Cambodia, Siem Reap

What to expect… when you’re visiting the Angkor Wat! And the Grand

beautifultemplesangkorwatoverview-312012-131029_horiz-largeSiem Reap is the capital city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia, and a popular resort town as the gateway to Angkor region. Siem Reap has colonial and Chinese-style architecture in the Old French Quarter, and around the Old Market. The provincial capital  Siem Reap is located in the South of the province on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake, the greatest sweet water reserve in whole Southeast Asia. The name of the city literally means Siamese defeated, referring to the victory of the Khmer Empire over the army of the Thai kingdom in the 17th century.277965_3607812197555_1399075912_o

One of the most beloved and well-preserved Temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia, the Angkor Wat. It was deemed to be a part of the World Heritage List by UNESCO – the only site from the Kingdom of Cambodia. The temple itself, with its history deeply rooted and etched within the long galleries epitomizes the architecturalsophistication of the Khmer Empire.DSC_8348

The temple is originally a tribute to the Hindu God Lord Vishnu (The Creator),and the whole site is built as a miniature replica of the universe, with towers, moats, concentric walls, bas-relief carvings, and the sheer enormity of the area has a sensuous allure that can captivate you, morning or evening. Apart from the main temple, you can also visit any one of the nearby river villages, The Pa Phrom Temple with its huge tree DSC_8573roots growing wildly everywhere; brace yourself for breath-taking sunset views from the Phnom Bakheng temple, or simply bike-hike it around the Temple exploring the heritage site at your own comfort! You can even ride an elephant around the complex. But no matter what, no photo can do justice to the Khmer temples of the Angkor complex.  Lists of adjectives can’t either:  Spiritual, DSC_8659 Stunning, humbling, awe inspiring,  or just magical, all of these words are inadequate to describe the succession of unforgettable experiences awaiting you, so plan to take up residence for at least a week in one of the best holiday destinations cities in Asia. More about where we stayed later. Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor. Will lets just say… Will forever be a memory in your minds eye.

Getting Around

Siem Reap’s city center is best explored on foot or on “tuk tuk” (a rickshaw OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwith the front-end of a motorcycle). Tuk tuks, although not luxurious, are easy to find and inexpensive, not to mention these quirky vehicles have views in all directions and will add a little adventure to your daily commutes. And you will not believe how slow the city drives. Coming from fast part of Asia where you have to close your eyes in traffic. Siem Reap was a joy. The key thing is that basically everyone drives slowly and steadily rather than in a stop-and-go manner.DSC_8618

Dining

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASiem Reap Restaurants are the gemstones of Cambodia’s dining culture. Showcasing the culinary traditions of the Khmer people mixed with hundreds of years of French colonialism, the city’s restaurant and bar scene offers gourmet food and a lively atmosphere with a very European feel and deals that can’t be beat. Enjoy local dishes served in a wooden bodega, or experience the flavor explosion of Khmer-Asian-Western fusion cuisine.

Tourist Essentials

Firstly, the Visa – The Cambodian Government has made the Visa processing fairly simple for tourists. You need to fill the Cambodia Visa Application Form either at the airport or the border, with a passport size photograph and of course about 20 dollars of cash. This “Visa on arrival” is valid 30 days. You can also apply online.

Next, ensure you are well equipped – with photography gear and memory cards and most important, good walking shoes. We visited the temples in the day, at night and before sunrise and each time we could not believe how the light will play off the walls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, book your trip between November-March for a good tourist-weather and all the books say you should book a guide before you plan to explore on your own.  We didn’t and we were glad we waited. We left it up to our hotel, Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor. They provided a local English speaking guide and he was all ours. When the tour was done we were picked up by our limousine with cold towels and water.

Also make sure that you carry a lot of small denomination of the currency. You are going to be bargaining a lot! The photos below tell it all. When a child takes sells something, I am the first to buy. DSC_8449DSC_8446

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