A weekend in Siem Reap
This past weekend, we took a trip to visit Siem Reap in Cambodia. It was two short flights from Penang, and yet an entire world away. We were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed our time there.
Some things to be prepared for:
Cambodia requires a Visa on Arrival ($30 USD/person) as well as an arrival card. For Canadians (and most countries), you need to complete both. If you go, make sure that you have USD ready to pay for your Visa. My advice is to get the arrival cards on the plane and fill those in before you get there (to cut down on the paperwork you have to do at the airport). The paperwork is repetitive… and excessive…
We were surprised at how prevalent USD were in Siem Reap. Prices are all in USD. If you go to a bank machine, and it detects that you have a foreign card – you will receive USD. The only way that we could actually get cash from the bank machine though, was to use the “Fast Cash” option. When you pay in USD though, your change (cents) will be paid in Cambodian Riel.
The primary tourist draw of Siem Reap is the Angkor region, which is made up of a number of ruins of temples from the Khmer kingdoms. The temples of Angkor are undergoing restoration. In this picture, the statue on the left has undergone restoration – while the one on the right has not. As you can see, the difference is significant.
Angkor actually means “Capital City” in Khmer. The Angkor region is made up of several different “Capital City” sites from different kings that were built over the course of several centuries. We visited three different sites over two days.
The first site that we visited was Angkor Wat. This was the temple that we were most familiar with before coming to Siem Reap. It has the highest towers, and is an absolute marvel to look at both from a distance…
…and up close.
We saw many monks in their beautiful saffron robes while we were at Angkor Wat.
The next site that we visited was Angkor Thom, which includes the Bayon Temple.
Of the three sites that we visited, Angkor Thom had the most “city” feel to it, which was a neat thing to experience. It is hard to look at the carvings in these sites and not feel absolutely humbled by the work that went into them.
Finally, we visited Ta Prohm which you may remember from the Tomb Raider movie.
The ruins and the trees here have a symbiotic relationship. You can’t remove the buildings without hurting the tree – and you can’t remove the trees without hurting the buildings.
Because these are tourist sites, there are many (MANY) tourist shops just outside of them… and more than a few vendors who will approach you to buy souvenirs.
We took a lot of photos while we were touring the temples, and we’ll put up another post that is just temple photos.
Pub Street and the Night Market
I think that one of our favourite things about South East Asia has been the night markets. The electric mix of food, music, art, shopping and more food make them such a neat thing to experience.
Siem Reap has a fairly large night market area with plenty of stalls for buying souvenirs from Cambodia.
We weren’t familiar with Khmer food before, and we were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed it. We tried different dishes during our visit, but had an all out Khmer Food Feast on our last night in Siem Reap. We ate our fill of Beef Loc Lac, Amok, Khmer Curry and Fried Cashew Nuts.
We stayed at La Residence Blanc D’Angkor while we were in Siem Reap. The staff were wonderful, and the grounds of the hotel were absolutely gorgeous. I particularly loved the outdoor pond/patio area (so much so that I think that I will need to re-create it again in the future).
As much as we enjoyed our time in Siem Reap, it is VERY touristy there. So, it was a nice place to go for a short trip, but it is not a place that I have any desire to stay for any length of time.
About the Author
Professionally, I am an e-learning instructional designer who breaks down the barriers of space and time in learning. Personally, I'm the Mom in the Little-Green Family, and co-planner in our adventures.