Cambodia is not only about Angkor Wat (which ironically sports the temple in the flag), when you land. And just as you start to learn that, prepare to lose yourself in a land lost in time.
Siem Reap plays host to over 200 temples of various shapes and sizes. Though Angkor Wat may be the largest, the other 900 year old temples also sport amazingly unique architectural feats.
Make sure your list includes Ta Prohm, Banteay Srei, Bakong, along with the former capital Angkor Thom, that has the picturesque Bayon Temple with six gates, which features the Churning of the Milk-Ocean from Hindu Mythology.
Ta Prohm, which featured in the Tomb Raider movie, will astound you with the way nature”s swallowed the temple complex, giving you an idea about how the temples would have looked when discovered by the French centuries ago.
Every inch of the miniature temple Banteay Srei is covered with intricate projected carvings displaying Apsaras holding lotuses and epic mythological moments.
Bakong is one of the oldest temples in Siem Reap and though not as impressive as the others, the sense of history makes it hard to miss.
Take a break from the templing at Siem Reap and head to the serene Kbal Spean. This valley of thousand lingams which dates back to the Angkorian era is believed to have blessed the water resources entering the city, and features spectacularly carved idols around.
Another exciting activity in Siem Reap is visiting the Floating Market. A day trip from the city, this showcases an interesting balance between man and nature!
The Landmine Museum brings a moment of silent reality, as it showcases the tyranny of the Khmer Rouge regime. But you can brighten up your spirits again, with an Apsara dance show, publicized in many places.
Back in Phnom Penh, the sites are limited to the more modern Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda and the Wat Phnom Hill. Though grim, the Toul Sleng Genocide museum and the Killing fields should also be visited to get a glimpse of the horrific Cambodian past. Strongly interwoven to the Cambodian culture, it is a heavy walk through history. Follow it up with a relaxing evening river cruise and walk on Sisowath Quay.
Cambodian food is a mix of Indian spices and Thai coconut that basically means yummy food with a tinge of home. Experimenting a lot with their meat, turtle, alligator, frog are not uncommon. Dare yourself to try the local delicacies of fried tarantulas and grasshoppers. Vegetarians should also have no issue since all dishes come in a vegetarian avatar, and are sometimes tastier!
Cheap conversion rates means shopping here is a treat! Phnom Penh and Siem Reap both have some great markets. Explore the Central and Russian markets in Phnom Penh to roll in raw silks, and get lost in the many inner lanes and to find bragging bargains! Siem Reap also has similar markets such as the Old Market but have much better night markets.
One of the joys of Cambodian markets is the number of foot massage palours. Pamper your feet with fish pedicure here! The markets have many traditional artefacts like stone and wood carvings that are definite looks if luggage space exists.
Though you may be spoilt for choices in Siem Reap, the case may not be the same in Phnom Penh. You can try FCC or Almond hotel at Phnom Penh for the location. For those with higer budgets, there”s the Raffles Hotel Le Royal.
In Siem Reap, definitely stay at Pavillon d”Orient Boutique-Hotel. This 18 room hotel is simply fabulous. With its great rates (tuktuk rides included) and awesome service, this hotel will define your trip, but make sure you make reservations a couple of months in advance!
So take this trip back in time to see the grandeur of an ancient civilization and the fighting spirit of the Cambodians. Experience rich history along with Khmer culture and hospitality. This trip will not only knock out a few kilos but also send you home zenned and wiser!