Les Chantiers Ecoles was established in 1992 under a join Cambodian/French initiative. The school trains around 650 young people a year in the production of traditional Cambodian handicraft, and here at the school you can see different workshops like stone sculpturing, woodcarving, weaving, and silk painting.
After the artisans have completed their training, they join the Artisans d'Angkor which was established in 1998 with financial support from EU (but is self-financing and independent today). The function of Artisans d'Angkor is to help the young artisans to find work in their home villages - and in general to provide them with as much help as possible.
The visit is free of charge and – if you want – you can have a guided tour. There is also a shop where you can buy the craftwork created here at the school. I feared this was a tourist-trap, but the artisans were very skilful and it was interesting to see how the handicraft was created.
The Shrine to Preah Angchek and Preah Angchorm is located on the south side of the Royal Garden. Preah Angchek and Preah Angchorm are thought to have been Angkorian princesses, they are surrounded by stories of power and indestructibility, and are very important to the locals.
Two statues of them are housed in the shrine (Preah Angchek the taller - Preah Angchorm the shorter). The statues were originally located in the Gallery of a Thousand Buddhas at Angkor Wat, but moved to the shrine in 1990.
The Royal Garden is located between the Royal Residence and the Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap. The Garden is a nice and peaceful place for a walk or for a short rest.
The Royal Residence was built after the independence as the summer residence for the King, but not much to see… It is nothing like a big palace and you are not allowed to go inside.
More interesting are “The Shrine to Preah Angchek and Preah Angchorm” (read my other tips) and the statue of Ya Tep. Ya Tep is a locale spirit said to bring protection and luck to the Siem Reap area.
Wat Thmey is a Buddhist temple a few kilometres out of Siem Reap. The site of the temple was also the scene of the local killing fields, and in the middle of the temple area is a glass-walled stupa (memorial) containing the bones of victims of the Khmer Rouge.
There is also a school at Wat Thmey, and a couple of schoolchildren gave me an introduction to some traditional Cambodian music instruments. The children spoke really good English and it was a funny experience…
It is free to visit the temple, but donations for the memorial or/and the school are very welcome.
The Cambodian Cultural Village opened to the public in 2003 and is one of those theme parks where you can see-the-whole-country-in-one-park... The park is huge and consists of different themes: A miniature land where you can see models of famous buildings (The Royal Palace, the National Museum, Wat Phnom, the Independent Monument, and more). Eleven ethnic villages representing different cultures (Khmer, Kola, Chinese, Phnorn, and more). Around the villages there are performances with apsara dancing, wedding ceremonies, circus, elephant shows, and more... There are also two museums that show the history of Cambodia from the 1st century up to 20th century.
I visited the Cambodian Cultural Village around noon, and this was a big mistake as all stage performances were on break from 11:25am to 2:35pm! Therefore I only walked around the park for a couple of hours, and it was a little boring. I enjoyed the museum with the many wax statues most. Visit the park in the evening; maybe it would be more interesting to see the performances – and the park could be beautiful when lit up...
The government-run War Museum is located a few kilometres outside Siem Reap and is an outdoor museum with leftover weapons from the civil war: Huge tanks, Russian AK47s, landmines, missiles, aeroplanes, and much more. If you are into that kind of stuff, you can hold the weapons or climb the artillery cannons…
The weapons are in a poor condition and I’m not much into weapons - but still it was a great experience! The guide, who showed us around told us many first hand - and very touching - stories from the war. He is a war victim himself; has lost his parents in the war and was injured himself by a landmine… The guided tour is free, but tips are appreciated.
Wat Rajabo (or just Wat Bo) is located at the end of Achamean Street, about 200 meters east of Siem Reap River. It is the oldest and most charming of Siem Reap’s temples, and was built in the 18th century. The walls inside the main temple are decorated with the usual scenes from the life of Buddha and also – more unusual – with scenes from the daily life in Cambodia, for example a man smoking opium.
There is a little wat museum - located next to the monk’s quarter - with a small exhibition of stone, ceramic, and bronze religious items. The museum was established in 1960.
Some of the temple buildings were undergoing a minor restoration when I was visiting, and I had the opportunity to see how the modelling was done by the monks. Very interesting…
The newly opened museum, Angkor National Museum, is one of the most modern museums in Asia – and some of the special effects and multimedia shows were quite amazing.
The visit starts with a short movie which gives you a quick orientation of the museum. From there you just follow the signs through the 8 exhibition halls: “1000 Buddha Images”, “Khmer Civilization”, “Religion and Beliefs”, “The Great Khmer Kings”, “Angkor Wat”, “Angkor Thom”, “Story from Stones”, and “Ancient Costumes”. Really informative and gave a good understanding of the ancient Khmer Empire.
I don’t think you need to go there with a guide. Almost all exhibits and artefacts have English translations, and you can also rent an audio tour guide (a headset) for more information. You are not allowed to take photos inside the museum - you can buy a photography pass for 2 USD, but still you are only allowed to take photos of the outside exhibitions...
Most tourists end their visit at the Angkor temples by viewing the sunset. I have read that the best place to see the sunset is on the Bakheng Mountain – but this place could become really crowded.
Another option – suggested by my local guide – is to view the sunset at the Pre Rup temple. I don’t know how the sunset is at Bakheng, but I really enjoyed it here at Pre Rup. And there were only a few other people, so everyone had a good ‘seat’...
The temples of Angkor are the main reason why most tourists come to Siem Reap and Angkor was also on my wish list for a long time before I finally visited the temples in November 2008. I had really high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed! This is one of the most amazing and fabulous places I have ever seen…
The ancient temples were built between the 9th and 13th centuries, and Angkor (meaning “city”) was once the capital of the mighty Khmer Empire, which ruled most of the region during that period. There are several temples spread out in the area – the most famous is the Angkor Wat, but Angkor Thom (with the Bayon, Elephant Terras and Baphoun) is also fantastic. Some of the temples have been restored and cleared of vegetation while other remains covered in jungle with huge trees growing through the ruins. The Angkor site was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992.
I think it is worth hiring a guide for the temples. The area is huge, but they known the place and you are sure not to miss anything. The official guides are KATGA-licensed and can be identified by their uniform: Brown trousers, beige shirt, and name badge. My guide spoke fluent English and was a really great guy.
Read my travelogues about the temples here: Angkor temples (I) and Angkor temples (II).
This modern wooden church, built in 2004, is located along the river, to the north of the Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor and the Royal Gardens, on the east bank. The church is dedicated to the patron saint St. John, the Apostle and serves a small community of Christians in the town.
Aspara Dancing is a traditional Khmer art and there are several places to experience it in Siem Reap. If you’re looking for a touristy, but free way to see this Cambodian custom check out the free show upstairs at the Temple Bar. This place gets packed, especially with the $5 US dinner buffet. If you’re not hungry you’re still welcome to grab a table and watch the show, daily 7:30 to 9:30 pm.
There are other places in the city to see this art form, but this one is free!
I recommend you to attend a Shadow Puppet show at La Noria Restuarant. Shows are on Wednesday's at 1930hrs at a cost of $12 including a meal. The shows are given by street children trained by Krousar Thmey. They operate the puppets and provide the voices for the characters. Programmes include folk tales and extracts from the Ramayana. Your enjoyment will be enhanced if you can go along with a local who can guide you through the nuanves of the plot.
An interesting daytime visit is to the workshop where you can see the children making the Puppets and meet the Puppet Master. You can buy a puppet of your favourite character which makes an unusual souvenir. Unfortunately the belligerent Water Buffaloes are very popular and supplies had run out when I visited
Take a car or tuk tuk to the boat landing on Tonle Sap lake. The road journey gives a flavour of rural Cambodia with palm thatched houses on stilts and rice paddies. The boat trip ( about $10)takes you out onto Tonle Sap where the fishermen live on floating houses which are moved to follow the water as the lake shrinks during the dry season to one quarter of it's wet season size. Everything floats, houses, schools, a church, pigs and vegetable patches on their own little rafts and Vietnamese children paddling frantically in bathtubs!
My own preference is to take a local guide and driver so that you can combine the boat trip with other visits such as the silk farm.
The Siem Reap River runs through Siem Reap town, and there are walkways, parks and benches along the river for you to walk around and relax. This is a nice way to relax after spending the day visiting the ancient Angkor monuments and other attractions around Siem Reap.