Exploring Siem Reap is a lovely 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, although noon to mid-afternoon isn’t an ideal time for walking. December through February are the driest months and the best time to visit.
“Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century.”
I’ve seen some spectacular architecture – Chinese, Cambodian, French Colonial – and the tropical gardens are lush and fragrant. It was difficult finding a good vantage point for photos as some of the old buildings are huge and the streets are flat. Restoration is in process all around the small town.
“Dozens of Hindu-Buddhist temple complexes and hundreds of smaller structures were once swallowed by the jungle.”
Wat Damnak is the biggest pagoda in Siem Reap and a “cultural hub”. During the reign of King Sisowath it was a palace. Buddhist Monks live in the pagoda, a “landmark” on the eastern side of the Siem Reap River.
I chatted with a few of the locals, and one was keen to practice his English and told me about his life in the countryside near the Vietnam border. Stopped at a pharmacy for allergy medicine and the pharmacist was fun and outgoing. We talked chit-chat for a long time. He gave me great 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’s Night Market
If you follow Siem Reap River you can’t get lost, although I managed to a few times.