Exploring Siem Reap is a lovely, exotic experience. It’s smaller and more relaxed than Phnom Penh, and the merchants are entertaining and friendly. It’s also full of tourists – many French. The weather is hot and humid but not unbearable. Noon to mid-afternoon isn’t an ideal time for walking. The best time to visit is December through February, the driest months.
“Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century.”
I saw spectacular architecture – Chinese, Cambodian, French Colonial – and lush tropical gardens. It’s difficult finding a good vantage point for photos since the huge old buildings are on flat streets. Restoration is in process throughout the small town. Follow Siem Reap River and you can’t get lost – but somehow I did…
“Dozens of Hindu-Buddhist temple complexes and hundreds of smaller structures were once swallowed by the jungle.”
Wat Damnak is the largest pagoda in Siem Reap and a “cultural hub”. During King Sisowath’s reign it was a palace. Buddhist Monks live in the pagoda, a major “landmark” on the eastern side of the Siem Reap River.
Locals and Vendors
I chatted with locals. One was keen to practice his English and told me about his life in the countryside near the Vietnam border. I stopped at a pharmacy for allergy medicine, and the pharmacist was fun and outgoing. We talked chit-chat for a long time, and he gave me sightseeing pointers.
Looking for a cool shirt I met a merchant and his wife and three young children in the market. When you buy clothing in the market and want to try something on you have to do it right there on the spot, often with someone holding a cloth up around you while you change – at first it seemed awkward. Now I think it’s funny – no one looks anyway.
There are five major areas in Siem Reap:
- Taphul Village – west of the Old French Quarter
- Old French Quarter – center of the city close to Angkor Wat
- Wat Bo – east near main streets
- Old Market – south in the center of town
- Wat Damnak – southeast near Angkor Night Market