Cambodia undeniably transports you to another place – a place of tales, mythology
and whisperings from the land’s rich past. But the country is not all about the past. And the beautiful city of Siem Reap proves that. Before you go you must know that Khmer is the official language of Cambodia. So learn a few basic words if possible which is always helpful. But I went here right after Laos so comparatively Cambodians are way better with English.
Currency : The currency in Cambodia is the Cambodian Riel. While changing your rupees, remember that 1 Cambodian riel equals to 0.017 Indian rupees. So you do the
math. This will be especially helpful for you in the old market or Psah Chas where you can buy souvenirs. However Dollars are accepted everywhere.
Visa : Cambodia offers visa on arrival for Indian passport holders which one can avail with a payment of 40 USD per person. The only mode of Payment is in USD and no cards or any other mode of payment is accepted. Once the traveller gets the visa then they can head to immigration for passage into the country.
PLACES TO VISIT IN SIEM REAP
Angkor Wat : Angkor Wat is undeniably the largest tourist attraction. Built during the Khmer dynasty in 12th century as a Hindu temple complex it later transformed into
Buddhist temple. The place seems magical with the ruins and the roots intertwined all around. This is also one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Ideally it takes at least two days to go around Angkor Wat. A guided tour is definitely recommended.
Ta Prohm : The main highlights after Angkor Wat temple are the tree-root clasped temple of Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm has an interesting history. When it was discovered after centuries it was decided to keep it as it is. Hence it merges with the jungle around it, and yet standing apart. And if you remember, this one we have all seen in the movie Tomb Raider.
Bayon Temple : The Khmer temple was built by Jayavarman VII and is located at the centre of Angkor Thom. There are 37 towers (many could not be preserved) with around 216 faces. These smiling, serene and enigmatic faces are quite fascinating.
Banteay srei : This is a 10th century temple devoted to the Hindu god Shiva. When translated the name means “citadel of women(or beauty)” due to its delicate architecture. The site consists of three concentric rectangular enclosures. On the enclosures you will observe scenes from Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Preah Khan : This is a temple in the Angkor Wat temple complex. But its more. It used to be a Buddhist university. However not much has been done to restore it from its ruins.
Ta som : Like Ta Prohm and Preah Khan this one is left to ruins and it is pretty evident from the vines and trees entwined around it. But it just adds to its essence.
Angkor Wat is not the only thing to see in Siem Reap.
Landmine museum : The landmine museum is located 25km north of Siem Reap. It will give a glimpse of the mass destruction landmines have caused across the country maiming and killing people. It is heartbreaking but is a must visit for every tourist.
Koh Ker : Koh Ker is located around 2.5 hours from Siem Reap. There are many temples here which are over 1,000 years old. It’s a massive archeological site located in the jungle. It houses the Prasat Thom, a 30 meter (98 ft) tall temple pyramid rising
high above the surrounding jungle. A giant Garuda (mythical half-man, half-bird
creature), carved into the stone blocks, still guard the very top, although its
partially covered now. Transport is not favourable though.
And if you want to take a break from all the temples, however magnificent they
are,and soak in the local culture go for Robam Tep Apsara. Robam Tep Apsara,
known as Apsara dancing to visitors, is a classic Cambodian dance form that was
once performed in the courts of the royal palace. Watch out for tourist traps but
this is something you must not miss. No they are not real celestial beings but the
experience is transcendental!
Best time to visit
Avoid the wet season. Spring time i.e., March to May in Cambodia is very
pleasant. Look out for the three day long New Year celebration in April. But of
course October to February is the peak tourist season. With the cool temperature,
the sun shining bright, it is an obvious favourite. Especially in October you might not want to miss the Pchum Behn, a Buddhist festival which continues for around 15 days. And in November there’s the Water Festival or Bon Om Touk is held in Phnom Penh.