Written and Photos by Valentina Romano
Siem Reap is a small French colonial town located in the Northern regions of Cambodia, right next to Tonle Sap Lake.
This beautiful town is known all over the world for being the center of the Khmer culture: indeed, Siem Reap is home to the world’s most beautiful Buddhist temples, among which the famous Angork Wat, and Ta Prom (the temple where Tomb Raider was filmed). The entire temple area has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.
I must admit that as a person that visited this place, I was absolutely amazed by the beauty of the local architecture, which is really well preserved in the buildings composing the town, as well as by the magnificence of the temples, which, even thou they are more than a thousand years old, they are so carefully built that the majority of the decorations carved in the stone are still perfectly visible.
It is incredible to think that back in the 12th century people could do such a beautiful work without even the help of modern technology!
It has actually been said that nowadays it would be impossible for us to replicate the same kind of decorations, as there are no people alive that could perform such a complicated and detailed job.
The town itself is quite small, and wherever you stay, will be close to the center anyway. The heart of Siem Reap is the market, which is placed right next to the riverside. In the evening, however, Pub Street and surroundings become the central point for tourists and local to hang out to, especially because the market shuts down.
If you want to go shopping after dinner, however, you don’t have to worry, as there is a night market on the opposite side of the river of the daily one.
When in Siem Reap, you might want to spend a full day around the temples, the ticket is only 20$. Visiting the sites for more than one day would be maybe too much, as all the temples share similar features, so after a while they could all look the same.
Another cultural spot that you should go check out is the war museum. The museum itself is not too big and it is in the open-air, so if it’s raining you won’t be able to see much.
What is interesting about this place is that the guides (who are all free of charge), actually experienced the Khmer Rouge war, fighting and living it on first hand. “Thanks” to this; they are able to actually share their personal experience, which is incredibly interesting, and so better explain the history behind the objects displayed in the museum.
Another interesting activity to do in Siem Reap is going to visit the floating village in Tonle Sap Lake. When there, however, BE AWARE that they will try to ask for money in any way possible.
The usual ‘rip off’ happens while you’re on a boat tour of the village: they will first stop right in front of a super floating market, then they will tell you all about their tragic stories, and then ask you to buy food for the orphanage. Do not trust their prices as they are exaggeratedly expensive, and if you want to help the kids, buy food or toys in Siem Reap, not when in the village!
However, despite the possibility of being ‘ripped off’ the village is something unique and deserves to be paid a visit.
If you are looking for a cheap place to stay, then go to Tropical Breeze Guesthouse, a homely hotel where a double room is only 12$.
This guesthouse can organize a tuk-tuk tours of the temples for only 15$ (to divide in two or three people depending on how many of you there are), and included in the price of the room is also a bicycle that you can ride around town. Finally, Tropical Breeze is actually 2 minutes walk from the heart of Siem Reap.
If you want to stay in a very nice hotel, on the other hand, book at the Park Hyatt.
Temples that you cannot miss: obviously Angkor Wat, Ta Prom (the temple where nature is taking over control – check the photos of the roots), and Angkor Thom (the temple of the faces – check the photos).
(All photos belong to Valentina Romano, if you want to use any of them please contact us first. Thank you)