Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
The main purpose of visiting Siem Reap is to see Angkor - the famous complex of temples built by the Khmer kings more then a thousand years ago. It is recommended to do some reading up before the visit, as the temple complex is huge, and it is easy to get lost. However, I decided to leave my experience as raw as possible, so kept the readings to the minimal.
Seeing the temples for the first time is really overwhelming. The scale and sheer size of the structures is awe-inspiring. Just try to imagine how these structures were built without machinery, the will power and determination it must have taken. The complexity of the planning and design is really intriguing. The beauty and artistry of the carvings leaves one speechless.
There's plenty of material on the Web on Angkor, and countless books on the subject. I will just post some of my favourite pictures here.
Angkor Wat is one of the grandest of the Khmer temples. There are lots of visitors any time of the day, so it is difficult to get a quiet moment to slowly enjoy the visit. To really appreciate it, you need to spend days. During my short visit, the storm clouds were gathering so it was a bit of a rush. Really need to go back one day.
As I was leaving Angkor Wat, I came across this monk who was on his way to the temple. Angkor Wat is still used as an actual place for worship.
The sculptures and carvings at Angkor are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The carved wall murals depict everyday life as well as epic events and wars during the kingdom's life time. To me these are the real treasures of Angkor, but sadly due to the sheer number of visitors they are slowly deteriorating.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Angkor What ? has a frat house vibe, and attract mostly the younger crowd - most likely frat boys and girls on their break from Uni - intent on having fun. In keeping with the communal spirit, you can order the beer served in a spitoon. Everyone drinks from the same spitoon with straws.
One great thing about Siem Reap is that most of the night spots are concentrated in one place - the Pub Street. Here you will find all kinds of pubs, cafes and restaurants serving Western fare like steaks and hamburgers to local Khmer food. Khmer hot pot seems to be very popular with the tourists. The twist is that besides the usual stuff, they serve exotic meat such as snake, crocodile, ostrich, etc.
The Red Piano is a very popular cafe pub - Angelina Joli used to hang out here when she was filming Tomb Raider.
We met 4 fellow Malaysians on the trip. 4 lovely girls from Kuala Lumpur. 2 of them are actually from Sarawak. It's a small World ! From left - Connie, YC, Nicole and Tiffany. I know they've been waiting for this post, so here goes !
The World Lounge is their favourite haunt on Pub Street. It's a nice and cosy cafe pub, great for lounging around, watching the World go by. The beer is really cheap - only US 75 cents per mug.
One of the many Khemer Restaurants in Pub Street.
In Siem Reap, this is most obvious in the French Quarters, where the old shophouses with French Colonial design are very well preserved. This area has become more of a tourist trap, with lots of pubs, lodges, cafes, etc.
The Siem Reap Old Market is also located here. It is a huge complex selling everything from souvenirs, t-shirts, and the usual tourist paraphenalia - to everyday items like pots and pans, household essentials, etc. Even monks shop at this market, as you will see. There is also a wet market right in the middle of the complex. It is rather dirty and smelly, so only recommended for a quick visit.