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Visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia

Updated on February 6, 2013

Crocodile Skin at the Central Market

Crocodile skin hanging outside a leather shop at the Central Market.
Crocodile skin hanging outside a leather shop at the Central Market.

Taking a Tuk Tuk for the First Time

This was my first visit to Cambodia and I was not sure what to expect. We took a red-eye flight and landed early in the morning at the Siem Reap International Airport. Our hotel offered a free pickup and we gladly followed the driver who had come to pick us up. To our surprise, he placed our luggage in a tuk tuk! And motioned for the 3 of us to jump in too! And that was my first ever tuk tuk ride. In the days to come, we ended up using tuk tuks a lot as it was a cheap and convenient way of traveling. It also helped that the weather was so hot that it would be unbearable to walk on foot.

Shopping in Siem Reap

After a quick check in, we took another tuk tuk to the waterfront area. There are many cafes here and even a spa. But we decided to explore the Phsar Chas or Old Market instead. If you would like to buy scarves and other souvenirs, you can get them here. Closeby, there is the Angkor Trade Centre which is a really small shopping mall. If you would like to shop in comfort at a mall, head instead to Lucky Mall, which is much larger.

Another market in Siem Reap is the Central Market. Here, you will find the same goods as in the Old Market. However, I noticed that along the Sivatha Boulevard, there are many stores selling leather goods made of crocodile skin, including this shop located at the Central Market.

Enjoy the Art on Display at Artisans d'Angkor

Painting of Ta Phrom temple by artists of Artisans d'Angkor.
Painting of Ta Phrom temple by artists of Artisans d'Angkor.

Admiring Local Artwork and Handicraft

Around Cambodia, there are many branches of Les Artisans d'Angkor. We visited the one at Siem Reap. Entrance to the workshop is free and you can take a look at the various processes such as carving, sculpting and painting. The different processes are completed in different rooms and once you have obtained a visitor's pass, you are free to move from one room to the other. At the end of the workshop tour, you can choose to make a purchase at their shop. Goods on sale including painting, sculpture, bags, clothes and pillowcases.

Passing Through the Gates of Angkor Thom

Vehicles go through the South Gate of Angkor Thom.
Vehicles go through the South Gate of Angkor Thom.

Exploring the Angkor Temples

On our second day in Siem Reap, we hired a tuk tuk for a day (USD15) to explore the Angkor temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the architecture from the 9th to 15th centuries are still present. Before we could start exploring, we headed to the ticket office, had our photo taken and then paid the USD20 for a one day pass. If you have more time you can also choose to purchase a three day pass.

With our pass in hand, we then headed to our first stop, the South Gate of Angkor Thom. As can be seen from the photo on the right, vehicles can pass through the gate. The area itself is quite small so after a short stop we headed to Central Angkor Thom where we explored Bayon, Phimeanakas, Baphuon, the Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King. Along the way, we also stopped at smaller temples like Chao Say, Thomanon, Ta Keo (which has very steep stairs) and Banteay Kdei.

Angkor Wat : Unesco World Heritage site

The majestic Angkor Wat against the beautiful skyline.
The majestic Angkor Wat against the beautiful skyline.

Moving on to Ta Phrom and Angkor Wat

Another famous temple here, is Ta Prohm, which is most well known for its appearance in the Angeline Jolie movie, "Tomb Raider". The view here is definitely captivating as you can see huge tree roots overtaking some parts of the temple. Besides that, we definitely have to mention Angkor Wat, which is the most well-known among all the Angkor temples. The majestic three towers can be seen from afar. To end the day, we hiked up Phnom Bakheng and rested there as we waited for the sun to set. Do note that the doors up to the temple closes at 5.30pm and if there are too many visitors, you may have to queue and wait before being allowed up.

Enjoying the Apsara Dance

After a tiring day of exploring the Angkor temples, we ended up at Pub Street for dinner. Temple Bar or Balcony is well known here as every night, there are free dance performances on the second level. The performances start from 7.30pm onwards. However, if you are only interested in the Apsara dance, you can reach here at about 8.15pm as that is when the Apsara dance will begin.To enjoy the free performance, just order something from the menu. For us, we enjoyed 3 out of the six dances before heading back to the hotel to rest. The very next day, we took an early bus to Phnom Penh (USD6, inclusive of pickup to bus station and 1 bottle of water).

Map of Siem Reap

show route and directions
A markerOld Market (Phsar Chas) -
Old Market Bridge, Siem Reap, Cambodia
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B markerLes Artisans d'Angkor, Siem Reap -
Les Artisans d'Angkor, Siem Reap 855500, Cambodia
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C markerPub Street, Siem Reap -
Street 8, Siem Reap, Cambodia
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D markerAngkor Thom -
Angkor Thom, Cambodia
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E markerBayon, Siem Reap -
Bayon, Angkor, Cambodia
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F markerBaphuon, Siem Reap -
Baphuon, Angkor, Cambodia
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G markerAngkor Wat -
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
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H markerPhnom Bakheng -
Phnom Bakheng, Angkor, Cambodia
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    • lilian_sg profile image

      lilian_sg 5 years ago from Singapore

      I understand what you mean. We can always learn from the past! It makes us appreciate the peace that we have in our country even more =)

    • im28beyond profile image

      Jazmine Llaguno 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      I've always wanted to go to Cambodia! I love seeing how they were able to preserve their history and culture. and I also want to know more about the genocide that happened many years ago. I know some people find it weird why I want to visit it for that reason but it helps me to appreciate life even more.