A To Z Guide To Angkor Wat & Siem Reap For The Indian Traveler
Angkor Wat, in the country of Cambodia is the focal element of the Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Site that houses the mesmerizing remains of the Khmer civilization. The largest religious monument in the world, Angkor was originally a Hindu temple worshiping Lord Vishnu during the Khmer Empire.
Who Built Angkor Wat
At the advent of 12th century, for King Suryavarman II had built the enormous temple complex as his state temple and capital city. With changing time, it transformed into a Buddhist temple by the end of 12th Century.
Facts About Angkor Wat
It is said that the sandstone blocks used to build Angkor Wat were excavated from the mountain of Phnom Kulen and sailed down the town of Siem Reap river on rafts. As the inscriptions suggest, the construction of Angkor Wat took almost around 300,000 workers and 6000 elephants as well. However, it remained incomplete even after all these endeavors.
Angkor Wat shows seamless marriage of two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple-mountain and the later galleried temple. The design of the main tower symbolizes to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology. The other four corner towers rises one after another on the top of rectangular gallery, daintily situated amid a moat, now dried up.
Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat, the one with significant religious practice till date, is oriented to the west. The temple’s architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs, and numerous devatas adorning its walls denote the grandeur and harmony to a higher level.
António da Madalena, a Portuguese monk and one of the first Western visitors to the area who visited Angkor in 1586 had documented his marvel as “Angkor is of such extraordinary construction that it is not possible to describe it with a pen, particularly since it is like no other building in the world. It has towers and decoration and all the refinements which the human genius can conceive of.”
Angkor Wat is the most important tourist attractions in Cambodia. The temple with its artistry, elegance and beauty had inspired awe in travelers mind from time immemorial. Many movies, documentaries and books have been well researched and written.
Angkor Wat, the ancient temple complex has sustained many turmoil of history. It has seen wars, it has been bruised by bullets and left lost in the mysterious jungle for long, forgotten by the civilized society. Until recently Angkor was rediscovered, the area surrounding was frequented by wild life, old deep rooted trees and several types of Fungi. In short it remains inhabitable till date.
Where To Stay In Siem Reap
To contain the huge influx of eager tourists and explorers, the nearby town of Siem Reap has transformed into a small resort town with all the modern amenities fit to serve the global wanderers.
Siem Reap is just 5.5 km away from the old temple complex, thus facilitating a short tuk-tuk ride from the town to the temple at any point of the day. For the quintessential beautiful sunrise view over the temple, you will find to dearth of means to commute even at the earliest of dawn. The small locality used to be a market place during Indo China era and retains the old charm with Khmer legacy effortlessly. At night, head to the Pub Street for good food and frothy beer for the tiring day needs a happy conclusion.
Meanwhile I present a curated list of best Siem Reap hotels. Have a look and choose one deeming fit to your budget.
Le Meridien Angkor
Address – Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Khum Svay Dang Kum, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Average price per night* on Agoda at Le Meridian Angkor – INR 9,010/-
Contemporary sleek design inspired by European style married to subtle Khmer intricacy, Le Meridian Siem Reap redefines luxury stay with lots of hints for comfort, earthy decor and essentially great food served in house. Indulge in great wine selection and freshly brewed coffee at the couple of restaurants, lobby lounge, a bar and Cambodian inspired swimming pool, which surely is a sight worth experiencing. For the healthy lot, there is a well adorned gym, equipped well to facilitate your work out regime. You may choose to relax at their spa as well, famous for usages of skilled masseurs and natural ingredients to rejuvenate your soul.
City River Hotel
Address – #0531 Achasva Street, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Average price per night* on Agoda at City River Hotel – INR 2,480/-
Sip on in house signature cocktail as you immerse yourself in the one of a kind rooftop swimming pool of the beautiful hotel City River Hotel Siem Reap by the banks of the river. Situated at a walking distance away from the popular Pub Street and Night Market, you may choose this place to live away from the hustles of busy town, in peace. The well furbished rooms let you take a glimpse of the city from your balcony. You may choose to pamper your soul with the traditional Khmer massage at the massage center after spending a long day at the wonderful trip to the temples. The hotel actively contributes towards social responsibility by helping orphans and families living in poverty.
Sofitel Siem Reap
Address – Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Khum Svay Dang Kum, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Average price per night* on Agoda at Sofitel Siem Reap – INR 12,670/-
Sofitel Siem Reap is a beautiful property situated amid tropical lush green garden. The suites here are epitome of luxury and French sophistication, decorated with refined taste. It is situated at a ten minutes drive to the ancient monuments. Opulence landscape, lavish pool, tastefully curated menu, range of beverages and impeccable service standards make the hotel attain new standard on a daily basis, making it a favorite among guests.
Park Hyatt Siem Reap
Address – Sivatha Blvd, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Average price per night* on Agoda at Park Hyatt in Siem Reap – INR 11,170/-
Situated at the heart of the town, Park Hyatt Siem Reap takes elegance and luxury to a new high with seamless mergers with comfort. You may choose to walk out of the property at any point of time to take a stroll at the Pub Street. Khmer-inspired contemporary art with a sophisticated residential feel have made up the intricate suites of the property. Take a retreat to their holistic spa treatments that is also inspired with Zen. Indulge in their signature grill gourmet selection to taste Cambodian delicacy as well as comfort of European food. For business meeting and events, this hotel should be on your priority choice list!
Frangipani Villa Hotel
Address – #0152, Group 03,Wat Bo Road,Wat Bo Village Salakormreuk Commune, Siem Reap, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Average price per night* on Agoda at Frangipani Villa Hotel – INR 2,370/-
Situated at a quiet neighborhood one block east of the river and 8 minutes walk from the popular Pub Street restaurant area, the hotel is an obvious choice for business travelers and tourists alike. Frangipani Villa Hotel Siem Reap attains the status of a boutique hotel in Siem Reap for the Cambodian culture inspired designs that adorn in house decors. You may choose to explore the town and surrounding early morning. The hotel will give you a bike at your expense. For any details or assistance, you can rely on the hospitable staff. Do not forget to indulge in their choice of breakfast buffet, one of the best in town!
Other Recommended Hotels in Siem Reap
1920 Hotel – Street 9, Mondul 1 Village – Old Market Area, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Palace Resort & Spa – #555, Phum Krous, Khum Svay Dangkum, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Hollywood Angkor Boutique Hotel – City Center, Achar Sva Street,, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Java Wooden Villa – Krous Village, Svay Dangkum, Siem Reap. Kingdom of Cambodia
Lucky Angkor Hotel & Spa – #113 Mondul 3 Treang Village Slorkrum, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Model Angkor Resort – Bakeng Road, Svay Dangkum Village, Cambodia
Rambutan Resort – Rambutan Ln, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Seasons d’Angkor Villa – Rose Apple Rd, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Shinta Mani Club & Shack – Oum Khun St/Shinta Mani St, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tresor d’Angkor Suites – Pactics Rd, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Where To Eat In Siem Reap
In my personal point of view, Siem Reap’s restaurants are best in the world when you compare the quality and the price. But on the other hand the restaurants serving Indian cuisine must be missed, barring Dakshin’s. Amok and other Khmer curry’s flavor are very similar to that of curries in India. Dishes that you should not miss include Fish Amok, Kuy Teav, Beef Lok Lak, Prahok Fish and Khmer Red Chicken Curry.
Recommended Restaurants In Siem Reap
Amok – Street 9, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Dakshin’s – #099, Mondol 1, 2 Thnou St, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Khmer Kitchen – Corner of 2 Thnou St & Street 09, Old Market, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Por Cuisine – #298, Sangkat Sala Kamroeuk, St. 22, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
How To Reach Siem Reap
To visit Angkor Wat, the wisest way is to stay put in Siem Reap for the nights and dedicate your days for exploring. However, you need to know the best option to travel to Siem Reap too.
The most practical way for the Indian tourist to go to Siem Reap is either from Ho Chi Minh City or Bangkok, as majority of the times the tour to Angkor Wat is taken as a side trip from Vietnam or Thailand.
Flying To Siem Reap By Air
Flying is the easiest and cheap transport option among South East Asian countries, including inter-country travels. They operate on time, are well connected and frequent major cities pretty often. For a weary traveler, they find the much needed respite and save huge travel time with excellent service offerings.
National carrier of Cambodia is Cambodia Angkor Air.
Phnom Penh – Siem Reap Flights
Phnom Penh is the capital city of Cambodia with a romantic appeal of the remaining of Indo China by the river Mekong. I strongly suggest few day’s layover and experience the Cambodian hospitality in Phnom Penh before heading for the astounding monuments of Angkor Wat. With a 40 minutes flight you will alight on the land of ancient wonders. JC International Airlines, Bassaka Air, Cambodia Angkor Air and Cambodia Bayon Airlines Limited are all at your service!
Bangkok – Siem Reap Flights
It is the fastest route and extremely pockets friendly. Perks of travelling from Bangkok is, you get to experience the maddening crowd and city life Bangkok has on offer as well! The flight time is not even one hour (55 min precisely for the fastest flight). Thai Smile, Bangkok Airways and Thai AirAsia are famous for their quick and efficient flight operation in the area. Flights can be boarded from either Don Muang Airport or Suvarnabhumi Airport in accordance with the airlines.
Ho Chi Minh City – Siem Reap Flights
Vietnam’s southern city Ho Chi Minh City (a.k.a HCMC or Saigon) and Angkor Wat together has been a popular tourist route. A huge number of tourists generally try to cover the area at one go and flying out of Saigon is the easiest option they have. Flight time is around 1 hour 15 minutes. Cambodia Angkor Air and Vietnam Airlines are at your service.
Going To Siem Reap By Bus
A bus journey is apt for travelers who wish to save a bit on the budget. Bus service is travelers’ friendly in the area and is operated frequently by multiple transport company. You may book them online with a little research or request the hotel to book it for you.
Phnom Penh – Siem Reap Bus
Phnom Penh being the capital has frequent bus service connecting to Siem Reap. The routes are in good condition. Service is pretty good with A/C and comfortable sitting arrangement. It takes around 6 to 7 hours between these two destinations. I recommend Giant Ibis Transport if your traveling between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
Bangkok – Siem Reap Bus
The direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap ideally takes between 8 and 11 hours, depending on how crowded it is at the border ( it is subject to pass the border check). Passengers can carry two bags each with a maximum weight of 20 kg each. Recommended bus company to/from Bangkok is Mekong Express.
Ho Chi Minh City – Siem Reap Bus
Please be advised there is no direct bus in the route. You will have to avail a seat using the transit ticket on the bus departing from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. Also, this comprises a tiring travel time of 12 hours or more. This is the cheapest option to travel to Siem Reap from Vietnam. Again, Mekong Express scores very high on this route.
Seats on the above routes can be booked on Book Me Bus.
How To Visit Angkor Wat From Siem Reap
Depending on your bargaining skills, a tuk-tuk ride from Siem Reap costs anywhere in the range of 15 to 20 USD and will take you to the temples at earliest of the day or any time you please. On your request, the hotel will arrange for all the necessary transport, but the prices are much higher.
A small circuit tour essentially comprises of a sunrise view of Angkor Wat followed by visit to other temples. The early morning voyage to the Angkor Wat is witnessed by many around the globe to the spectacular sunrise view. Angkor Thom, the “King’s City”, houses many prominent temples of importance. You will pay visit to them in the course of time as the day unfolds. Be prepared to walk long hours and explore many places.
Being the largest and grandest of all religious sites, Angkor houses multiple temple structures, the higher in importance the more attractive to the crowd. Following is an account of the most coveted tour of the area that will let to immerse in the marvel of ancient glory. You may treat this list as a ready reckoner of all the important temples you have to cover in the complex.
The Most Visited Temples In Angkor Region
Angkor Wat is an enormous three-tiered pyramid crowned by five towers in the shape of lotus. It rises 65 meters from ground level, representing Mount Meru in the Himalayas, the mythological abode of the Hindu gods. The walls are carved with narratives from days of yore, sometimes hard to hard out as time has gnawed hard on them. The central tower houses four Buddha images, each facing a different cardinal point
Bayon (late 12th century, majorly Buddhist motifs), is a fabulous temple with thirty-seven towers, with intricate details of four carved faces oriented toward the cardinal points.
Ta Prohm a.k.a Tomb Raider temple is over run by jungle and fig trees however has retained glory diligently. UNESCO inscribed Ta Prohm on the World Heritage List during early 90’s. Due to spectacular scenery around, it has been a favorite choice for movie makers, one of them being Tomb Raider.
Banteay Srei, a 10th century Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva is built of distinctive red stand stone. The name literally means Citadel of Women. They are illustrated with intricate wall decoration and also features an unusual miniature appearance unlike rest of Angkor temples.
Phnom Bakheng, constructed even before Angkor Wat, the monument temple actually represents Mount Meru. These days it is a popular tourist spot to watch the suset.
You are advised to dress conservatively. Shoulders and knees should be covered with clothes and sarongs or scarves are not acceptable as coverings. Restoration work is going on most of the relics. If history intrigues you, I strongly suggest read few of the best renderings in literature to get a complete understanding of the heritage monuments.
Cost Of Entrance To Angkor Area
To visit Angkor Wat and the other temples in Angkor, one needs to buy a pass which can be good for either 1, 3 or 7 days and costs USD 37, USD 62 and USD 72 respectively. The 1 day ticket is valid only on the date of purchase, the 3 day pass is valid on any 3 days within a 10 day period from the date of purchase and the 7 day pass is good for any 7 days for one calendar month from the date of purchase.
Other Things To Do In Siem Reap
If you thought Siem Reap, the quintessential Gateway to Angkor Wat, is all about exploring ancient temple complex, think again. For at the advent of nightlife, the city lit up with vibrancies.
Party At Pub Street
The Pub Street is the throbbing night life of Siem Reap. The small town lives up to much acclaimed sultry nights thanks to this long windy road. Famous for great street food and frothy beer, hear to the road after a tiring day after exploring the temple complex for a fulfilling experience. Recommended clubs include Temple Club and Angkor What bar, both are opposite to each other.
Learn To Cook Khmer
Imagine a soup that has the treasures of Mekong shrimps, fishes of Tonle Sap and local producers of coconut and fresh vegetable! Amok, yes. This is the famous Khmer dish. If you are done eating it again & again and want to learn the trick to cook this up back home for that dinner party, tag with the cooking class. They provide for the best learning experience starting from an early morning walk to the market to gather fresh vegetables and bring back the choicest of fish. Further, they will teach you the secrets of blending and using spices to taste and conjure up Khmer delicacy to perfection.
Recommended Cooking Classes In Siem Reap
Le Tigre de Papier – Street 08, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Countryside Cooking Class – Taphul Road, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Phare, The Cambodian Circus
Address – Phare Circus Ring Road, South of intersection with Sok San Road, Siem Reap, Cambodia
It is named as circus but actually the show is all about performing arts with excellent manoeuvres of theater, music, dance and modern circus arts. The circus tells about indigenous culture with details of history. It is quite an enriching visual experience. You may want to pre-book the tickets for a hassle free sitting experience. My tip will be to secure a seat at the front row. You get an exclusive gift along with that as well.
Apsara Dance With Contemporary Khmer Food
An exotic experience of Cambodian culture with swaying Apsara dance and sumptuous dinner spread awaits you at Por cuisine. In short it is a heady cocktail of swaying dance by Apsaras, the celestial maidens amid fresh air and manicured garden followed by a lavish dinner, featuring the best of French era as well as authentic Cambodian food. It is indeed a sensory experience worth a night’s time.
Other Recommended Things To Do In Siem Reap
Vespa Adventures – P64 Borey Prem Prey, 17253, Siem Reap 17253, Cambodia
Quad Adventure Cambodia – Country Rd Laurent, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Rosana Broadway – NR6, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
These just accounted for few of the enthralling experience at Siem Reap beyond the Angkor Wat. Look out for more and do not for to share your own experience.
If you have any questions regarding visiting Angkor Wat or Siem Reap, or have any more suggestions, let me know in the comments section below.
*Average price per night was calculated by taking the average of prices on 24 August 2017(next day), 24 September 2017(after 1 month) & 24 October 2017(after 2 months) and includes taxes. The room selected was the most basic room at the property and has a maximum occupancy of 2 adults.
**I recommend you to always book your hotels, resorts and stays either on Agoda or Booking.com. Why only Agoda or Booking.com?