A) Siem Reap (ENG)

Update of our post about Siem Reap and Angkor temples, April 2018

28/03/2018 – 04/04/2018

 

Siem Reap in a few words

Capital of the Siem Reap Province, the city is famous for its proximity to Angkor Temples located barely 10 kilometers away.

Angkor temples spread over 400 sq.km. they were mainly built for religious purposes, but some of them as royal palaces by the Khmer Empire between the 9th and the 13th centuries. At the time, people used to live all around the temples and Angkor was the Capital of the Empire.The place was chosen on purpose. It is located right between the raw materials source (stones from the Kulen Mountain, 40 kilometers north from Angkor) and the food source (Tonle Sap lake, in the South).

Angkor Temples are spread over three sites:

  • Angkor Temples (see a non exhaustive list further), 10 kilometers away from the town
  • Bakong Temple, 13 kilometers East from Siem Reap
  • Banteay Srei, 40 kilometers North away from Siem Reap

Khmers are the historical ethnicity, while Cambodians are the Cambodia inhabitants (Chinese, Laotians, Vietnamese, etc). Most people are Theravada Buddhists, as in Thaïland, but it changed throughout History. Before the 10th century, people used to believe in “Animism”, polytheist religion revering Nature, trees, mountains, rivers and so on. They believed that everything is connected through Energy and they used to perform sacrifices to please the Gods. Later on, in the 10th century, merchants from India came to trade and introduced Hindouism and Bouddhism. Khmer Kings adopted Hinduism for centuries, which explains why the Angkor Temples were built to honour the Trinity Gods of Hinduism (see our post on Kathmandou here) and why all writings and Temples names are in Sanskrit. The names commonly used are actually nicknames given by local people, referring to what they found inside. In Banteay Srei temple, they are many engraved statues of women, goddesses, hence the name Banteay Srei – the women temple. It is said that when people discovered the Bayon temple, it was completely overrun by banyan trees, sacred in Buddhism for being the ones under which the prophet Buddha became a Buddha – an illuminated one.

At the time, Cambodia consisted of 59 provinces instead of 25 as it is today and Hinduism lasted for five centuries (until the 15th-16th century) when they switched to Buddhism.

FYI, among these three religions, Buddhism is the only one in which you will not find sacrificial rituals to please the God(s). In Buddhism, you will have to respect five fundamental pillars:

  • Do not kill
  • Do not lie
  • Do not steal
  • Do not cheat on your wife/husbandDo not drink alcohol (which is really the one people choose not to respect :p)

Kings used to adopt Hinduism in order to conquer territories, as this religion allows people to kill to please the Gods! Pretty convenient is it not?

The city’s nightlife all about the Pub Street, with countless bars and restaurants and attracts tourists from all over the world.

The usual currency is the American Dollar (USD) and prices tend to be rounded up to the nearest 1$. Change is often given in Khmer Riels (KHR) and 1$ = 4000 KHR, 1€ = 5000 KHR. Generally speaking, food is pretty cheap (1-5$), but bottled water is expensive (0,50$ for temperate, 1$ for a cold one). If you want to save up money on water, we suggest you to buy them in packs of 6 in a shop for 1.5-2.5$.


Reaching Siem Reap from Laos (4000 islands)

  • Trip from the 4000 islands to the border. There are several possibilities:
  1. All-in-one package: Don Det to Nakasang by small boat, followed by Nakasang to the border by bus : 235.000 LAK/pp (+ 4% fee if you want to pay by MasterCard)
  2. Don Det to Nakasang by small boat, followed by Nakasang to the border by bus: 210.000 LAK/pp + 15.000 LAK/pp or 20.000 LAK/pp (from Don Det or Don Khone, respectively)

We did not know in Pakse that we would have to pay credit card fees on the islands (we did not have any cash left). Should have we known, we would definitely have bought the indefinite time tickets for 210.000 LAK/pp at Laos Adventurer Tour!

  • Trip from the Cambodian border to Siem Reap:

 Here comes the best part of them all :p Be prepared to face corrupt customs officers from both the Cambodian and Laotian side!

On the Laotian side, they will try to take 2$/pp as stamp fee. We waited for an hour and managed to pay “only” 1$/pp.

On the Cambodian side, they asked for 35$/pp instead of 30$/pp, as we saw on the web, but we unfortunately did not have the energy anymore to discuss.

Here are a few tips and advice:

  • Both Laotian and Cambodian visas price is in USD. You can used other currencies, but the customs officers will charge you a crazy fee. If you do not have any, don’t worry! There is a Bank (a real one, in front of all the ATM’s, close to the bus station in Nakasang that you can go to either at your arrival in the 4000 islands, either when you get to the bus station on the way out. Withdraw as much LAK as you are allowed to in the ATM’s (1.500.000 or 2.000.000 LAK). They will exchange 1.250.000 LAK against 200$ (0.8$ fee), which is great, trust me!
  • At the bus station in Nakasang, you will find people who will offer you their help to cross the border. They will ask for 40$/pp and your passport. Most people actually do and it is not a scam, you will definitely get your passport back. However, as you can see above, it is even more expensive than what we paid and we also saw them only give 20$ for 20 passports to the customs officers… But they did not waste any second of their life.
  • Do not worry if you want to fight your way through customs without paying the stamp fees. They told us that our bus would leave without us, but they did not.
  • Do not leave Laos until you get that stamp, unless you want to go beck (by foot).

Accomodations

Most guesthouses have rooms fr 15$ in the centre and all around Pub Street, but if you go the the western part of town (2km aay from the Pub Street), prices get way lower.

We stayed at the “Mei Gui Guesthouse” for 7$/night with a private bathroom and fan. They also have AC rooms for 10$/night.

Hostels and youth hostels have dormitory beds for 6$/pp.


Food

Most restaurants have khmer food, western food and sometimes Indian food for 1-10$/pp depending on the place.

If you like street food, there are plenty of them along the river in the centre. You can have dinner for 1-1,5$/pp.

Exotic Siem Reap Food

Khmer BBQ Siem Reap
Khmer barbecue
Lok Lak chicken Rice Siem Reap
Chicken Lok Lak and Rice
Siem Reap Street Food (1)
A few pics of street food in Siem Reap

Siem Reap Street Food (2)

Siem Reap Street Food (3)


Activities

  • Angkor Temples, 10km away from town :
    • Tickets are sold 4km away from town, in the direction of the temples, but definitely not close to the entrance. We got there on foot a day before, but it is not necessary as tours will always take you there first thing in the morning. Here is the pricelist:
      • 37$ for a 1 day pass
      • 62$ for a 3 days pass, allowing you to enter the park three times in a period of seven days
      • 72$ for a 7 days pass, allowing you to enter the park seven times in a period of 30 days
    • Tours:
      • Small Circuit: 10$/pp (AC minivan, 37km tour with an English speaking guide)
        • Angkor Wat
        • Ta Phrom
        • Bayon
        • South Gate
        • Sunset at Bakheng Hill (don’t go if it is cloudy, you will nt see a thing)
      • Grand Circuit: 11$/pp (AC minivan, 37km tour with an English speaking guide). This one was better and the temples more beautiful than the Small Tour
        • Banteay Srei
        • Neah Pean
        • Ta Som
        • Preah Khan
        • East Mebon
        • Pre Rup
  • Bakong Temples, 13km away from town. Entry fees are included in the Angkor pass. You can reach them by bicycle (1$/day) or by tuk-tuk (20$)
  • Reproductions of Angkor temples, Banteay Srei and Bayon (1.5$/pp). Located in the northern part of town, but still close to the centre. The carver, a nice, full of passion 70 years old guy manages the place and is proud to show you around.
  • Angkor National Museum
  • Park close to the National museum and its trees full of bats, day and night. There is also a Tourism information centre and you can get information about Angkor Temples and everything around. Only one out of the three people in there speaks proper English though.
  • Pub street
  • Old Market

A few pics of the town

Siem Reap
Viewpoint from one the several bridges
Siem Reap Angkor Temples replicas (1)
Angkor Wat replica and its carver: M. Dy Proeung (Survivor of the Red Khmers)
Siem Reap Angkor Temples replicas (2)
Bayon Temple replica by M. Dy Proeung
Angkor Temples map
Map with all temples except Banteay Srei, which is 40 km away North


Angkor Small Circuit pics

Programme:

PS: Clicking on the underlined temples name will get you to a Wikipedia webpage 😀

 

Angkor Wat, temple dedicated to honour Vishnu

Angkor Wat (1)

Angkor Wat (2)

Angkor Wat (3)

Angkor Wat (4)

Angkor Wat (5)

Angkor Wat (6)
Khmer carvers were very thourough in their work: The sunset light created a shadow over on the walls and the columns design made it look like Angkor Wat itself!

Bayon Temple

Bayon Temple (1)

Bayon Temple (2)

Bayon Temple (3)


Ta Prohm Temple

Ta Prohm (1)

Ta Prohm (2)

Ta Prohm (3)

Ta Prohm (4)

Ta Prohm (5)

Ta Prohm (6)

Ta Prohm (7)

Ta Prohm (8)



Angkor Grand Circuit pics

  • Bantey Srei Temple (Built by Yasjnavaraha, King Rajendravarman II and Jayavaman  V conselor during the 10th century AC)
  • East Mebon Temple (Built by King Rajendravarman II during the 10th century AC)
  • Neak Pean Temple (Built by King Rajendravarman II during the 10th century  AC)
  • Preah Khan Temple (Built by King Jayavaman VII during the 12th century AC)
  • Ta Som Temple (Built by King Jayavaman VII during the 12th century AC)

PS: Clicking on the underlined temples name will get you to a Wikipedia webpage 😀

Bantey Srei Temple, built in sandstone to honour Shiva

Bantey Srei Temple (1)

Bantey Srei Temple (2)

Bantey Srei Temple (3)

Bantey Srei Temple (4)

Bantey Srei Temple (5)


Ta Som Temple

Ta Som Temple (1)

Ta Som Temple (2)

Ta Som Temple (3)

Ta Som Temple (4)

Ta Som Temple (5)

Ta Som Temple (6)

Ta Som Temple (7)

Ta Som Temple (8)

Ta Som Temple (9)

Ta Som Temple (10)


Preah Khan Temple

Preah Khan Temple (1)

Preah Khan Temple (2)

Preah Khan Temple (3)

Preah Khan Temple (4)

Preah Khan Temple (5)


Neak Pean Temple

Neak Pean (1)

Neak Pean (2)


East Mebon Temple

East Mebon (1)

East Mebon (2)

East Mebon (3)

East Mebon (4)


Pre Rup Temple

Pre Rup Temple (1)

Pre Rup Temple (2)

Pre Rup Temple (3)

Pre Rup Temple (4)

 

Next step: Bus to the city of Battambang, where we will see remains from the Red Khmers tortures caves.

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