people and cultures – inspiring journeys
sharing meaningful discoveries in Asia
See below for:
– Angkor Temples and Siem Reap: local guides, places to Stay and Eat
– Dance and projects helping Cambodia, Links for Battambang
Click Here for:
– Phnom Penh:
– Performing Arts Revival, Yoga Reaching Out, Places to Stay and Eat
– Cambodian Crafts – Fair Trade and artisans with different abilities
– Kampot and Kep Links
– Northern Cambodia: Kratie and Stung Treng, crossing into Laos
The Khmer Empire, influenced by both Hinduism and Buddhism, flourished between 9th-15th centuries, spanned half of Southeast Asia and gave birth to some of the world’s richest works of art.
Angkor Wat is the masterpiece of King Suryavarman II. Built in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. Surrounded by a moat representing the cosmic ocean, the central tower of Angkor Wat symbolizes the mythical Mt. Meru and was the funerary chamber of King Suryavarman II.
The stunning and extensive reliefs tell tales of the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics including the Churning of the Ocean to obtain amrita-the milk of eternity- out of which celestial Apsaras were born becoming dancers of the royal court.
Angkor Thom and the Bayon Temple:
Built by Jayavarman VII- the greatest of the Angkor god-kings during late 12th century when Angkor was at its peak. Jayavarman VII had successfully defeated the invading Chams of present day Vietnam, proclaimed Mahayana Buddhism as the state religion and provided great infrastructure for his people including the construction of 102 hospitals. The Bayon Temple is unique for its 54 towers each with four faces depicted as guardians of the cardinal points and the four immeasurable qualities:
compassion, loving kindness, empathy, equanimity.
It is also said these faces symbolize Jayavarman VII as Avalokitesvara, the Buddha of Compassion.
These faces which have survived the centuries truly lay testimony to being witness to all Cambodia and humankind has gone through in the past and present.
Beyond Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom are over one hundred other ancient sites to visit. But if your time in Siem Reap is only for a few days, below is a suggested itinerary allowing the main sites to be taken in.
You simply cannot avoid crowds at Angkor Wat these days, but a special time to visit Angkor Wat is for sunrise. While many return to their hotels for breakfast, it is worthwhile to take along a picnic breakfast- enjoy a coffee from the local vendors and then proceed to explore the temple site directly after sunrise before the main crowds arrive again.
The Angkor Temple Pass valid for 3 days costs USD 40.
A One Week Pass costs USD 60.
Suggested Itinerary for a 3-day pass:
Day 1: Sunrise Angkor Wat and afternoon Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple, Terrace of the Elephant Kings and do a quiet walk to a peaceful little temple of Preah Palilay.
Day 2: Morning visit Tonle Sap Lake and the floating village. After a day of walking, it is nice to just sit in a boat and let life come to you. Getting the boat at Mey Chrey is the less commercial lake experience.
Afternoon visit Ta Phrom, known as the Jungle Temple also built by Jayavarman VII.
Day 3: Early morning set off to Banteay Srei- approx 45 min drive from Siem Reap to this exquisite 10th century temple in pink sandstone. Then option to continue on to Kbal Spean – a hike into a forest and to the River of Linggas.
New regulations now allow visits on the 3-day pass to be within a one week period. You need to specify this in advance when buying the pass. Otherwise the pass is valid for three consecutive days.
Another important main temple to take in if time permits and which may get less crowds is: Preah Khan– also built by Jayavarman VII, this complex is been restored with the help of World’s Monument Fund.
Suggested Smaller temples to explore within the Angkor archeological zone include:
Neak Pean, Pre Rup and Ta Som.
The Rolous Group dates back to early Angkor period.
Further Beyond the Angkor archeological zone are the more hidden temples to explore such as Beng Mela, Bantaey Chhmar and Preah Vihear.
Canby Publications publishes free local guide booklets found at most hotels and restaurants around Siem Reap. Click below for online maps and listings:
Accommodations Siem Reap:
You can’t help but notice the many big hotels that have mushroomed around Siem Reap- especially along the airport road. The area around the Old Market is filled with small hotels and guesthouses.
Below are links to some charming boutique properties a little away from the bustle:
Siddharta Hotel a quiet oasis short drive from center on the way to the temples:
Golden Banana – two connected properties with a great staff in a good and quiet location behind Wat Damnak and easy walk across the river to the Old Market.
Bed and Breakfast and Superior Wings each with its own pool. The Superior Wing is a quiet haven with spacious rooms- some require walk up several flights of steps but worth it for the view and light: www.golden-banana.com
La Noria and Borann l’Auberge des Temples – Two sister properties with charming rooms set in lovely garden and reasonable prices. Shadow puppet performances every Sunday and Wednesday. www.lanoriaangkor.com or www.borann.com
Sojourn boutique accomodations set in the countryside short drive from town: www.sojournsiemreap.com
Local Guide in Siem Reap:
former Tuk Tuk driver who has blossomed into a wonderful licensed national guide. Sopheara can assist with arrangements by private car or by tuk tuk to explore Angkor and beyond.
Guides can become very busy during high season. Below are some other contacts:
Khin Po Thai: one of the most experienced guides at Angkor. “Thai” also has a network of other local guides that work with him. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Places to Eat:
Behind the Old Market is a pedestrian alley lined with eateries serving all cuisines. It’s a lively area to explore. Khmer Kitchen was one of the original family places and still serves great Khmer food.
John McDermott Photo Gallery can be found along the pedestrian alley as well:
Have a look at some stunning photos of Angkor under Fine Art: http://www.asiaphotos.net/
Viroth’s: across the river from the Old Market on Wat Bo Road:
Sala Bai Hospitality School and Restaurant-
a wonderful school giving opportunity to so many underpriveleged youth.
Open for lunch only. There are also four guest accomodations at very reasonable rates supporting the school: www.salabai.com
Closed during school breaks.
New Leaf Book Cafe: a restaurant, bookshop and event space. Near the Old Market:
Vegetarian Garden Cafe and community centre networking to good causes in Cambodia. Yoga classes and Monk chats are offered each week.
MOVED TO NEW LOCATION: www.peacecafeangkor.org
Phare Ponleu Selpak – a Cambodian Cirque de Soleil!
This vibrant Battambang group now performs daily in Siem Reap: www.pharecambodiancircus.org
Santepheap – Cambodian Children’s House of Peace
If in Siem Reap on a Sunday, be sure to see the wonderful dance performance of these children. This home provides educational opportunities for disadvantaged kids who are so deserving. Located off the Road to the Temples passing the SOS school.
Learn more on: www.santepheap.org
Closed during school breaks.
Dancing Across Borders: a film by Anne Bass
the incredible story of a young Cambodian, Sokvannara Sar, known as Sy, who makes it into the School of American Ballet.
Really beautiful film! Watch trailers and order the DVD:
Projects and Conservation:
Wildlife Conservation Tours around Tonle Sap Lake
Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. During the rainy season, the Mekong reverses flow expanding the lake five times the size. Tonle Sap provides a major livelihood for fishing communities in Cambodia.
A River Changes Course- a very moving documentary film: www.ariverchangescourse.com
Angkor Hospital for Children – training Cambodian doctors- Healing Children, Healing Cambodia. Founded by photographer Kenro Izu and Friends without a Border: www.fwab.org
The Visitors Center has a beautiful photo gallery supporting the hospital:
Child Safe Network protecting children from abuse: www.childsafe-cambodia.org
Cambodia Landmine Museum– educating for a landmine-free world.
Learn more about the story of Aki Ra who disarmed so many landmines on his own.
Located on the way to Banteay Srei temple:
Artisans d’Angkor: beautiful craft work which grown so much since its beginnings.
Have a tour of the Angkor Silk Farm and showroom beyond the airport.
Visit their workshop in town not far from the Old Market area producing wood and stone carvings and beautiful laquerware.
More on: www.artisansdangkor.com
Senteurs d’Angkor: lovely craft items in their shop located opposite the Old Market.
A new workshop to visit is on the airport road: www.senteursdangkor.com
If venturing here a few hours drive from Siem Reap:
Royal Hotel – clean budget accomodations close to Phsar Nath Market: www.asrhotel.com.kh
Phare Ponleu Selpak– the Khmer Cirque de Soleil- training youth in the arts to overcome trauma. Performances on Thursdays- sometimes 2x week- check on: www.phareps.org
For Links to: Phnom Penh, Kampot, Northern Cambodia: CLICK HERE