Exploring Siem Reap
Siem Reap literally translates to “Siam Defeated,” a victorious name awarded to the province to commemorate the triumph of the Khmer over the Siamese. The temples – especially the Angkor Wat—are undeniable reminders of Siem Reap’s glorious past, and any traveler or adventurer worth his salt should never miss out on visiting Siem Reap’s crown jewels.
Angkor Wat Sunrise
We have all heard that one friend or colleague, afflicted with a serious case of wanderlust, proclaim that he or she would like to see the sun rising over Angkor Wat. This temple complex is the largest monument of religious variety in the world, and is one of the most exciting archeological sites in the Southeast Asian region. Angkor Wat started out to be a Hindu complex, but became a Buddhist one over time. The Khmer king Suryavarman II built this massive temple complex in the early part of the twelfth century, right in the heart of his empire, Angkor.
The temple is an important symbol of Cambodia, even appearing on the national flag and serves as a sort of “mascot” that invites tourists from all corners of the world to visit. Even the most cynical of travelers (you know, the ones that refuse to visit any sort of tourist trap) should see the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Make sure to get to the temple complex before 5:30 AM and head over to the outpost structures to get an unobstructed view of the majestic sunrise. Also, beware of the temple’s resident monkeys—they like stealing things off people’s hands.
Siem Reap is home to a good number of temples, other than Angkor Wat. Angkor Thom is not aswell-preserved as Angkor Wat, but there are plenty of things that you can see (and take pictures of). Entering Angkor Thom, you will immediately see the stone warriors with the Naga Snake. Make sure to inspect the bas reliefs closely—you might find some kinky surprises.
Ta Prohm, best known as the temple in the Angelina Jolie starrer Tomb Raider, is also located in Siem Reap. This temple is perhaps the best example of what happens to proud man-made structures after the jungle took over for a couple of centuries. Tree roots burst from the temple’s walls, and nature seems to be poised for taking over again any moment.
Siem Reap is more than just exploring temples and unleashing the Lara Croft or Indiana Jones inside you. Head over to New Hope Restaurant for a quick bite—this place is a trade school for reformed sex workers, and aside from the heavenly culinary offerings, diners also get a site a tour and time to meet the children for a quick chat. This delightful little restaurant is perfect for believing, once again, in hope and redemption.
If you have spend your sunrise at the Angkor Wat, make sure to hop onto an ATV as the day is ending to get a Sunset Tour of the Siem Reap outskirts. It is a great, adrenaline-filled way to end a delightful day in one of the most scenic places in the world.
TNK Travel Team