Have had a hankering to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia for the longest time so when my travel buddy suggested a quick 3 day getaway in July, I jumped at the chance.
Siem Reap was as colourful and as inviting as had been promised and they were 3 days well spent. Below is a quick recap of our itinerary as well as some thoughts about Siem Reap.
Day 1: As my flight arrived into Siem Reap International Airport at about 8am, after checking into the hotel and getting opinions from the very helpful staff, we decided to head to Banteay Srei. This 10th century Hindu temple, carved out of red sandstone is located about 45 minutes by tuk tuk from Siem Reap town. It was fairly quiet while we were there – perhaps because most other travellers were visiting the temples closer to town. This small temple is well worth the visit. We decided to travel a little further afield and head to Kbal Spean (about 7 kms from Banteay Srei – down some dusty roads). Kbal Spean consists of a carved riverbed which is located in the jungle. The tuk tuk will drop you at the foot of the park, and then begins a fairly uphill hike up a fairly well trodden path through the jungle. The hike should take about 30-45 minutes but with the humidity it does seem longer. Once you do get to the riverbed and the waterfall there are various carvings of Shiva and Vishnu as well as a riverbed full of lingas (1000!). In July, as it was the beginning of the monsoon season and the rains had not fully started yet, the water level was a bit low. This place may be a bit more impressive in September when the monsoon is in swing – though the path up will surely not be the easiest to climb. Kbal Spean could be a nice place to visit if one is tired of viewing the many temples around Siem Reap.
- Angkor Wat sunrise: We were a little late starting from the hotel and the sun had already risen by the time that we had arrived there at 6am. A little disappointed by that, we decided to try and make the most of the rest of the day. As we had brought our breakfast with us, we breakfasted on the temple steps in relative calm.
- Angkor Wat: It is the largest religious complex in the world. It is one of the best preserved temples and its scale is very impressive. The temple mountains in the central structure are imposing and the gallery of bas reliefs recount tales from the Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana.
- Bayon Temple: This 12th century temple is striking owing to its 216 smiling stone faces. Surrounding the temple is a 1.2 km wall which bears bas-relief scenes of legendary and historical events.
- Ta Phrom: One of the more popular temples as it was used as a location in Tomb Raider. Atmospheric as the jungle has overtaken the temple and trees are growing out of the ruins.
- Other sites: Baphuon, Terrace of Elephants, Terrace of Leper King, Victory Gate, Thommanon and Chau Say Tevada.Day 3: Decided not to do the Angkor grand circuit and decided to travel further afield to see the Rolous Group of temples which are the oldest examples of temples in the Angkor region. We visited Bakong, Preah Ko and Lolei. Smaller and less touristy they were nice deviation from the bigger temples seen the day before.
- For a 3 day trip, we procured the 3-day Angkor pass (USD40) valid for 1 week which covers all the relevant temple sites.
- Remember to bring water and sunblock (and a hat) as you travel around the temples. Temperatures can be hot and humid.
- We went to Siem Reap expecting to eat good Khmer food. Unfortunately this was not found in the restaurants around Pub Street. The traditional food around the area didn’t pop with the spices that we were expecting. We consulted our hotel concierge (who agreed that even though the food around Pub Street was traditional, they weren’t authentic) and they recommended a couple of restaurants – Chanrey Tree (Pokombo Ave) and Sugar Palm (Taphul St). The prices charged by these restaurants were higher than those around Pub Street but it was worth it. Chanrey Tree was excellent all around and Sugar Palm served some excellent fish amok – souffle-like, not like the other watered down versions.