If you love history, you must visit Khmer Empire, the predecessor state to modern Cambodia. Its civilization began from 9th to 15th centuries and Angkor was abandoned in 1431 as it was indefensible. The capital was moved to Phnom Penh area. You are like an archaeologist during the trip to explore the ruins of the kingdom and temples.
Below are the key temples built in a chronological order:
- Bakong (Late 9th century)
- Banteay Srei (2nd half of 10th century)
- Preah Vihear (Late 9th to mid-12th centuries)
- Angkor Wat (Early 12th century with later additions)
- Bayon (Late 12th to mid-13th centuries)
- Preah Pithu U (13th century)
Before our trip to Siem Reap, we had booked Happy Angkor Tour for a two-day package and their service was very prompt and thoughtful (incl. giving us cold towels and drinks throughout the tour). We were able to customise our tour to include places of our interest. Our guide was So Pra who is knowledgeable and helpful.
Where We Stayed
It cost us S$126.43 per night for two pax. The hotel was newly built and we love its modern and luxurious design. It is located in the heart of Siem Reap and is besides The Heritage Walk where you can shop for quality apparel and catch a movie (just US$2 only). If you like to stroll, you can just walk to Angkor Night Market and Pub Street within 15 min. It offers a range of facilities like gymnasium with sauna and steam rooms, and outdoor swimming pool with Jacuzzi. The room is lavishly featured with large en-suite bathroom and bathtub. Bring along a portable speaker and practise mindfulness in the bathtub.
We visited Siem Reap in April, which is warm and humid but occasionally, there is rain. Their peak travel season is between November and March, having dry and mild weather.
Things to See & Do
Angkor Grand Theatre
As we have booked two-day tour with Happy Angkor, our first two days were guided and we visited the following places:
- Angkor National Museum
- Angkor Wat
- Terrace of the Leper King
- Ta Promh
- Banteay Srei
- Pre Rup
- Phnom Kulen (mountain)
- Beng Mealea
- Artisans Angkor
- Khmer Ceramics & Fine Arts Centre
In order to visit all the temples which are scattered over 400 sq km, you will need to buy an entrance pass that cost US$37/day, US$62/three-day or US$72/seven-day.
On other days, we have explored the following places:
- Angkor Night Market
- Pub Street
- The Heritage Walk
- Made in Cambodia Market
- Cambodian Cultural Village
- Angkor Grand Theatre (Watch Cambodia’s beautiful history through a live 4-dimensional panoramic performance!)
Other attractions include Tonle Sap lake that is a home to large numbers of bird species and floating communities of fishermen and Phare, The Cambodian Circus, which mixes both traditional and modern culture, on every night from 8pm.
If you like handicrafts, you can sign up for the following workshops:
- Jewellery Making by Ammo Jewellery (US$32 for pendant; US$60 for earrings, rings or detailed design)
- Cocktail Class by Sombai (US$25 for 2.5 hours, making two cocktails using Sombai liqueur)
- Cambodian Palm Leaf Box Making by Salasusu (US$20 for 2 hours)
You may check out the city map by Angkor Path Publications below:
What to Eat
If you are looking for an authentic Cambodian cuisine, don't miss Malis Restaurant! Located next to the Siem Reap River, diners are treated to a delightful ambiance with a stunning garden, water pond and area for apsara dance performances. The beautiful interiors are inspired by the temples of Angkor boasting high ceilings, grey stone and a sense of space. Cambodian art and handicrafts feature throughout, embracing the local culture. The new restaurant will feature a dining area, bar and lounge downstairs with private dining rooms and a cooking school upstairs.
Try their signature dishes:
- Prahok Ktis: Made with Cambodian fermented fish, kroeung, minced pork, pea eggplant, chilli and coconut milk this signature Malis dish is served with fresh crispy vegetables & rice crackers
- Kampot Crab Fried Rice: Kaffir-flavored rice cooked in fresh crab juice, wok fried to bring out its colour, with Kampot crab meat
- Moringa Soup: A nutritional Moringa leaf and pumpkin consommé famous for its medicinal properties
- Baked Goby Fish with Young Mango Dip: Goby river fish marinated with lemongrass and garlic, baked in a crust of salt and complemented with a green mango chilli dip. Our best-selling dish
- Hidden Chreav Duck: A traditional Siem Reap recipe of slow-roasted duck marinated in lemongrass served with fragrant red rice
- Fish Amok: This traditional dish is made with goby fish fillets marinated in a lemongrass curry paste and steamed in a banana leaf basket, served with fragrant jasmine rice
Click HERE to view their menu.
If you are not too concern about hygiene, you must try their street food esp. along Angkor Night Market.
- Grilled Skewers
- Fruit Juice (from only US$1 onwards)
- Mama Noodle with Egg and Meat of Your Choice
- Rice Noodle with Egg and Meat of Your Choice
- Mama Noodle Soup
- Fried Ice-cream Rolls
- Banana Pancake
- And many more
Transport: A tuk-tuk will cost around US$15 - US$20 a day to cover all of the main templates, and your driver can also act as a tour guide - this is a good option for a group of 3 - 4 people. A taxi will cost a little more (US$20 - US$25 a day) but you might appreciate the air-con during the hotter periods of the day, and the shelter during sudden downpours. If you're alone, consider hiring motorbike, though you will have much less protection from the elements. If you're feeling energetic, hire a bicycle from just US$1 a day.
Timing: Sunrise and sunset are the most popular times to view Angkor Wat, and it can get very crowded. Late morning and early afternoon tend to be the quietest times, though it can be very hot so be sure to keep hydrated and avoid the sun where possible.
Weather: January is one of the best months of the year to visit, as it is generally cool and dry. As the months progress, temperature and humidity increases steadily, often hitting uncomfortable levels of heat in April, even at nighttime.
Dress: Please remember that the temples are places of worship, so dress accordingly - singlets and skimpy shorts are definitely not appropriate. Make sure your shoulders and knees are covered at all times, and take a hat or a umbrella to shade you from the scorching sun. Be aware that authorities have become more strict recently when it comes to enforcing this dress code. Be a responsible visitor.
Click HERE to view Angkor's best-selling guidebook that show how temples looked like 1000 years ago.
Every place provides nuggets of wisdom that are universal and applicable in our lives. During my travel, I have discovered the following quotes:
- A person without the knowledge of their past, origin, & culture is like a tree with no roots.
- Empowerment, Not Charity (equipping people with the skills for their survival or success)
Click HERE to view the gallery.