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Exploring Angkor Wat, the “City of Temples” in Siem Reap

Do you want to visit a place of beauty and mystery? Then you can do no better than to visit the gorgeous and exciting temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia!

Angkor Wat is the name of the temple compound at the center of the  ancient Khmer city of Angkor. Angkor Wat was built  as a religious complex for the Khmer dynasty in the first half of the 12th century, and during the 13th century was converted from Hinduism to Buddhism. Today, it is still used by Buddhists as a place of worship and is the biggest religious monument in the world. Angkor is as large as modern London although it is mostly lost to the jungle! Recent aerial surveys have shown this UNESCO site to be truly enormous and only the central temple complex is mostly excavated.
angkor-wat-cambodia

The magnificent Temples of Angkor Wat

When exploring this ancient complex, you have the option to purchase a 1-day pass, 3-day pass or a 1-week pass. In the event that you purchase a 1-day pass, here are my top three “must-see” sights:

Angkor Wat - Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is the “root of the complex”!

  • Banteay Srei – this is the modern name given to this temple and translates to “Citadel of the Women”. It is made mostly from red sandstone, giving it a pink hue.
  • Ta Prohm – This temple is best known for being the filming site of the movie “Tomb Raider” starring Angelina Jolie and Daniel Craig. Today, it is gradually being reclaimed by the jungle, leaving it with an eerie and mysterious atmosphere.
  • Bayon – This is one of the most beautiful and unique temples in Angkor. It was built nearly 100 years after Angkor Wat, with a total of 216 faces carved into 54 towers. The main structure stands tall in the center of the site and is known as the “Gold Tower”.
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    Here’s a Pro-Tip: It can become extremely hot during midday. Try to schedule your visit around this heat and make your way to the temples at sunrise or sunset.

    Although nearby Siem Reap is mostly known for the temples in Angkor, there is a lot to do around town. Here are some of my favourite things outside of the Angkor Archaeological Park:

    • Hot Air Balloon Ride over Angkor Wat – This is the perfect opportunity for an extraordinary experience coupled with unique views of the ancient temples and Cambodian landscape. I would recommend going around sunrise or sunset for the most breath-taking vistas.
    • Angkor National Museum – For a more detailed look into the history of the Khmer Empire, check out the Angkor National Museum. Its relics are displayed in a coherent fashion, depicting the Empire’s rise and decline.

    Take a hot air balloon ride for spectacular views

    • Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary – Cambodia is abundant with lush jungles. For all of you nature and animal lovers out there, take advantage of the natural beauty and pay a visit to one of the most important breeding grounds for endangered birds in Southeast Asia.
    If flying into the area, you will arrive at Siem Reap International Airport. There are a few ways to reach the city centre. All require a 20-minute ride costing about $10. The most common way is via taxi. This is probably the overall best option with plenty of room for you and your bags. A Tuk-tuk is my second recommendation. It is a great way to start sight-seeing immediately.  However, space is limited, so if you have luggage, this may not be an ideal option. The final method is a motorbike taxi. Like a tuk-tuk, there is not much room for bags but it is a cool way to see the city.

    Tuk-tuks are named how they sound!

    Here’s another Pro-Tip: Once you are settled in Siem Reap, I highly recommend either renting a scooter, pedal bike or hiring a Tuk-tuk for the day. Hiring a Tuk-tuk is the most popular but a pedal bike is a healthier and greener option!

    There are plenty of incredible food options in Siem Reap. Mahob Khmer Cuisine has fabulous food! This beautiful restaurant offers a la carte and degustation menus, with options that are cooked on the “hot stone” or ancient barbeque.

    Also try Cuisine Wat Damnak. Head chef Johannes Rivieres uses his knowledge of traditional Cambodian food but gives it a twist by combining it with carefully selected seasonal ingredients. Malis Restaurant offers a creative and thoughtful menu whether you are looking to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner. Many places also offer cooking classes for an opportunity to learn how to make your own traditional Cambodian food!

    Fish Amok – you’ll run to taste it!

    My top hotel suggestion in Siem Reap is Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor. This prestigious Singapore-based hotel chain (https://www.journeyhero.net/relaxing-in-welcoming-singapore/) offers a stylish and cosy French art-deco interior. Outside, the hotel has lavish gardens and tennis courts sprawled out over 15 acres of land. I would also recommend the Heritage Suites Hotel. My favourite feature of this modernized colonial townhouse is its weekly Jazz Night Thursdays. Lastly, La Niche D’Angkor is conveniently located at the heart of town.

    When you are ready for a drink, make your way to Miss Wong’s for charming fan-shaped menus, red walls and 1930’s Shanghai-inspired interior with an excellent drinks list. Also, checkout Asana. Located in the last remaining traditional wooden house in the old market district, it offers stylish and creative cocktails. A clean option for a cocktail is Laundry. This modern-looking bar offers a great selection of funky soul music and a warm, friendly vibe.

    Here’s a final Pro-Tip: Angkor Wat offers traditional Cambodian markets selling everything from local produce and crafts to detergents. Enjoy poking around these chaotic and vibrant markets!

     

    Angkor Wat is a beautiful and mysterious religious complex welcome to all visitors!

     

    Love,

     

    Isabella

    Isabella’s Checklist

    What to see: Angkor Archaeological Park, Angkor National Museum, Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary (https://www.tourismcambodia.com/)

    Where to stay: Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor, Heritage Suites Hotel (https://www.raffles.com/siem-reap/, https://www.heritagesuiteshotel.com/)

    Where to party: Miss Wong’s, Asana  (http://misswong.net/, https://www.asana-cambodia.com/)

    Where to eat: Passion and Amante (https://passion-ibiza.com/, https://www.amanteibiza.com/)

    What to buy: Check out the Old Market (Psah Chas) and the Night Market. Don’t be afraid to negotiate!

    Reap the benefits of staying in Angkor Wat!
    Isabella’s Checklist

    What to see: Angkor Archaeological Park, Angkor National Museum, Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary (https://www.tourismcambodia.com/)

    Where to stay: Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor, Heritage Suites Hotel (https://www.raffles.com/siem-reap/, https://www.heritagesuiteshotel.com/)

    Where to party: Miss Wong’s, Asana  (http://misswong.net/, https://www.asana-cambodia.com/)

    Where to eat: Passion and Amante (https://passion-ibiza.com/, https://www.amanteibiza.com/)

    What to buy: Check out the Old Market (Psah Chas) and the Night Market. Don’t be afraid to negotiate!

    Reap the benefits of staying in Angkor Wat!

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