Siem Reap

Many people mistakenly believe that Angkor is a single temple since Angkor Wat itself is the grandest and most popular amongst hundreds of Khmer temples scattered across the plains of north-western Cambodia.

Angkor's God-kings sought to surpass their ancestors with the construction of grandeur and opulence temples and cities. The incredible Temple of Angkor Wat, built by Surayavarman II during the same period when the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was under construction, is an architectural undertaking of unbelievable complexity and beauty. The five central towers represent the five peaks of Mount Meru, the mythical home of the Hindu Gods. The entire temple is thought to be a replica of the universe in stones. The size, complexity, artistic perfection and staggering beauty of Angkor Wat earn the monument its place as the grandest of the Angkor Temples. The epic tales described by the carved bas-relief on the temple's gallery walls are perhaps the finest artistic achievement of all of Angkor. Read more...

Angkor Thom - the "Great City" - was the last capital of the Angkor Kingdoms and was the work of Angkor's most prolific and best-known monarch, King Jayavarman VII. The walled city covers the largest area of any of the Angkor monuments and contains some of the site's best known attractions. For example, the King’s serene face gazes out to the city’s cardinal points at the four gates. Meanwhile, the grand city’s entrances allow visitors to glimpse at a city once populated by as many as 1 million god-king and his subjects.

The Bayon is a stunning temple, and is memorable for its eerie atmosphere and the contrasting down-to-earth quality of the bas-relief within its galleries. King Jayavarman's face is carved in immense proportions exceeding 200 times its life-size figure on 54 towers. The enigmatic smiling face of the King is one of Angkor's best-known icons, and remains etched in each visitor’s memory. The bas-relief at the Bayon depicts scenes of normal life in the mighty City of Angkor Thom, and many scenes are repeated to this day in the surrounding countryside of the temples.

Places of interest

Covering an area of one square mile, Angkor Wat is the largest, and most famous of the temple complexes at Angkor. Dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu, Angkor Wat represents the highest point in the evolution of Khmer architecture. The temple consists of pyramids, and ringed by an outer wall of bas-relief depicting the Ramayama.

Angkor Thom is the royal city itself, where kings and their subjects lived during the Angkor era. The city is characterized by massive stone structures, towers, and sculptures. Angkor Thom covers an area of four square miles and is surrounded by an outer protective wall. Other worthy visits include two buildings constructed within the wall namely, Baphuon Temple and Phimeanakas Temple.

At the centre of Angkor Thom is the immense Bayon Temple. Bayon stands at what was once the geographic and spiritual centre of the royal city. At first glance, the temple appears to be a shapeless mass of stones. As the eyes adjust, a face gradually appears then another, and another - each enigmatic and silent, watching with half-closed eyes. The faces are carved into each of the tower's four sides where an all-seeing presence stares out from a primitive and remote past.

This Buddhist temple was built by King Jayavarman VII in honour of his father. The two-storey temple is characterized by a series of round stone-column pillars. The columns are unusual because of their rounded shape, a style not seen in any other Angkor architecture. Because of this anomaly, archaeologists suspect the temple was an ancient wooden structure long since devoured by the jungle.

A former capital city of the Angkor Kingdom, today Phnom Bakheng is best known for its panoramic views of Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat and the surrounding areas. The location is ideal for sunset views of the Angkor region.

Srah Srang was once an enchanting wooden pavilion built along the shores of a small lake. Although the structure is no longer there, stone nagas leading from a bathhouse to the water remain.

Jayavarman VII built this temple as a shrine devoted to his mother. The stone temple is surrounded by the enormous roots of a fig tree - an indelible portrait of Angkor as a lost jungle city.

About 10km from Siem Reap is the complex of Roluos, amongst the first Khmer capitals built by Jayavarman II. Today we can visit three remaining Hindu sanctuaries: Preah Ko; Bakong; and Lolei. All three temples were built from bricks but are not as spectacular as the other temples of Angkor.

This temple built by Udayadityarvarman II was the most spectacularly constructed of all the temples in Angkor. From the remaining ruins, it is possible to gauge the imposing temple. The temple’s hill was dedicated to Shiva, but in its bas-relief many motives from the Vishnu epic can be seen. Restoration work continues to be carried out on the Baphoun to this day.

At the north of the Baphoun lays the royal city, of which very little remains except these two Terraces. The first owes its name to the outstanding depiction of elephants, whilst the second gets its name from the magnificent sculpture of King Yasovarman, popularly known as the Leper King. The original statue is currently protected and displayed at the National Museum in Phnom Penh.

Built by a Brahman in the 10th century, this temple was dedicated to Shiva. The famous pink sandstone structure bears a series of beautiful sculptures, lintels, pediments and friezes. Whilst not a particularly large temple complex, the beauty of Banteay Srei is not within its great scale rather its details. Some say the bas-relief work is the best example of Khmer remaining classical art.

This temple was constructed by Jayavarman VII during the 12th and 13th centuries. Its system of galleries and vestibules that was added after the construction of the main towers makes it look like a cloister. Built in sandstone, the structure has thus poorly deteriorated. However, there remain some very beautiful lintels and pediments.

King Suryavarman I commissioned this temple in the 10th century but it was never completed. It is a 5-level pyramid whose total height is 22 metres.  Originally intended a dedication to Shiva, nowadays it serves as a perfect place for sunset views.

Located 25km north of Siem Reap, on the road to Landmine Museum and Banteay Srei Temple, the Angkor Butterfly Centre (ABC) is an add-on tourist attraction for Siem Reap Province featuring a live display of Cambodian butterflies. Revenue generated by tourist admissions provides support for local poverty alleviation and conservation projects. The exhibit consists of a netted tropical garden with hundreds of free-flying butterflies, all of which are native species to Cambodia. The enclosure is Southeast Asia's largest butterfly exhibit and provides residents and tourists with an interactive and visual environment to learn about butterflies. At ABC it is possible to observe butterflies feeding and flying very close at hand and to witness the complete life cycles of many species. The butterflies (in pupae form) are farmed sustainably by villages in Siem Reap Province.

Angkor National Museum is a profound cultural landmark in Siem Reap covering 20,000 sqm which houses: the Museum, the world-class museum revealing the legend of Golden Era of Khmer Kingdom; and the Museum Mall, a landmark providing facilities and recreation services to both tourists and the local community.

The Angkor Night Market, found in Siem Reap, was designed to provide visitors an enjoyable shopping and dining experience in a vibrant and contemporary Khmer environment. The goods available in over 80 different stalls include handicrafts, multi-item of souvenirs, live painting, and clothes.  Additionally, restaurants and bars with Asian and European cuisines and acoustic music entertainment can be readily found.

The construction of Cambodian Cultural Village (“CCV”) started in mid year 2001, and opened to the public on September 24, 2003, with total area of 210,000 sqm. CCV assembles all the miniatures of famous historical buildings and structures, local customs and practices of all ethnic groups. There are 11 unique villages representing different cultural heritages and characteristics. At each village, tourists shall enjoy the excellent wooden houses; carving; traditional performances in the different styles including Apsara Dancing; performance of ethnic minorities from Northeast of Cambodia; traditional wedding ceremony; circuses; popular games; peacock dancing; acrobat; elephant shows; boxing; and many more.

Cambodia's Great Lake, the Boeung Tonle Sap (Tonle Sap Lake) is the most prominent feature on the map of Cambodia (i.e. a huge dumbbell-shaped body of water stretching across the northwest section of the country). Not only does Tonle Sap Lake represent the most important source of fish and other water resource for Cambodian, it is also the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. It is renowned for its two unusual characteristics: the direction of its flow changes twice a year and the size of the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons. In the dry season from November to May, the lake drains out into the Mekong River in Phnom Penh whilst the flow reverses in rainy season, resulting in the lake's area increasing to 16,000 sq km and its depth to up to nine metres, and flooding nearby fields and forests in the process. Another interesting property of the lake is the lifestyle of the local floating villages. Wooden houses are built on high stilts so as to keep the houses out of the water at the height of the water level and these houses are left looking like awkward creatures with tall legs when the water level gets low. The livelihood of the local people also depends largely on the resources from the lake. With a trip to the Tonle Sap, tourists shall enjoy both the opportunity to witness the wonder of nature and to experience Cambodian floating villages complete with houses, schools, health centres, gas stations, restaurants, markets and even a church.

Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles (IKTT)
Inherited from forefathers’ footsteps, the most traditional techniques of silk weaving have been well-preserved in the Institute of Khmer Traditional Textile (IKTT). It was established in 1996 and is ensconced in a traditional Khmer house along a dusty road leading to Phnom Krom, Siem Reap. The institute is an art dome of silk weaving where rustic local people accompanied by weaving looms work on old-fashioned iron spools of silken threads with their undivided attention and passion. Not spun into the commercial trend, the village-based textile, hardly found somewhere else, is not only the locals’ sustainable livelihoods, but it has also been developed to garner attention to the local culture-oriented purpose. Visitors will have an opportunity to observe the local sericulture with silk worms munching on the Mulberry leaves, and forming cocoons.

After the collapse of Khmer Rouge Regime, many mass graves were left throughout Cambodia after the three-year, eight-month and twenty-day rule from 1975-79. Among those fields include one in Wat Thmey, Siem Reap which is situated in Tropeng Ses Village, Kok Chork Commune, Siem Reap District.

Located in Banteay Srei District about 30km from Siem Reap Town or 40-45 minutes bus drive, the museum has collected artefacts from landmines that were used during three decades of regional and civil wars in Cambodia. The museum has a local school in its backyard for children who were landmine victims.

Les Artisan d' Angkor is a centre for training vulnerable and helpless young children. The centre also assists the deaf and mute children by training them to be artists and artisans. It is the only stone carving and polychromic training centre and workshop in Siem Reap.

The National Centre for Khmer Ceramics Revival (NCKCR) was founded by Mr. Serge Rega, an enthusiastic ceramist. Training for Khmers potters; research on Khmer Antiques glaze and bisque; development of Khmer Contemporary Art; and organization of the International Khmer Ceramics Festival are performed at this centre.

Songkhem Centre for Children is the home where orphans are kept under the strict control while the centre provides basic education and daily basic needs. Most of these orphans are Cambodian youth whose parents had been killed during the Pol Pot regime, whilst others are from poor families whose parents passed away from starvation.

The silk farm is a fascinating farm and workshop where visitors may observe the entire silk creation process including: growing food for the silk worms; breeding the worms; extracting the silk; spinning and refining; traditional ikat dying; creating patterns; and looming.

Located about 5km from Siem Reap central town or within 10 minute bus drive, the War museum stores items ranging from arm machine guns to aircrafts which were used during the 1980s civil war.

Angkor Light & Sound is a unique traditional show that rediscovers the lost history of Angkor Wat. This spectacular show takes the audience on a sensory odyssey through magnificent multimedia performances of light & sound, water screen, other special effects and Khmer traditional dances. The audience will be flashed back in history during a time when this ancient wonder was once central to a powerful empire.