You get these families cooking palm sugar in their houses and then selling them in packs just outside their houses. You will see these makeshift stalls all along the way on the roads to Angkor, especially the road to Bantaey Srei. They cost only US$1 and they taste very sweet. Try them and have something sweet to remember Siem Reap-Angkor with.
Savong is a young Khmer who set up a school to teach young children languages outside their normal schooling. A New Zealand business man found out about the school and built a school building and funds the 3 teachers. This generous gesture means that the children do not pay for the lessons which help them to aspire to higher paid jobs.Visitors are welcomed, you can make a cash contribution or gifts of pens, pencils footballs etc appreciated.
I contacted Savong before my visit and he asked me to give an English lesson to the children. Thai and Japanese are also taught. Questions from the teachers to me on points of English grammar were very testing! The lesson is to a subject of your choice and the staff are with you to keep you out of trouble. The whole experience was a joy and you feel that the children are keen to learn and are very attentive and perfectly behaved.
I received a lovely "thank you" speech from one of the children which ended "How grateful we are that someone so old as you has spared his time to talk to these young Khmer children"!
Joyful experience give it a go. I'm already planning to go back on my next visit
If you have a few days left here after visiting temples, you can take a day off to the Lake (one of the biggest in Asia) and see the many canals and how people live in huts over the waters.
Better in rainy season, as the water is higher.
Now this is a really weird sight: the toilet seat of Pol Pot.
As you might know, Pol Pot was "Brother No. 1" of the Khmer Rouge and as such responsible for the murder of 2 million people! He formed a communist guerilla organization and managed to come to power. His idea of communism was that of an archaic rural communism - farming and nothing else. This combined with the idea that every intellectual should be killed led to the country's most horrible years with the population starving and a paranoid murderer as the no. 1 in the government. Only in 1978, when Vietnam invaded the country, could Pol Pot be removed from power. However, the Khmer Rouge continued fighting a guerilla war from the jungle. Pol Pot died in 1998 and had not served any sentence until his death.
The toilet seat that was once in his house was "rescued", as a plaque says, when the house was demolished in January 2000. Now preserved in Ivy Guesthouse and Bar, this is probably the strangest sight I've ever come across.
If you have an extra day or at least half a day to spare, do arrange for a trip to Beng Mealea. Out of the 4 of us girls on the trip, 3 of us picked this as the best out of all the Angkor temples visits.
Reason probably because we get to climb all over the ruins and be our own version of Indiana Jones and Lara Craft.
We understood from our driver that Angelina Jolie filmed Tomb Raider there for 3 mths beside filming for a week at Ta Prohm.
You can either explore on your own or if you want, there are some guides there that you can hire. I'm not sure how much it cost as we decided to explore on our own and almost made a complete circle of the place except for the last part when we weren't sure if the path will lead us to the exit so we went back the same way we got in.
Go before they decide not to let anyone climb on the ruins anymore.
You can make a stop at one of the villages along the way to or back from Bateay Srey.
Quite a bit of effort is used to extract the sugar from the palm fruit. After all the plucking, extracting of the fruits, and lots of heating and stirring, you will get palm sugar that you can eat directy, or use to make dessert.
Our driver, Thara asked us to try, and even though those guide books mentioned that we should not be trying anything other than hotel food, the explorer in me told me to try it. Nice, but a little too sweet. Importantly, nothing happened to my stomach. Not with this food.
This is another Tonle Sap "cruise" which takes the floating village experience to a new level. The trip starts at the same boat station as the floating village trip but you need to take a boat for about an hour into the lake. Costs more, about $45 but of course that is the cost of the boat and skipper. More people cheaper per head. I have to confess that my ever faithful guide Sopheap carried out negotiations on my behalf. You will pass the floating village and continue further down the lake till you reach the Cambodian fishing village of Kompong Plouk. You can walk around the village, visit the pagoda and change into a small wooden boat with a native paddler who takes you on a tour of the waterside of the village and among the trees of the flooded forest, a truly magical experience. Needless to say you can only make this trip when water levels are high.
The people of the village are friendly but not pushy and go about their everyday lives. The mad scramble of screaming children chasing frogs in the woodpile was a bonus.
Sadly I don’t know whether to list this here or under ‘Warnings or Dangers’. Walking up to the trailhead at Kbal Spean we noticed a zoo. We wanted to hike up to the lingas before the sun got too hot so we decided to check it out on the way back down. The gates were slightly ajar and there wasn’t another soul in site but we entered anyway. This was a pitiful excuse for a zoo and the few poor souls imprisoned here were horribly neglected. I wish there had been some way to liberate the crane and monkeys, sadly their cages were locked so all we could do it pity the poor unfortunate souls housed here.
At the Siem Reap River you will see kids cleaning the river. I saw a group of boys whom I thought were just hanging around and playing there. I walked closer to them and saw that they were actually cleaning the river.
These kids are getting paid to do it. They said it’s their income, and that they enjoy it. I could tell though that they were having fun, they liked the attention that I gave them and didn’t mind answering the many questions that I asked :D
The picture shows the Bakong, the most impressive member of the Roluos Group. It's not as old or grand as Angkor Wat, still the Pyramid shaped mountain-temple is quite impressive.
Beside Bakong, you can also visit Lolei, Preah Ko and other smaller temple ruins.
Roluos' monuments or The Roluos group lies 15 kilometers south-west of Siem Reap and includes three temples - Bakong, Prah Ko and Lolei - dating from the late 9th century and corresponding to the ancient capital of Hariharalaya, from which the name of Lolei is derived. Remains include 3 well-preserved early temples that venerated the Hindu gods.
Banteay Srei lies 38 km from Siem Reap, requiring extra travel time. Drivers usually charge an extra fee in addition to their normal charge for your day trip.
The temple's relatively small, constructed using some pink/red sandstones.
The walls are densely covered with some of the most beautiful, deep and intricate carvings of any Angkorian temple.
Some scholars said that Banteay Srei is a replica or miniature for Angkor Wat, but dedicated to the lady.
In native tongue, "Kbal Spean" literally means "the head of the river".
- carvings of Buddha, bull & Monkey god (some were chipped off by Khmer Rouge in exchange for $$ & weapons)
- Lingas chiseled into the riverbed
- Tortoise, crocodile, frog stones in some riverbed basins
Some of these Buddha images were removed by Khmer Rouge during the civil war period in exchange for money & weapons to fight against the Cambodian government. Some of these images were mostly sold to oversea collectors who are willing to pay high price for it.
- 12km of dirt-track (i mean really dusty) off Banteay Srei
- Extra charges on top of your daily transport charge
- Dust, do bring along some surgical mask or breath thought a towel or handkerchief
- Tuk-tuk guy to cross sell a ranger service (he probably will get a cut from the service); The ranger service can actually do without. If you do, please negotiate the service before you start hiking the hill
- 2km hiking with the 1st km of really rugged trail
- Return from the track & don't feel quite worthwhile **
- Same amount of dust on your way back
- Do not cross any trees Marked with RED Paint. There are active land mines off the RED paint limit & please follow the normal trail (don't try to be too adventurous here)
- Landmines are one way they cross sell the ranger service. I was conned into that.
Rice is the major export for Cambodia & most of the rice were organically grown with limited usage of fertilizer & pesticide.
My tuk-tuk driver taken this shortcut from Westerm Mebon-Siem Reap Airport & passes by some really nice rice fields.
The Cambodian Landmine Museum is located 6km south of Banteay Strei inside the Angkor Wat Archeological Park.
It has been funded by the Relief Fund with the same name and by Aki Ra. Aki Ra was a soldier for Khmer Rouge and has planted a lot of Landmines during that time. Since then he is donating his life to find and dismantle landmines all over Cambodia. The museum is quite small and with the movie it should take you not more than 1 hour to see all the exhibitions.
Entry Fee is a 1 USD donation admission that supports sustainable land mine relief and community development initiatives. Considering that there are still millions of landmines and UXOs all over Cambodia, every dollar counts.
What striked me most about this museum was to learn about the fact that countries like Finland, China, India, Russia, Korea, Singapore, USA and many others are either still producing landmines or have not signed the Ottawa Treaty.
Open Daily from 7.30am to 5.30pm
On the road to/from Banteay Srei, there are roadside stalls that sell candies made from sugar palm trees that grow in the area. I sampled one and it was VERY sweet, it was like gulping a whole tablespoon of white sugar! Try and buy it if you want, but it's not something I'd bring home as a gift.