Staying in Siem Rea was time well spent, if not just for the temples but for the massages and nightlife!
Of course the Temples of Angkor are a big draw card for many tourists and often the sole purpose of their visit to Siem Reap. They fly in, get a 1-3 day pass for the temples and then fly back out! I’m not saying the temples aren’t spectacular- they are amazing, but if your are visiting Siem Reap, take the time to explore the town a little further, you may find yourself staying longer than expected…
Temples, Temples, Temples
There is something enchanting about the temples of Angkor. Its as if there is a mysterious power they that seem to possess.
Angkor Wat is definitely impressive. Its giant structure silhouetted by early morning sun (the sun rise view is a must!), steep staircases and labyrinth hallways covered in ancient carvings.It’s amazing to think that ancient civilizations once walked the same grounds and rooms. Making your way through Angkor Wat, you will often find statues of Buddha with the remains of incense and offerings scattered around left by locals and their prayers. All this adds to the experience.
Other popular temples are Bayon and Ta Phrom. Bayon with its huge stone faces of past kings looking down from their sitting place high above. Some fantastic photo opportunities here.
I think however Ta Phrom is the most interesting temple. It has not been restored yet, so the crumbling stone has been left at the mercy of Mother Nature. Eroded, worn and covered by tree roots spilling over the stone, gives the place a very magical feel.
Of course, what major tourist attraction wouldn’t be complete without the hawkers and numerous things that ‘lady must buy’. A whole myriad of things-shawls for the female traveller who failed to remember to be respectful when entering temples and cover up her shoulders, postcards (10 for a $1) to send home to loved ones and colourful books capturing the history of Angkor Wat.
You’ll be tired and hot after a day at the temples, but an experience that will last forever.
The traditional daces of Apsara are a must. There are many places in Siem Reap where you can see the shows-often included in a dinner/show package. These traditional dances reflect various aspects of Khmer life from mythical stories to harvesting and others are for pure enjoyment. Either way it’s enthralling to watch both the men and women dance with such precision and articulation to the very ends of their fingertips. I assure you, even the blokes will enjoy it (whether or not they’ll admit it)
A perfect excuse to pamper yourself after a day of temple exploring is to get a massage at the many parlours around town. Plenty of places have picked up on the idea of the ‘weary temple visitor’ and provide 1/2-1 hour foot massages from as little at $2US. At that price a daily indulgence sounds perfectly reasonable! More expensive spa treatments are around, but if it’s a hand, foot or traditional Khmer massage you’re after the street side parlours will do.
Another unusual massage market that has taken off in Siem Reap is a fish foot spa. The little fish nibbling at your feet while you relax is a very different kind of massage! (I had my first one in Malaysia!). Although a little skeptical as to the actual health benefits that they are supposed to achieve, it’s nonetheless quirky, fun and something different. With many of these places also providing a free beer or soft drink with your $3 US treatment-why not?
Eating out and shopping. The perfect combination! Siem Reap allows you to conquer both. Wander down to Pub St and you’ll be spoilt for choice with a wide range of food available. Thai, Khmer, Italian, Indian-the list is endless. You won’t be deciding on what to eat, but where.
Night markets are aplenty with 3 all within 20m of one another! Angkor Night Markets seem to be the most popular, but they all really sell the same products of clothing, silks and handicrafts.
Many other boutique craft and clothing shops are scattered throughout town if you’re after some different. So wander around and have a look.