Things to do in Siem Reap #1 – Visit Angkor Wat
A no brainer, and our main motivation for visiting Siem Reap. Angkor Wat was first a Hindu temple, but then became a Buddhist shrine. It is stunningly breathtaking, with steep steps to the main temple. It’s stonework is unbelievable – you could easily while away a few hours just taking it all in.
The famous monument is surrounded by a moat, so you have to take a long walk along the footbridge to get to the main attraction. This however simply builds the anticipation of the spectacular monument itself.
But be warned, the temperature during the afternoon is pretty unforgiving. Apart from some shaded areas, the temple is fairly open, so pack a hat and dress appropriately.
On the dresscode front, it’s worth taking a long sleeved top if you want to scale the heights of the temple. As with Bangkok
, modest dress codes apply, and they won’t accept a shawl over a short sleeved dress. Arms must be covered, so bear this in mind.
Another tip for Angkor Wat is to view it from the hilltop during sunset. It was pretty crowded when we went, but the views were spectacular and it was a great atmosphere. Plus if you purchase one $20 ticket, you can visit Angkor Wat in the evening and all three sites the next day.
Things to do in Siem Reap #2 – Visit the Prasat Bayon in Angkor Thom
Otherwise known as the Temple of many faces, this is my favourite site in Siem Reap. The temple features huge stone faces – their expressions serene. Built in the 12th century, the faces of stone are said to resemble the ruler of the time – King Javayarman VII.
The Prasat Bayon is just a ten minute tuk tuk ride away from Angkor Wat, so it can easily be visited on the same day.
While this temple doesn’t attract the same attention as its more famous contemporary, you’d be foolish to miss it.
Things to do in Siem Reap #3 – Take a look at Ta Phrom
Possibly one of the most photographed of the the three temples, and the backdrop for the Tomb Raider movie. Ta Phrom is remarkably unrestored, which only adds to its appeal. With large, overbearing trees taking root and pushing out the stonework, Ta Phrom looks undernourished, however it’s purposeful lack of restoration creates a sense of the temple being combined with nature.
There may be a time when there are more trees than temple, but for now it’s a chilling illustration of man vs. nature.
One thing’s for sure, I’d be very scared to be here alone at night.
Things (not) to do and see in Siem Reap
The air conditioned souvenir and jewellery shops
Upon arrival, our driver (not the tuk tuk driver, a van driver who brought us from the airport) ended up showing us the handicraft stores and a rather impressive jewellers claiming to sell real gems.
However, it pretty much turned out to be fake tat that was being pedalled, so I’d avoid these places at all costs. And if you fancy shopping, go out into the local markets to buy from those that need your service the most. I’ll share this cautionary tale in more detail in another post.
Things we missed out on in Siem Reap
Inevitably, with such a short stay, there were a lot places we could have visited but didn’t get round to. Namely:
- The floating Muslim village
- The lake of Ton Le Sap
- The Angkor National Museum
Now while that’s a bit of a short and sweet ‘things to do’ I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless. You can do Siem Reap in just over a day, without missing out on the main sites.