In Cambodia, Siem Reap is known as the top tourist destination and attraction from around the world. The province is also well-known for its rich history, culture and especially plenty of ancient temples that our ancestors built. The most popular landmark of Siem Reap, as well as representing the symbol of Cambodia, is “Angkor Wat Temple” (ប្រាសាទអង្គរវត្ត). It was one of the best architectures and the 7th wonder in the world.
(This is not really a fine article to describe Siem Reap ’cause I admit I have little knowledge about the history of the province and its temples, so what I attempt to write here is just to share some parts on the surface I have known by visiting the places during my trips there, and I crop some main points you should know. Hope you do not mind 🙂 )
1. Angkor Wat (Angkor Toch) (ប្រាសាទអង្គរវត្ត/អង្គរតូច)
Angkor Wat temple was built in the first half of 12th century by King Suryavarman II, dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu, then subsequently, moved to Theravada Buddhist use by King Jayavarman VII. One of many remarkable things at Angkor Wat is Smiling Apsara carved with her teeth shown. That is the only Apsara showing her teeth among many other Apsaras that only smile. You can find her at the gate of Angkor Wat by going from the outside’s front path and pass through the gate then turn right as she was carved on the gate’s wall, and you will see some tourists gathering there to see her as well.
As known, there are 5 prangs of Angkor Wat, and you can also climb up to the top one at the middle as there are stairs made available. However, if you attempt to climb up, do not wear shorts, mini skirt or the like ’cause you are not allowed to climb wearing those kinds of clothes.
Besides visiting Angkor Wat at daytime, there is another amazing time to visit the temple and that is at dawn to see sunrise. Of course, it is very popular and tourists love to witness sunrise shining at this great ancient place. It is good to go there at around 5am, then waiting for the sun. Surprisingly, you are not the only one who goes there at this time ’cause there are many tourists who love seeing and taking photo of Angkor’s Sunrise every day.
2. Bakheng Hill/Bakheng Temple
Bakheng was built by King Yasovarman, dedicated to Hindu God Shiva. There is only one time that lots of tourists go to Bakheng starting from 4pm, I guest, till dark. Of course, that is the time to see sunset. Want to see sunrise? Angkor Wat. Want to see sunset? Bakheng hill. It is because they want to see these beautiful moments at wonderful ancient places. Noticeably, you should not wear shorts, mini skirt or the like (just like Angkor Wat’s prohibition), or else you will not be allowed to climb up to the temple (Bakheng temple is on top of Bakheng hill). Do not worry, the hill is not that high 😀 You can also choose another way besides walking. Instead, you can go up there by elephant (you need to pay for his labor though).
3. Neak Poan Temple (ប្រាសាទនាគព័ន្ធ)
During last countdown trip 2013-2014, we got to know one more temple which is called “Neak Poan Temple”. Neak Poan temple was built in the second half of 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, dedicated to Buddhism. Funnily, our attempt was not exactly the temple, but the entrance to the temple 😀 The view along the way to the temple is just nice, and it is good for photo taking if you go there in the morning.
4. Bayon Temple (Angkor Thom) (ប្រាសាទបាយ័ន/អង្គរធំ)
Bayon Temple was built in late 12th or early 13th century by King Jayavarman VII, dedicated to Buddhism. It is best known as The Smiling Stones as there are many smiling faces that is thought to be the portrait of Jayavarman. One famous spot that tourists like to take photo is the spot where they can be seen as face-to-face with one of the huge smiling images just like in photo frame 😀 Some people also go to visit a place where is believed to be a sacred well inside the temple, and you can ask some grandmas there for the direction.
5. Ta Prohm Temple (ប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្ម)
Ta Prohm Temple was built in about mid-12th to early 13th century by King Jayavarman VII, dedicated to Buddhism and the King’s mother. It is like a jungle temple for there are large trees grown on some prangs. The temple is located at southwest of East Mebon and east of Angkor Thom. You can also see this place in Hollywood movie “Tomb Raider” which Angelina Jolie starred. That is wonderful how those large trees grow on the temple.
6. Pub Street & Night Market
Unlike any other ancient places I have mentioned above, this is where most foreign tourists, as well as Cambodian visitors, enjoy at night. Pub Street is the street full of pubs, restaurants and stores, and Night Market is full of souvenirs sold at night. Pub Street is near Old Market and Night Market, and the places are a little crowded all night.
7. Angkor National Museum (សារមន្ទីរជាតិអង្គរ)
The entrance fee is $3 per person for adult. Inside the museum, there are statues and sculptures that are related to the history of temples in Cambodia. In some places, histories are summarized and shown in slideshow, so you might take some time to sit down and watch them if you want. One interesting place inside the museum is 1,000 Buddha statues. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to take photos in many specific places there, so I ended up having no photos inside the museum to show you. Thus, you can try visiting there if you are interested 🙂
8. បារាយណ៍ទឹកថ្លា (Clear Water Reservoir)
It was built back then to provide vast of water for people in Angkor City to use and to supply rice growing field for whole year round. Our ancestors did have great architect idea and it helped the people a lot. Nowadays, it is one of tourist destinations, where you can relax and enjoy lunch there. Tourists can also rent speed boat for traveling across this reservoir to see the view at some areas.
9. Pre Rup Temple (ប្រាសាទប្រែរូប)
Pre Rup Temple was built by King Rajendravarman II to dedicate to Hindu God Shiva, and was believed to be a funeral temple. The temple is located on grand circuit (វង់ធំ), northeast of Srah Srang.
10. East Mebon Temple (ប្រាសាទមេបុណ្យខាងកើត)
East Mebon was built by King Rajendravarman II, dedicated to Hindu God Shiva in honor of the King’s parents, following Pre Rup temple style art. There are elephant statues at each angle of the temple. The temple is located on grand circuit (វង់ធំ), 500 meters north of Pre Rup Temple.