The city of Siem Reap may just as well be named Angkor, as it is home to perhaps one of the most impressive examples of architecture in the entire world. Fortunately, if you have visited some of the sadder sights of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, Angkor isn’t as nearly as heartbreaking, although as a Wonder of the New World many travelers say that its beauty is indeed breathtaking. The temple complex fills 160 hectares, making it a multi day attraction if you wish to see it all, and if you have come all this way to see it then it is worth spending several days here.
The majesty of Angkor is obvious by its impressive size and storybook history and the entire site has countless temples of differing styles reflecting the various kings’ tastes through the ages, placed between jungle and rice fields. The area took 600 years to build beginning in the 800s, and served as the capital of the Khmer empire.
Most people speak of ‘Angkor Wat’ when they mean Angkor, which is actually a reference to the site’s main temple. Few sites keep travelers engaged for so long so it’s not uncommon to spend a week exploring the area. It’s a great place for bicycling, although tuk tuk, motorbike, or walking are also options.
Phnom Koulen National Park
Angkor is obviously beautiful, but it’s not the only activity in and around Siem Reap, so think about taking the time to explore less visited areas like Phnom Koulen National Park, home to the impressive sculpture of the Reclining Buddha and the spectacular Koulen waterfalls.
Cultural Activities in Siem Reap
In Siem Reap itself, there are also a range of activities that were started as a way of helping the local community get back on its feet, so if you want a slice of Cambodian culture check out the Phare Cambodian Circus, actually more like a dance and gymnastics troupe, or the Made in Cambodia Craft Market, held on the first and third Sundays of each month.
If you want to find out more about Cambodia’s history, then consider a visit to the Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Center, or the Center for Khmer Studies Library.
Chong Kneas Floating Village
For something a little different the nearby floating village of Chong Kneas is another good stop, especially if you haven’t seen a floating village in Asia. Make sure to look around so you’ll get the best prices.
It’s understandable that many people go to Siem Reap to visit Angkor but to do so is to miss out on so much more that this city has to offer. If you do travel here then definitely give Angkor the time it deserves, but also plan an extra few days to enjoy the rest of the city, you will be glad you didn’t rush through it without diving beneath the surface.