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Siem Reap – Cambodia
  • Banyan Temple - Siem Reap Cambodia Banyan Temple - Siem Reap Cambodia
  • Angkor Wat - Siem Reap, Cambodia Angkor Wat - Siem Reap, Cambodia

A Quick Glance

Destination(s) Siem Reap – Cambodia

Duration 1 week

Traveller(s) Solo or couple

Trip highlight Angkor Wat at sunrise, Banyan Temple, Ta Phrom Temple

Travel Advisor Dawn McKiernan

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The kingdom of Angkor, Angkor Wat and the township of Siem Reap was on our to do list for many years, and when we finally had the chance to add it to the beginning of our Mekong River Cruise, we jumped at the opportunity.

Siem Reap is an amazing township, with a variety of markets, galleries and laneways, such as West Alley where artisans create home wares, gifts, jewellery and fashionable clothing. The art studios & cafés are great places to relax and unwind and watch the world go by and enjoy tasty food and great coffee.  One evening we sampled the local Cambodian dinner which comprises of 10 scrumptious small dishes, our taste buds were alive with the different flavours. There are plenty of restaurants and none as famous as the Foreign Correspondent Hotel, which was home to many a journalist during the dotted history of Cambodia. At night we would wander down by the river and sit in the courtyard of this intriguing hotel and enjoy a cocktail or two and a delicious meal whilst watching the world pass on a balmy night  before heading across the river to the night markets.

The serenity of Angkor Wat remains with me.

Hotel De La Paix, now renamed the Park Hyatt, is a beautiful hotel; the staff are friendly, the service outstanding;  it was a luxurious oasis for us especially after a busy day seeing the sights.

We were in Siem Reap for one main reason - to visit Angkor Wat. It is everything that I thought it would be and more. We never realised how spiritual Angkor Wat is and the significance of its place in history. The sheer size of Angkor Wat and the 200 plus surrounding temples is staggering. You are totally humbled walking through each of these mystical ancient locations that make up a unique & intriguing landscape. We were lucky to have a guide who was especially knowledgeable having lived in Siem Reap all his life and, as an archaeologist, has worked on the surrounding temples for many years. He knew all the history and stories of the sites, the best temples to see, the best times to visit, so we were able to walk amongst them virtually on our own.

We arrived at Angkor Wat under the cover of darkness by local transport and entered via a secret entrance of the grounds. We then walked by torch light around to the front of Angkor Wat, feeling like treasure hunters about to find a magical treasure, there was not a sound other than our footsteps on the stones. As the first rays of light rose from the horizon all we could see was an outline of the spires of Angkor Wat and the majestic size of this once gilded temple. As the sun rose, the building grew in size and stature, the enigmatic intricate architecture became more visible as dawn broke, leaving a colourful backdrop and a reflection in the lotus pond in the front of the temple entrance. Truly breathtaking. 

Monks at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap Cambodia Monks at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap Cambodia

Once inside, we caught glimpses of monks completing their morning prayers, their orange robes a stark contrast to the colour of the temple and its carvings. It was so mesmerising walking through this massive shrine, the intricate carvings everywhere you looked. Beautiful, serene images created centuries ago telling the mystical story of Vishnu & the Hindu gods who this temple was originally built for. It took our breath away. We spent many hours walking through the external layers of the temple, climbing up to the highest point to view the land and the other temples in the distance; it was truly stunning.  Walking through the temple was delightful, inspiring and almost a pilgrimage,  it’s a once in a life time journey that I remember frequently. The serenity of Angkor Wat remains with me.

There are so many temples each honouring a certain god or king, all rather different and exquisite in their own way. Ta Prohm Temple where Banyan Trees snake their way in up and over the ancient ruins, growing metres tall and wide, enclosing the temples carvings and statues within their trunk. It’s astonishing how these trees survive wrapping themselves around everything and growing so magnificently towards the sky. It is the beauty of nature merging amongst the landscape of this magnificent kingdom.

Then there’s Bayon Temple of King Jayavarman VII, the temple of over 2000 colossal slightly smiling faces. Each of the 54 towers have 4 faces all looking out towards the 4 points of a compass, they are beautiful, serene and captivating. Just sitting and looking at them fills you with a sense of tranquility. There are so many different temples to see and wander around, you could spend weeks and still not see them all.  It is a destination that you could easily visit again and again as each time the landscape changes, more and more temples are uncovered or re-opened after repair. We  aim to visit again to see the beauty, experience the wonderful culture and explore the intriguing ancient kingdom of Angkor and Siem Reap.

  • Bayon Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia Bayon Temple, Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • Angkor Wat - Bas Relief gallery - Cambodia Angkor Wat - Bas Relief gallery - Cambodia