This temple complex is huge, with the entire grounds being about 500 acres (208 hectares). We only had a day here, and I honestly wish we had more time in Siem Reap in general, but especially wandering the grounds of the Angkor Complex – but I’m really into that sort of thing.
Angkor Wat is the main temple in this complex. We arrived at 4:30 am to watch the famous Angkor Wat sunrise (not my favorite sunrise ever, but still a cool experience, if you’re into sitting in giant crowds at 4:30am that is. I can’t even begin to explain this World Heritage temple expanse, so check out the link above instead. Also, depending on what time of year you go, you are totally exposed most of the time. We were there at the end of December and it was sunny and hot. Wear light clothing and don’t forget your sunscreen!
If you want a front row seat for photography, you might have to get there early. Even though we waiting about 2 hours for the sunrise, we were hard pressed to get a spot I could set my tri-pod up. And, a woman behind us set her chair a little to close to the bank of the reflecting pond and…wait for it…fell in! It was really shallow there, so no harm done besides being really wet.
Angkor Thom is the fortified cities located within the same complex. It was the last capital of the Khmer Empire. We did not get a chance to wander this entire ancient city, but were able to visit Prasat Bayon (Bayon Temple) an amazing temple area with 54 towers and covered by 2000 carved faces.
If you’ve seen pictures of the complex covered in massive tree roots – this is the place. The jungle has slowly taken over Ta Prohm, and archeologists have left it largely untouched except to carve a path out for tourists. Unfortunately, the trees are also slowly destroying the temple.
As you can see from the map – we only saw a tiny section of the entire complex. I could easily have spent a few more days slowly wandering (one of the downsides to a tour group).
Phare, The Cambodian Circus (plus dinner with the show)
See link for location
You can see the circus without dinner, but the whole experience was wonderful! Guess what? The artists are graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak, an NGO school and professional arts center in Battambang, Cambodia. The circus was something like a smaller, simpler version of Cirque Du Soleil, but with no less talent. The kids who learn at this school are welcomed regardless of social class, race, political orientation, nationality or sexual orientation. Most come from disadvantage backgrounds involving poverty, neglect, violence or trafficking.
The show we attended included dinner beforehand, to read more about my gluten free meal, read this post on Being Gluten Free In...Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Cambodia Quad Bike
#0057, Group 02, Phum Salakomreuk, Sangkat Salakomreuk, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Most of our group did the Sunset Quad tour, a 1 hour quad bike (4 wheeler in the US). We toured down some back country roads and into areas of farmers with water buffalos, cows and rice fields. Be prepared to get dusty and dirty (they do provide helmets and face masks), and to see some beautiful sites. This was a very professional group and I felt safe the entire time. I highly recommend one of their tours!
Been there, done that. Meh. I’m not so much of a late night drinker on a party street type person. If you are, go to Pub Street.
This was worth it. Like…110% worth it. Have you ever seen the Youtube Video, What Does the Fox Say? Ok, go watch it. My husband and I were a little obsessed with this song before going on this trip.
Did you watch it? No, seriously, go watch it. Now imagine it being reenacted by ladyboys dressed in beautiful evening gowns. I mean, that’s probably not an every night event.
But, if you do intend to see a show though, I also really recommend looking into the history of ladyboys, who often see themselves as a third gender and are is a transgender woman or an effeminate gay male. There is a rich history of how this third gender became known for cabaret style shows and sex work and I personally think people should be aware of.
Wander Around the City
This is an amazingly beautiful city that you should take some time to wander. I would go back in a heart beat! Honestly, one of my biggest regrets of the trip was not being able to just wander around more.
We also didn’t get to really visit the night market. I think we were feeling like we might miss out with our group on Pub Street. Poor decision. I wish we had gone to the night market instead!
Eat a Tarantula
Or not. I didn’t. But people do it. Local people, tourist people, apparently all the people but me. It’s supposed to be a bit like…chicken? But kind of like eating crab? But you eat the whole hairy thing.
One article I read explained: “Where some of the world's delicacies, like caviar or truffles, are almost exclusively the food of the rich and powerful, tarantulas entered the Cambodian diet out of necessity.
Yin explains that poverty and hunger became so dire during the bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge, the radical communist movement that ruled Cambodia in the 1970s, that people ate any living creature they could catch.
Some of these creatures actually tasted good -- like tarantulas, scorpions, silkworms and grasshoppers -- so they remained part of Cambodian diets after the famine ended.“
Tonle Sap Boat Tour
An option we decided to skip, but something to keep in mind if you really like boat tours!
If you want more info on what we ate in Siem Reap, check out THIS post. For general guidelines to eating gluten free in Cambodia, check out THIS one!