Set in northwest Cambodia, Siem Reap is best known for being home to the incredible Angkor ruins, a sprawling World Heritage-listed complex of ancient temples with the magnificent Angkor Wat as the focal point.
While the Angkor park is surely one of the globe's most amazing historical sites, Siem Reap province is also home to an array of other ruins, such as Beng Mealea, Bantaey Srei, and the holy mountain Phnom Kulen. So if ancient temple ruins are your thing, this province -- an expansive piece of mostly flat land, covered in rice fields and brush -- must be explored fully. It runs along the north shore of the Tonle Sap, Cambodia's "Great Lake", and north to Oddar Meanchey province, where Pol Pot met his end. Few visitors get around to the fringes, even though they are becoming increasingly accessible after many improvements to Cambodia's roads.
The name Siem Reap literally means "Siam Defeated". These days, however, the only rampaging hordes are the tourists heading to the Angkor Archaeological Park. This once quaint village has become the largest boom town and construction site in Cambodia. It's quite laid-back and a pleasant place to stay while touring the temples and a nice compromise between observing Cambodian life and enjoying the amenities of modern services and entertainment, thanks to a large expatriate community.
Since Siem Reap is a major tourist destination, prices in many instances are higher than elsewhere in Cambodia. Expect to receive almost constant offers for motodop and tuk-tuk rides, along with everything else which drivers may be able to offer to you.
Be sure to pick up your free Siem Reap Angkor Visitors Guide and the equally free and useful Siem Reap Pocket Guide from your hotel/guesthouse. It contains lots of info on Siem Reap and the Angkor Archaeological Park, including hotel/bar/restaurant/shop info, travel info, and maps. For the eco-sensitive tourist, check out "Stay Another Day: Cambodia," a detailed guide with local spots that support the environment and community. Another address is the ConCERT tourist office, a local NGO committed to raising the standards of responsible tourism and ecotourism activities and providing information on the causes and effects of poverty in Cambodia, volunteering opportunities and ecotours.
APSARA (the acronym is based on the French for the "Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap" and also the Sanskrit for a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology) has a very informative website detailing the history and architecture (in 6 languages) and endorsed by the recently deceased King of Cambodia.
No visit to Cambodia is complete without at least a quick glimpse of women performing the ancient art of apsara dance, as depicted on the walls of Angkor’s temples. Wearing glittering silk tunics, sequinned tops (into which they are sewn before each performance to achieve the requisite tight fit) and elaborate golden headdresses, performers execute their movements with deftness and deliberation, knees bent in plié, heels touching the floor first at each step, coy smiles on their faces. Every position has its own particular symbolism – a finger pointing to the sky, for instance, indicates “today”, while standing sideways to the audience with the sole of the foot facing upwards represents flying.
In the reign of Jayavarman VII there were more than three thousand apsara dancers at court – although dances were performed exclusively for the king, and so prized was their skill that when the Thais sacked Angkor in the fifteenth century, they took a troupe of dancers back home with them. Historically, the art form was taught only at the royal court, but so few exponents survived the ravages of the Khmer Rouge that the genre was very nearly extinguished. Subsequently, when Princess Boppha Devi – who had been a principal dancer with the royal troupe – wished to revive it, she found it helpful to study temple panels to establish the movements. It was not until 1995, a full sixteen years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, that Cambodians once again witnessed a public performance of apsara dance, at Angkor Wat.
Most shows include the four genre of traditional Khmer dance: Apsara Dance, Masked Dance, Shadow Theatre, and Folk Dance. These are abbreviated dances for tourists, and unfortunately there is usually little, or no explanation as to the origin and meaning of the dances. But they are still interesting and worthwhile to see.
It can be said that shopping is the other best thing to devote time to besides sightseeing. A beautiful and native souvenir will be a start for a conversation with friends and family over your trip. For Cambodian, fine silk pieces and textile materials are well- known over the world.
In addition, Cambodia is the heaven of sculptures, carvings, silverwork and paintings. The followings are some options for tourists to discover the most popular goods and habit shopping of Cambodian.
The first destination is Siem Reap Night Market. The market is also crowded from the opening time until midnight. At the market, the traditional souvenirs of Cambodia such as silk, colorful gemstones and jewelry are sold. More interestingly, almost sellers here can speak English, so the foreign tourists find easy to negotiate and buy their goods. We are sure that, the atmosphere of the market creates a deep impression in tourists’ mind.
Then, you can contemplate the colorful paintings of Cambodian life in Sihanoukville. Also located in Siem Reap, Sihanouk Ville is the most famous and beautiful coastal city in the homeland of pagodas. You can easily find souvenir shops along the beaches. From the colorful shells, the villagers made skillfully items with different shapes and size. In addition, you can buy alcohol made of sticky rice for father, silk for mother, and slight flute for friends at the market.
Next, Orussey Market is one of the busiest and oldest markets and is considered as the symbol of the capital Phnom Penh. The market is well- known for dried lotus seeds, small red bean and green soy as well as cheap electronic goods. Around the market, there are many shops selling souvenirs like postcards, T- shirt which have a logo of Cambodia, and especially the traditional scarf Krama of Cambodian girls.
Also ranking in top four attractive shopping centers in Cambodia, New Market in Phnom Penh is famous for silk embroidered in characterized Cambodia patterns. It can be said that the market is worthy for those who love the traditional art. Besides, some gemstones like Ruby, Saphia are sold here.
In a nutshell, Cambodia is not considered a “fashion heaven” like Singapore or Thailand. However, if you are a shopaholic, Cambodia can satisfy you.
Cambodia is one of the most amazing places in the world for those who have a love for Oriental cuisine. When enjoying Cambodia's cuisine, you feel as if you are going back in time to the Angkor kingdom, cradle of Khmer civilization.
During the centuries, the Cambodia cuisine has become richer with the influence of neighboring countries, especially India and China. Any dishes, whether they are cooked by any ways, have many spices (like Indian food), and fat (like Chinese food). However, the culinary culture of Cambodia still create their own unique, and impression which can satisfy most visitors.
In Cambodia, there is a “Tonle Sap Lake” being full of fish, and a long beach with valuable and rare seafood. That is a reason why traditional dishes of Cambodia are mostly made from fish and other seafood. From grilled fish, steamed fish, braised fish to delicious fish dishes attract so many “food soul” of international tourists arriving here.
A popular dish in Cambodia cuisine is rice cooking in Bamboo. Looking through this rice, many people can think that looks like that kind of rice in some other countries. But, factually, rice in bamboo of Cambodia has a few differences from other countries’. This specialty is cooked on special holidays and parties. The process of making this rice is very complicated and meticulous. The Cambodian choose the extremely glutinous rice, put it them in a fresh bamboo with some species like black bean, coconut milk and then bake them on stove until smell the fragrance of rice- it is time for you to enjoy and feel the sweet of Asia rice.
Different from enjoying the rice in bamboo, you will surely be surprised by insect dishes along Cambodia’s street. However, this is the best and most popular food of Cambodian people. Insects including ants, spiders, and scorpions have become the inspiration of the nutritious dishes. Let’s try “eggs are fried with ant’s eggs”. I am sure that you will order one more.
Perhaps, your trip to Cambodia will not be completed without trying barbecue. It can be said that barbecue is the main inspiration of Cambodian cuisine. You can find it everywhere including restaurants, and cafes where stoves are put in front of the door. The delicious taste of the dishes attracts any visitors wandering across the street. Do not hesitate to enjoy this popular food. You will feel Cambodia pastoral taste mixing spices which were created carefully by Cambodian ancestors.