Siem Reap is the small town on the edge of the world famous heritage site â€œTemples of Angkorâ€. Siem Reap is situated in the northeastern corner of Cambodia, north of the big TonlÃ© Sap Lake and south of the Kulen Hills. Due to its vicinity to the tourist destination of the temples, it is far more developed and states a faster growth in population than most other places in Cambodia.
Angkor was the centre for the great Khmer Empire from the 9th to the 13th century. The Khmer Emperors saw themselves as â€œgod-kingsâ€ and each of them had to build their own residence,Â monument and tomb.
When the French Explorers re-discovered the temples of Angkor hidden behind thick forests and started taking care of their restoration in the early 1900Â´s, Siem Reap, which is only 7km away from it, was the place to cater for the scientists and tourists. The Grand Hotel d`Angkor opened its gates in 1929 and started an era of tourism that was disrupted by the terror regime of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s and 1980s, but continues on again until today.
Siem Reap is the center of all action, from where it is best and most convenient to explore the temples. A day, 3 days, or a week, there is so many sites to visit that you can spend an unlimited amount of time there orÂ until you are completely â€œtempled outâ€œ. Exploring in this region will make you feel like you are in an Indiana Jones movie.
A very popular way of visiting the site is by bicycle. It might be a bit of a wobbly trip, due to the antiquity of most of the bikes, but they definitely do the job. If you can ship over your own mountain bike from the states then you will enjoy a mountain bike route that is unparalleled in the United States. There are Temples in this region that is much older then the United States. Bicycles can be rented in most of the guesthouses in or around town. The first 7 km to the temples can be a bit of a journey, but the pedaling will always be rewarded with a breeze that is a very welcoming distraction to the unconditional and scorching heat. Â Make sure you bring your digital camera with you along with plenty of spare batteries.
The tickets for a permit are about $25 US per day, and each ticket is personalized with your own photo. So do not lose it, even if the photo surely wonÂ´t be the nicest looking one after a 30-minute pedal, but they are checked frequently, so you do need it all day. There is also several day-passes for the enthusiasts.
The area of the temples is humongous. If you want to visit every temple that is there, you will certainly be able to spend weeks, or even months in and around Siem Reap. It is always advisable to get an idea about what there is to do and see upon arrival, so that you can plan your itinerary and do not miss out on some hidden highlights. A 3-day-pass is certainly a good idea, that way you will see the most important temples and have a bit of time to relax in between to avoid being too rushed. And totally â€œtempled outâ€, as mentioned above.
Â Angkor Wat, which is the most famous of all the temples (not only for Lara Croft and â€œTomb Raiderâ€ fans), is said to be the worldÂ´s largest single religious monument and dates back to the 12th century. It should be visited first or last. Unlike other temples, Angkor is not hidden in the forest, so there is no shadow at all. Temperatures rise very quickly, so it wonÂ´t be the most pleasant experience to stroll around this magnificent architecture in the middle of the day. Sunrise and sunset offer some great Kodak moments anyways!
Other significant temples to visit are Ta Phrom and the huge statues at Bayon and Angkor Thom. If you plan to spend more than one day exploring the area, it is a good idea to hire a Tuk Tuk for a day. Tired bones can relax after a day of pedalling and the temples that are a bit too far can be visited as well. Good examples would be the Roulos Group, Kbal Spean or Banteay Srei.
Once in a Tuk Tuk, take the opportunity and have a look around local villages, visit the Landmine Museum on the way to Kbal Spean and Banteay Srei or take a side trip to the huge TonlÃ© Sap lake and its swimming villages. There is also the possibility of cruising on a boat all the way down to Phnom Penh, by the way.
Tourists need to eat and drink, and so there are plenty of places to try the generous barbecues or Currys in town. In some places like the Temple Bar you can dine while watching a traditional Apsara-Show. The Dead Fish Tower also has its own Crocodiles, that can be fed, residing underneath the restaurant, so you better like their food! Have a beer or a bucket at the busy â€˜Angkor What?â€ Â Bar or stroll around the market and relax your feet in a bathtub full of fish that â€œmassageâ€ your feet. There is plenty of places to shop, eat, drink, relax and learn about culture and history of Angkor and Siem Reap.
Siem Reap is one of those places that if you visit, you will never forget your journey there. The culture, sites, people, and even the food are totally amazing. If you want to impress your friends show them pictures of your vacation to Siem Reap.
Regardless of if you hike, ride a bicycle, walk, or simply lounge in the sun you are sure to have one of the most amazing vacations you have ever had. Many Americans like Siem Reap so much that they are planning a future Jaunt to this amazing place.