples – Beng Mealea, which means Lotus Pond. Since Beng Mealea and Angkor Wat were built under the same dynasty with the same style and almost the same size, this temple is called the jungle version of Angkor Wat by many. Unlike most other temples which were restored by the French in the 19th century after centuries of neglect, Beng Mealea was reclaimed by nature itself.

A few years ago, it was really hard to visit Beng Mealea as it could be accessed only from a dirt road outside the Angkor temple circuit. However, the road that connects it to the city has been paved recently. Now, it takes only half an hour to reach Beng Mealea by car from Siem Reap.

Koh Ker Temple

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Koh Ker is the modern name given to the archaeological site that comprises the ancient ruins of the great city of Chok Gargyar, located 100 km (62 miles) from Siem Reap. In the 10th century, King Jayavarman IV moved the capital of the kingdom here, abandoning Angkor for about thirty years. Chok Gargyar - the old Khmer name of Koh Ker,  also grew enormously during this period.

The most majestic monument of Koh Ker is undoubtedly Prasat Thom, which consists of a massive pyramidal construction with seven steps. Another extraordinary one is Prasat Bram – a true architectural pearl made up of five beautiful brick towers, two of which are covered with large trees that recall the Ta Phrom of Angkor.

Explore the countryside of Siem Reap

There are also other fun things to do in Siem Reap besides temples. And one of the most relaxing experiences you can try is uncovering the rural beauties of the most authentic Cambodia. Needless to say, exploring the countryside is always a great way to enjoy the fresh air, admire the scenery, interact with locals and embrace the culture.

On your journey to the local villages like Preah Dak or Bom Thong. You’ll be able to immerse in the greenish landscapes, get lost between rice paddy fields, meet hard-working locals and learn about the thriving arts and crafts. There are many Cambodians making palm jaggery and selling souvenirs made from palm leaves along the way. It’s a great chance to learn more about this superfood. If you choose to have a typical lunch with the locals, you can also taste delicious sticky rice grilled in bamboo and find out how they make rice noodles.

Traverse Tonle Sap lake is recommended for Siem Reap Travel

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Located on the southeast side of Siem Reap, Tonle Sap is the largest and most important freshwater lake for waterfowl in Southeast Asia. If you want to visit their habitat, you will need a birdwatching guide with a clear vision to spot the birds and give you their names. You can also approach the bird nests with the help of an experienced driver.

Tonle Sap floating villages in Siem Reap are another highlight that allows you to see this city from another point of view. They lie on the northern rim of Tonle Sap Lake and are home to over 100,000 Cambodians. Fishermen often go out at dawn with fishing lines and nets, and the results after a good day of fishing will be exported or sold at local floating restaurants. The “floating” life actually bears some similarities to life on land, including friendly pets and neat, clean kitchens. In the floating villages, you'll need a boat if you need to get somewhere.

Trek up Phnom Kulen Mountain in Siem Reap

As a part of Phnom Kulen National Park, Phnom Kulen (which means “Mountain of the Lychees”) is one of the holiest mountains in Cambodia with deeply revered ancient sites and ruins on its plateau. It’s said to be the birthplace of the ancient Khmer empire, because King Jayavarman II proclaimed Cambodia’s independence from Java right at this mount.

With an altitude of 487 m, Phnom Kulen is not a hard place for an adventurous trekking tour. On your way to the peak, you can enjoy a beautiful panorama, explore the vast Phnom Kulen plateau, enter the jungle paths through the vine-covered trees, and visit Preah Ang Thom – a huge stone Buddha carved into the top of a rock nestled in a lively temple complex.

Catch a glimpse of the 1000 Lingas 

1000-lingas-siem-reap-cambodia

Commonly known as the “Valley of a 1000 Lingas” or “The River of a Thousand Lingas”, Kbal Spean (literally “Bridge Head”) is a site dating back to the Angkorian era and was discovered by Western explorers in 1968. It has only been open for visits for about twenty years, after all the mines in the area were cleared.

Kbal Spean is situated on the southwest slopes of Kulen Mountain, along the Stung Kbal Spean River that hides an incredible peculiarity. During the 11th and 12th centuries, along the banks of the river, thousands of statues and bas-reliefs were excavated, most of them carved directly into the bed of the stream. They represent Hindu deities and “lingas” – the small totems that the Hindu religion considered a representation of Shiva and a symbol of fertility.

Siem Reap Travel can't be without watching a cultural show

cultural-show-in-siem-reap-cambodia

Watching a cultural show in Siem Reap and visiting Angkor Temples are top-notch experience for Indochina travel packages. There’s no better way to dive into the heart of Khmer culture than to see a fantastic cultural show with your own eyes. To experience authentic Cambodian folk art, the Apsara dance show is a must-see in Siem Reap Cambodia. Inspired by the water and cloud spirit of Hindu and Buddhist mythology, the traditional Apsara dance offers possibilities to embark on a unique cultural journey through Hindu and Buddhist mythologies. They believe Apsaras are beautiful female creatures sent from heaven to mesmerize people with their captivating dance movements. Hand gestures are a significant part of the dance, with each gesture meaning something different.

Another enchanting show to attend is Phare the Cambodian circus, which is certainly more than a conventional acrobatic circus you can see everywhere. This circus show is a great chance to see how artists professionally blend theater, dance, live music, and circus arts to tell a story and share a part of their lives with audiences. And by joining a Phare Circus show, you are financially supporting the school that provides opportunities for Cambodian artists.

What to eat in your Siem Reap Travel plan

Siem Reap is one of the best places to get the best taste of Khmer cuisine, or more simply Cambodian cuisine. Less well known than the neighboring Thai and Vietnamese cuisines, Cambodian cuisine is a unique mix of exotic aromas and flavors that combines Chinese, Thai and French influences. It will certainly win you over!

Here are some typical Cambodian dishes you should try to make your Siem Reap travel tour even more superb:

Traditional food of Siem Reap - Amok

amok-siem-reap-food

Amok is a specialty based on freshwater fish and can be found everywhere in Cambodia, especially in tourist resorts. The fish fillets are cooked in coconut milk, egg, peanut and flavored with kroeung paste. In the traditional recipe, the ingredients are wrapped in banana leaves and steamed until it becomes a sort of fish soup. It is then served directly in banana leaves and has a aromatic and not too spicy flavor.

Lok lak

Lok lak, the Cambodian version of the Vietnamese dish bo luc lac, is another popular specialty of Khmer cuisine. It’s basically stir-fried beef served on a bed of lettuce, sliced ​​tomatoes, cucumbers, raw red onion rings and enriched with a sauce made from lime juice, salt and Kampot pepper, one of Cambodia's most famous products.

Num banhchok

Commonly called “Khmer noodles”, num banchok is a dish that you will easily find everywhere in Seam Reap. It is made up of thin rice noodles accompanied by chopped banana leaves, bean sprouts, mints, basils, cucumbers and a green curry sauce based on fish cooked with lemongrass, turmeric root and lime. There is also a version with red curry, which is usually prepared for special ceremonies and occasions.

Khmer curry

khmer-curry

Sweeter and less spicy than the classic curries that can be tasted in Thailand and India, Khmer curry usually requires more herbs than spices, which is why the flavor is more delicate. There are many regional recipes and variations, but in general Khmer curry includes chicken, coconut milk and cream, herbs, sweet potatoes, garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric and prahok fish paste. It is usually accompanied by rice or baguette.

Bai sach chrouk

Bai sach chrouk is a popular Cambodian breakfast dish and for this reason, it is usually found at stalls only in the morning. It is a very simple specialty made from slices of pork marinated in oil and garlic, and then grilled slowly. The meat is then served on a bed of rice with cucumbers and other pickled vegetables.

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