Travelogue: Siem Reap

From the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, I traveled to Siem Reap, the tourist capital of all of Cambodia and home to Angkor Wat – which will get its own article later. The thing about Siem Reap is that it is totally a tourist town, built to accommodate the millions of people who fly into Cambodia just to see Angkor Wat – so there’s not much here aimed at backpackers, but a lot aimed at more mainstream tourists.  Still, if you get away from the touristy parts, it’s an okay city.
Siem Reap - riverside tranquility

Siem Reap is also a river town – there’s a very nice (small) river that flows right through town, creating some very nice views.
Siem Reap - river view 1 Siem Reap - river reflection

Sunsets over the river are quite picturesque.
Siem Reap - riverside sunset 1 Siem Reap - riverside sunset 2

Royal Residence Park: the royal residence is not open to tourists, and is quite unimpressive anyways (sour grapes?), but there’s a nearby park where I spent an enjoyable day just reading. I recently ‘discovered’ the Dune series, and wow. Couldn’t Frank Herbert have come up with a more interesting title? Anyways. It’s a very nice park, but a more accurate name for it would be scammer park. Because it’s overrun by scammers. Anybody who passes through the park gets approached by a Cambodian guy, claiming to be a teacher for a non-profit, asking for donations for students. It would be funny, except that there are at least 5 scammers in the park, all doing the exact same thing.
Siem Reap - royal residence park

There are also bats in the park! Lacking a proper cave, they just stick around the trees during the day, resting before they hunt in the night. When you look up, keep your mouth closed.
Siem Reap - bat park

A bit into the touristy area, you’ve got all the tourist-oriented old market, selling all sorts of tchotchkes
Siem Reap - city 2 Siem Reap - old market

There’s also a pub street, filled to the brim with pubs:
Siem Reap - pub street

The river around the art market is quite nice at night:
Siem Reap - art center bridge 1 Siem Reap - art center bridge 2

Most of the museums and attractions are a bit outside of Siem Reap city center, but you can easily rent a bike or travel by tuktuk:
Siem Reap - riding Tuktuk

War Memorial / Museum: it’s a heap of junk. More specifically, junk left over from the various wars in Cambodia, from the US attempt to shut down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to the genocide of the Khmer Rouge, to the civil war afterwards. From all these wars, you’ve got a lot of tanks and helicopters:
Siem Reap - war memorial tank Siem Reap - war memorial helicopter

Artillery and missile launchers:
Siem Reap - war memorial cannon Siem Reap - war memorial missile launcher

Rockets, land mines, and shells:
Siem Reap - war memorial rockets and land mines Siem Reap - war memorial shells

Guns and machine guns:
Siem Reap - war memorial guns 1 Siem Reap - war memorial machine guns

It’s quite a collection – though none of it is working order. By itself, this museum is actually somewhat boring. But it makes it for it by having a pretty cool guide, who told us of his life story – recruited as a child soldier for the Khmer Rouge, told his parents were killed by the CIA, being told to kill civilians. Defecting to Vietnam, being told to continue killing civilians. Stepping on a land mine and losing his leg, becoming angry at the government, working on writing a book.

It’s tragic stuff, I was definitely holding back tears at points. Granted, I was a bit apprehensive – I’m being told a story by a stranger, who has every incentive to exaggerate in hopes of getting sympathy cash from sympathetic foreigners. But still, touching. And if it’s true, incredibly scary.

Wat Preah Prom Rath: it’s a temple built on the philosophy of, “let’s jam everything we can into the grounds, without any thought for aesthetics”. It’s got a spire, it’s got a boat, it’s got horses, it’s got fancy buildings, it’s got statues. I don’t think it’s missing anything. Or it could fit anything else.

Senteurs D’Angkor: A company making scented stuff – candles, spices, that type of stuff – with a free tour of the workshop. I like their business model – the products they sell aren’t too different from the regular stuff available on the market, but by having a nice workshop showing off good working conditions to incoming tour groups, they can increase their prices by at least 100%.
Siem Reap - Senteurs d'Angkor workshop

They also show off the ingredients used in making Cambodian curry and amok (a Cambodian spice), which I found quite aromatic.
Siem Reap - Senteurs d'Angkor curry Siem Reap - Senteurs d'Angkor amok

Artisans D’Angkor: Similar to Senteurs D’Angkor, it’s a company that makes sculptures and other artistic products, moving upmarket by having a nice workshop giving free tours and showing how the products are made.  It’s got wood carving:

Siem Reap - Artisans d'Angkor wood carving 1 Siem Reap - Artisans d'Angkor wood carving 2

Stone carving:
Siem Reap - Artisans d'Angkor stone carvers at work Siem Reap - Artisans d'Angkor stone carver

Copper working:
Siem Reap - Artisans d'Angkor copper working

Silk painting:
Siem Reap - Artisans d'Angkor silk painting 1

Siem Reap - Artisans d'Angkor lacquered buddha

And huge rock carvings, replicates and restorations of the works at Angkor Archaeological Park:
Siem Reap - Artisans d'Angkor huge carving Siem Reap - Artisans d'Angkor sad Sayaka

Of course, all the stuff here at this workshop is at least twice the price of stuff at the old market, but it’s cool to see how it’s made – as well as the workers hard at work making trinkets for you to take home.
Siem Reap - Artisans d'Angkor carvings

Bayon Information Center: a bit out of the ways, it’s an information center for Ankor Archaeological Park – introducing the park, its history, and the archaeological process.
Siem Reap - Bayon Information Center

– I’ve got no idea what this is. It’s like an omelette with soybeans and minced pork, that you break off and eat with mixed greens? Quite delicious, and only 50 cents at a local market.
Siem Reap - local market Siem Reap - local market lunch

– Dessert!  Similar to stuff I might find in Taiwan, but only 25 cents.
Siem Reap - local market dessert Siem Reap - local market dessert dish

– Khmer curry! It tastes like a cross between Thai curry and Indian curry.
Siem Reap - Khmer curry

– Grilled banana rice. Odd, but quite good.
Siem Reap - banana in rice snack

Rice cooked in bamboo?
Siem Reap - rice in bamboo

Bits and Bobs:
– Fruit picking: use a long stick with a fork at the end, poke at the stem of the fruit, and twist until the fruit comes loose.
Siem Reap - riverside fruit picking

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *