Sights & Landmarks in Siem Reap
Most people come to visit Angkor Archaeological Park. The town itself has some worthwhile attractions and a number of beautiful modern Buddhist temples. Stretching over some 400 square kilometres, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire of the 9th to the 15th centuries, including the largest pre-industrial city in the world. The most famous are the Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations.
Angkor Archaeological Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992. At the same time, it was also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to looting, a declining water table, and unsustainable tourism. UNESCO has now set up a wide-ranging programme to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.
Angkor itself has no accommodations and few facilities; the nearby town of Siem Reap, just 6 km south, is the tourist hub for the area.
- Angkor National Museum, 968 Charles de Gaulle Blvd, , e-mail: [email protected]. Daily, 08:30-18:00. Exhibits covering the history of the Angkor complex as well as Khmer culture and clothing using high tech displays and video screens. Some say the 1,000 Buddhas room is as impressive as it sounds.USD12.
- Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre, Sanday Village (3 km before the Landmine Museum on the road to Banteay Srey temple), . 09:00-1700. Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre is a community development project and tourist destination just down the road from the Landmine Museum and Banteay Srey temple. Revenue from admissions is used to pay families in remote villages who are farming butterflies for the exhibit. The project makes a real difference to the farmers' livelihoods and provides a wonderful experience for visitors as they can see spectacular local butterfly species flying close at hand in a beautiful tropical garden. USD4 adults, USD2 children under 12.
- Kampong Phluk Floating Village (off the Highway to Phnom Penh). This mangrove forest offers a much more authentic floating village experience than the one close to the Tonlé Sap ferry harbour. This fascinating village on stilts can be reached by tuk-tuk from Siem Reap. It takes about 1 hour to reach the village, depending on the road conditions and water level. Depending on where you buy your tour, your haggling techniques and your initiative to book a tuk-tuk and boat ride yourself the price varies between USD7-60 per person for a round trip. Beware of scams. When you reach the school in the village, your tour guide will give you pack of exercise books and pencils as "a payment to village for visiting them". The queue of pupils will be longer than number of books you have. Immediately you receive next pack but then you will need to pay USD9 for the second pack.
- Landmine Museum (6 km south of Banteay Srey Temple, 31 km from Siem Reap). This tiny museum was set up by local deminer Aki Ra to educate locals and tourists about the dangers of land mines. Piles of defused mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) lie around the site and the guides are mostly teenagers who were orphaned or injured by mines, many of whom live on-site. This is a very worthwhile attraction that brings home the scale of the problem and shows you a slice of real Cambodia. USD3.
- Phnom Bok. The highest hill in the area. Temple ruins similar to those found atop of Phnom Krom and Phnom Bakong can also be found on top of Phnom Bok. It lies 20 km to the north east of Siem Reap. Expect a tiring hike up the stairs. A guard may be able to show you around. Don't forget to check out the old howitzers from the civil war. Admission is free, no pass is needed for the Angkorian ruins.
- Phnom Krom. The hill which dominates the view, as you approach the floating village of Chong Kneas from Siem Reap. At the top, temple ruins similar to the other two hills can be found. This particular hill is popular for sunsets, as it can be viewed over the flooded plains during the wet season, and over incredibly vibrant rice fields in the dry season.
- Wat Bo, Samdech Tep Vong St and St 22 (east side of the river. Follow the road that continues from over Wat Bo Bridge). As one of the oldest temples it makes a nice contrast between the oldest and the glittering new ones, though the rough artwork wouldn't match the craftsmen of Angkor. The architecture of the ramshackle open air hall next to the main building blends French-style arches and balustrades with Thai-influenced Buddhist details. A forest of chedi surround the main hall, in between frangipani trees and some fine topiary.
- Wat Preah Prom Rath, Pokambor Ave. The glittering modern temple grounds give few hints as to its 500 year history. Though the lotus-themed architecture seems to emulate temples from over the border, the front gate integrates Bayon-style heads and a scene in relief of the Buddha seated under a tree, while armies fire arrows on one side and others are eaten by crocodiles on the other side, that looks like it could have been taken directly from Angkorian mural. Legend is that the site was established around 1500 when a famous monk landed ashore on a piece of his sinking boat. The boat wood was carved into the oddly foreshortened reclining Buddha installed in a swimming pool-like pit behind the imposing, yet despondent looking, seated Buddha in the main hall. Perhaps mimicking the construction materials origins, the reclining Buddha has taken on a sunken slant at the feet end. A pair of small weather worn cannons on either side of the hall are of unknown origin but their style, an embossed crown-like seal and mysterious numbers suggest a European origin.
- Wat Thmei Temple & Stupa Memorial to the Killing Fields. A large Buddhist temple. In the grounds is a stupa with glass sides contains bones and skulls of victims of Pol Pot's army. Be wary of people purporting to be guides or asking for donations. Also, several of the photographs on the display boards are actually of the holocaust in Nazi Germany. Take this attraction with a pinch of salt. Free, donations welcome.
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