This world heritage site is the must-see sight that brings people to Siem Reap. It's size and beauty has to be seen by any serious traveller.. The temple was built by the Khmer culture, specifically by Suryavarman II. It was actively used until late 1500's when the Khmer culture collapsed after being invaded by Thailand.
From walking around here, you can easily see why this temple was used as the inspiration of the movie Tomb Raider. The jungle is slowly growing over and engulfing the ancient temple.
Its official name is Ta Prohm, but in reality most people (and tour operators) just call it the Jungle Temple.
We visited the Siem Reap War Museum and there was a $5 entry fee and it was definitely worth it, especially for Gary and my brother in law Brett who have 45 years army experience between them. This fee includes a guide however we did not use him as we just wanted to take our time looking around.
There was so much to look at and play with, tanks, anti aircraft guns, rocket launchers, planes, etc. If you have a Military history you will like the War Museum, we found it very interesting and really enjoyed our time there.
Another big day out was going with Marom to Kampong Khleang which is at the northern edge of the Tonle Sap about 60 kilometers from Siem Reap; it is more remote and less visited by tourists than Kampong Pluk which is much closer to Siem Reap.
Time has really stood still at Kampong Khleang; you will see a part of Cambodia that few people ever get to see, the centuries old traditional way of life. The centre of the village is actually an island with a school, markets, Temples etc, life is very busy here and the people are so friendly and happy to see you visit and not one single person will ask you for money!
This was such a fantastic day; we loved the trip there by tuk tuk, so many fantastic photo opportunities and so much to see along the way. The trip was very dusty at times as you’re on the main highway with tons of trucks etc, but we were prepared and wrapped ourselves up.
We went through the village on stilts which is amazing with houses rising up 10 meters high; during the wet season when the Mekong flows into the Tonle Sap the water rises to within 2 meters of the houses. One ledge we were standing on that was up very high had water a meter higher than the actual ledge last year – just hard to imagine.
I am not sure but I think we paid $20 to hire a big private boat to see the floating village. It is quite big and they are mainly Vietnamese people who originally came to Cambodia to fight the Khmer Rouge, some decided to stay but as they could not buy land so they built floating houses on the water.
This area has now grown into Cambodia’s largest lake community.
It was a fantastic day spent getting on and off the boat to see fish being salted ready for sale in Phnom Penh, fish being gutted or just looking at a fisherman’s daily catch. Just watching everyday life, I loved our time here and highly recommend a visit to Kampong Khleang.
We did not realize just how big the Cambodian Cultural Village is so make sure you allow at least 3 hours and check when the shows are on.
There are miniatures of famous historical buildings that are set out as 10 separate villages each with their own displays and different shows such as Aspara dancing, the Peacock dance, a traditional Wedding Ceremony, acrobats, etc.
The museum has displays of wax figures depicting how Angkor Wat was built and the lifestyle of the Khmers during the Angkor period.
Was it worth the $15 entry fee, I am not too sure about that as we were only there for a couple of hours and I do not think I would bother going back to see what we missed.
The Cambodian Cultural Village is on National Highway 6 about 3 kilometers from the airport.
Halfway out of town on the way to Angkor Wat you will find Wat Thmei. This was once one of Cambodia’s horrible killing fields where many innocent men women and children were tortured and killed.
There is a large stupa filled with bones and skulls that were collected by locals in memory of their family and friends. Today many tour groups go to Wat Thmei but it is still Siem Reaps main place for locals to remember their loved ones.
I am shocked that there are some reviews saying things like disappointed or not worth going, or nothing there worth seeing. If it is Disneyland people are looking for your in the wrong country.
Wat Thmei is definitely worth a visit to pay your respects and have a good think about what happened to this country!
Aki Ra is a mine clearer and opened his museum in 1999. We first visited in 2006 when the museum was very simple, just a corrugated iron building, some rickety sheds plus open air eating and sleeping quarters. This museum has now moved and is located on the road to Banteay Srey.
As a young child Aki parents were killed and he spent years in various armies, fighting with the Khmer Rouge, then against them. One thing he learnt all about was Mines.
In 1993 Aki worked with the UN clearing mines, this was a good time in his life as he also had the opportunity to go to school and study, so life took a turn for the better. Once the UN left, Aki kept clearing mines and amassing a huge collection of guns, bombs, mines etc.
This collection is now the Cambodia Land Mine Museum.
Aki and his wife Hourt have 2 sons, they also have a small group of children who are land mine victims living with them. The children are supported and sent to school by the Museum. There is now a small charge to see the museum and a small shop there where you can buy drinks, books, T Shirts etc.
Sadly Hourt died on April 14th 2009, she was only 28 years old.
The museum is not as good as it was before the move near Banteay Srey but it is still worth a stop!
The Artisans d' Angkor Stone & Wood Carving centre is in Siem Reap town 200 metres off Sivatha Road.
On this tour you will see the artisans working on pre cut blocks of stone or wood, following very precise techniques they trim and carve the blocks with their own handmade tools. See how Lacquering and Gilding is done on Sandstone, once these objects are finished they have an aged look similar to that of an original artifact.
Then move on to see how wood is lacquered and gilded, watch the wood being degreased and then see colors being applied from natural pigments. The pieces can then be decorated with copper leaf gilding. Sand is then applied and the object is polished to give it a glossy look.
After you have finished the above tour, the highlight (for me) was going into the showroom and seeing the beautiful products on sale. The shop is a showcase of wood and stone carvings, silk products, magnificent bas-reliefs plus much more. There is absolutely no pressure to buy.
Products are not cheap in these shops, but then again they are not rubbish souvenirs mass produced for tourists. You are paying for quality products. I purchased a natural sandstone Head of Pranhaparamita which sits in a black stand. She is exquisite (and very heavy) and cost US$59
The shop is fantastic and there were so many beautiful things I would like to buy. Maybe next time??
Artisans d'Angkor was created to help young people find work in their home villages, allowing them to practice their crafts and providing them with a vocation and a role in society.
Artisans d'Angkor is intended to provide a sustainable and fair development for arts and crafts in Siem Reap province, offering young artisans a job on-site or in its rural workshops in and around Siem Reap.
It gives artisans fulfilling and stable working conditions and provides them with a vocation, so that they can express their talents and continue to develop their skills.
Artisans d'Angkor was created in 1999 as part of a 3-year supported project to professionally integrate young artisans that had been trained by the Chantiers-Ecoles de Formation Professionnelle.
The CEFP are a Cambodian state-run organization that aims at providing the training required by young people (most of them living in the rural areas and having received little education), and at preparing them for their professional integration.
The CEFP have contributed to reviving traditional craft-jobs (stone & wood carving, lacquering, gilding and silk related jobs).
There are 2 training centers, the Craftsmanship centre for stone and wood carving, gilding and lacquering and the National Silk Centre for mulberry tree growing, silkworm breeding and treatment of the thread, then its weaving.
Both centers have free great guided tours that are definitely well worth doing. After the tours look around the shops and maybe buy some good quality gifts to take back home. I certainly did!!
Artisans d’Angkor is also now completely self-financed.
It invests in new apprenticeships and skill creation via continuous training, sets up new rural village workshops, and participates in major projects in order to promote Cambodian culture and handicrafts, as for the 2005 World Expo.
It has created over 700 jobs both for artisans (550) and non-craftsmen.
Fifteen workshops are operating in villages in Siem Reap province for craft jobs such as stone and wood carving, lacquering, gilding and silk related jobs.
Since its creation, Artisans d'Angkor has pioneered a new social policy in Cambodia, guaranteeing levels of pay and social and medical welfare.
The artisans have also formed an association which has a 20% stake in the company.
Ta Som is a lovely small Bayon style complex with many carvings that are in excellent condition, it was built by King Jayavarman VII towards the end of the 12th century.
There is a fantastic strangler fig growing through the third eastern entrance so make sure you go all the way through depending which way you enter Ta Som from.
This is quite a pretty Temple and not many people were there when we visited. There are also a few sellers here outside the complex where you can buy big paintings for $25.
Banteay Srey is a 10th century Temple that is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva; the name loosely translates to Citadel of the Women so it is often called the Women’s Temple. This is only a recent title and it is thought to be due to the delicate carvings.
The colors of the pink sandstone here are beautiful and this Temple has some of the finest examples of Khmer classical art. Here you will find walls covered with deep intricate carvings, more so than any other Ankorian Temple.
Banteay Srey was discovered by French archaeologists’ late in 1914.
Visiting here in the morning is very popular, so much so we really did not enjoy looking around as there were busloads of tourists everywhere pushing and shoving past. After 2pm is apparently better due to fewer tourists.
Banteay Srey is about a 40 kilometer drive from Siem Reap, so combine a visit with Banteay Samre.
Banteay Samre is a very beautiful 12th century Hindu Temple that was constructed around the same time as Angkor Wat with similar style architecture.
Banteay Samre is also known as the Child of Angkor Wat and it is a bit off the normal tourist track but is definitely worth the effort to visit here as there are many carvings that are in excellent condition, well preserved buildings and very quiet, not many tourists at all
I actually liked it a lot more than Banteay Srey.
Combine a visit here with a stop at Banteay Srey; the trip is lovely passing through villages and rice paddies.
East Mebon was constructed in the late 10th century by King Rajendravarman who dedicated the Temple to Shiva in honor of his parents; there are three levels that are topped by five towers. There are also records of activity at the Temple as early as 947AD.
East Mebon is quite big and very easy to get around; there are amazing door carvings and some spectacular two meter high free standing stone elephants that were carved from a single block of stone.
When you are standing at the top looking out over the countryside, just imagine that once this beautiful place was surrounded by an artificial lake so access was only by boat.
East Mebon is also not a busy place, there were only 3 people there the day we visited.
We had asked our tuk tuk driver Marom to take us to some Temples we had not been to before on previous visits, so off we go as he thinks we will enjoy Ta Nei. He was so right it was just amazing!
The ride there was an experience in itself, a small muddy road not suitable for cars at all, I wish I could have taken more photos of the road we were on but it was such a rough ride and we were being thrown about a bit in the tuk tuk. But it was so worth the trip there!
Ta Nei is a small semi ruined jungle temple that was constructed in the mid 12th century under King Jayavarman. A lot of the carvings and aspara's are in fantastic condition. Ta Nei itself is not in as good condition as many of the temples on the Grand Circuit but it is full of places to explore and very beautiful.
It was quite eerie being out in the jungle and just coming across this beautiful place, it is not on the main tourist track so we were the only people there except for a guard who lives on site.
The ruins are just beautiful here and the trees and root systems are massive, much more impressive than the ones at Ta Prohm, we spent a long time looking around and taking photos, every corner we turned around was amazing.
As you can tell we really loved Ta Nei and will visit this beautiful place again.
Ta Phrom was built in the mid 12th early 13th Centuries and is east of Angkor Thom. Ta Phrom has been left untouched except for the clearing of some jungle for a path for visitors and some structural strengthening to help stop further deterioration.
Its a stunning place with massive fig and silk-cotton trees growing from the towers and corridors and spreading their gigantic roots over, under and inbetween the stone pillars of the complex.
This temple was one of King Jayavarmans first major temple projects and was dedicated to his mother. Ta Phrom was originally a buddhist monastery and there was a sandscript inscription on stone (this is now in the Conservation d'Angkor). This stone tells about the size and function of Ta Phrom.
Ta Phrom was very wealthy in its time having control of over 3140 villages, 79,365 staff to maintain the complex, including 18 High Priests, 2,740 officials, 2,202 assistants and 615 dancers.
Property that belonged to the temple was a set of golden dishes weighing over 500 kilograms, 35 diamonds, 40.620 pearls, 4,540 precious stones, 512 silk beds and huge stores of jewels and gold.
Some of the temple is impassable and some areas are accessable only by small narrow passageways. There are many lovely spots to just sit outside and wonder at this amazing place.
An absolute must to visit Ta Phrom and explore for a couple of hours.
The Royal Palace is in the centre of the city of Angkor Thom and is distinguished by 2 terraces that are parallel to the road.
Only the stone substructure is left so it is difficult to imagine the scale and layout of the original complex. The residences of the King and people who worked in the palace were made of wood and so have totally disintegrated.
Allow approx. 15 minutes to see the Royal Palace.
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