Two days in Siem Reap
Are you heading to Siem Reap but only have a couple of days on your itinerary? Having lived in Cambodia for five years, I have you covered!
These Siem Reap attractions are well worth visiting, and will provide you with the necessary sights whilst also allowing you to immerse yourself in the Cambodian culture. Let’s get started.
The iconic Angkor Wat in Siem Reap was built under the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Originally dedicated to the Hindu God, Vishnu, it made the transition to a temple to worship Buddhism later in the same century.
From the outer enclosure, it is difficult to comprehend just how large this structure is. However, as you walk down the long path to the central structure, it begins to hit you just how magnificent and immense Angkor Wat truly is.
Also known as the ‘Tomb Raider temple’, Siem Reap’s Ta Prohm is known for its jungle surroundings and trees growing out of the temple ruins. Originally known as Rajavihara (the monastery of the King), the temple was built by King Jayavarman VII to honour his family. The site was home to an impressive 12,500 people until its abandonment in the 15th century.
Srah Srang was the Royal bathing pool that was built in the mid 10th century. Depending on what time of year you visit, it may be full of water that sparkles in the midday sun, or it could look like a container of broken, caked blush. Either way, it is worth a visit as you can sit and relax with a drink or a snack, enabling you to take a break from all the exercise you are doing during the day!
Situated across from Srah Srang, this temple is often overlooked, but definitely shouldn’t be! Banteay Kdei, translated to ‘A Citadel of Chambers’, consists of four enclosures on one level. Many structures are fitted into a small space, meaning you could spend a good hour looking around! Banteay Kdei is currently undergoing renovation, so although you won’t be able to see it in its full glory, this monastic complex is definitely worth a visit.
Impressive from afar, and even more impressive up close. Siem Reap’s Bayon is known for its multiple smiling stone faces, which adorn the towers on its upper terrace. On the lower level you can spend a fair amount of time engrossing yourself in the two impressive sets of bas-reliefs, which show mythological and historical scenes in detail. This is a great temple to visit to end your trip to Angkor Wat on a high.
|Opening Hours||Daily from 5am to 6pm|
|Entry Fee||$37USD for a one day pass|
|Location||Angkor Archaeological Park, Siem Reap|
In 1975, the Khmer Rouge took hold of Cambodia. Over the next three and a half years, they reduced their citizens to nothing, stripping them off their dignity, forcing them to migrate to different ‘zones’ in Cambodia, losing contact with their families and having a direct impact on the death of over two million innocents, which represented 25% of the population at the time.
The bodies of the deceased were often dumped together in fields, pagodas and schools. There are many of these ‘Killing Fields’ all over the country. One significant Killing Field in Siem Reap is at Wat Thmey. This pagoda was used as a Khmer Rouge prison to house thousands of prisoners (note: prisoners were mostly innocents who were ‘tried’ on crimes they didn’t commit, and later were Khmer Rouge soldiers who were accused of treason). These prisoners were killed and buried inside two pits and six water wells located about 250 meters south of the prison. It is estimated that around 8,000 people were murdered at this pagoda during the Khmer Rouge regime.
|Opening Hours||Daily from 6am to 6pm|
|Location||Road to Angkor Wat (across from Charming City), Siem Reap|
Phnom Kroam is a mountain on the road out to Tonle Sap. There is an Angkorian temple on the top of the hill that was built at the end of the 9th century, during the reign of King Yasovarman. Go on day one, as you will need your Angkor pass to climb the hill.
|Opening Hours||Daily from 5am to 6pm|
|Entry Fee||$37USD for a one day pass|
|Location||Phnom Kroam (road to Tonle Sap) Siem Reap|
Phare, the Cambodian Circus
Phare is a social enterprise that provides gainful employment opportunities to graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang. These energetic and engaging shows come complete with live music and are held under a big top. This enterprise supports the NGO in Battambang, so when you go for the show you are also contributing to free education for underprivileged Cambodians.
You can eat dinner at the venue, which saves you the hassle of deciding where to eat in town. There is also a wonderful boutique on site, where you can get your shopping done in one go.
|Opening Hours||Daily shows at 8pm. Book early to avoid disappointment.|
|Entry Fee||$18USD for Seat C, $25USD for Seat B, $35USD for Seat A|
|Location||Ring Road, Siem Reap|
Start your day off by heading to the local market on Road Six, Psar Leu. Although local markets are still bustling, you won’t be constantly approached by sellers like you are at the tourist markets. This gives you the opportunity to truly take in the sights and spend your time browsing the local specialties; fried crickets, traditional sarong skirts and gold jewellery. You can also witness the interaction between local buyers and sellers, and note that they too, bargain!
|Opening Hours||Daily from 6am – 5pm|
|Location||National Road Six, Siem Reap|
Senteurs d’Angkor Workshop
Senteurs d’Angkor provides free tours of their workshops. They make everything from sugar palm leave boxes to natural soaps, scented balms, aromatic candles spices, coffee and teas. At the end you can sample some hot or cold tea and coffee (I chose iced ginger tea, and it was divine).
The shop is worth a look at, though of course you are unable to take the packaging back into Australia as it is made from sugar palm.
|Opening Hours||Daily from 8am – 5:30pm|
|Location||Airport Road, Siem Reap|
The biggest pagoda in Siem Reap, Wat Damnak served as the royal palace during the reign of King Sisowath, between 1904 and 1927. During the dark times of the Khmer Rouge regime, it was used as a military depot. Nowadays it is a pagoda with a public school, library and two NGO’s on the premises. It is home to many Monks, who spend their days praying, attending ceremonies, studying, and if they are involved with the NGO on the premises, volunteering.
|Opening Hours||Daily from 6am – 8pm|
Market Street, Siem Reap
Wat Bo was built in the 18th century in Siem Reap, and is spread out over a large piece of land. In fact, they are currently expanding the premises by building an additional pagoda. There are many stupas, new and old, to be found on the land, in addition to refectory, accomodation, a radio station and school for Monks.
|Opening Hours||Presumably early morning to late evening|
Wat Bo Village, Siem Reap
This is the perfect place to finish your trip to Siem Reap. In the evenings ’60 Road’, across from the Angkor Wat Ticket Booth and what I call the ‘North Korean Museum’, is buzzing with hundreds, if not thousands, of Cambodians. They travel to this hangout in Siem Reap by bicycle, car, motorbike or tuk tuk. The traffic is strong, and definitely not for the impatient. Up and down the road there are endless stalls selling fruit, cooked food, second hand clothing, homewares and everything in between.
Parallel to this road there is a big section where you can sit and eat a variety of cooked meats at ‘restaurants’. They are usually full, so it is best to get in early. You can also pay $1.25 to play a game and win an assortment of toys, ingredients and cooking supplies. And then of course, there are the amusement rides. A dodgy rollercoaster which killed a tourist and tour guide in 2013, bumper cars and a big wheel that makes me feel nauseous just looking at it.
It is the perfect place to get a feel of the Cambodian lifestyle, and it won’t break the budget. Unless, of course, you are committed to winning that bag of laundry detergent at the balloon popping stall.
|Opening Hours||Daily from 5pm – late|
|Location||60 Road, Siem Reap|