I recently returned from my second trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. The first trip was with my family two years ago, and we met friends from Auckland, New Zealand in Siem Reap to spend a few days touring temples and seeing the sites. We explored Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Bayon, and Banteay Srei temples.
Angkor Wat, arguably the most famous ancient Cambodian temple, is a Unesco World Heritage Site and is sometimes included in lists of Ancient World Wonders. Seeing its vast grounds, moat, and towering structure in person is truly awe-inspiring. The architectural and artistic feat of building something so massive yet geometrically perfect to withstand hundreds of years is absolutely mind-boggling.
Ta Prohm temple is one of the Cambodia locations (along with Bayon temple and Angkor Thom) where Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was filmed. The majestic fig trees overtaking Ta Prohm look almost alien, but are sadly devouring and damaging the temple.
Bayon temple is recognizable for its giant faces carved throughout the temple grounds. While the carvings around Angkor Wat are devoted to the mythology of Khmer culture, the carvings throughout Bayon are devoted to Khmer history.
Banteay Srei temple was farther outside the city center of Siem Reap. We combined it with a very enjoyable tuk-tuk ride throughout the countryside, seeing rice fields and local Cambodia life. On the way, we visited the Banteay Srey Butterfly Center and the Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Center.
The kids had a fabulous time exploring temples with their Kiwi friends and swimming in the hotel pool at the end of each day. They also enjoyed the Phare Cambodian Circus, the pottery class through Khmer Ceramics Fine Arts Centre, and the Angkor Silk Farm Museum. The tourist center of Pub Street offers a variety of wonderful restaurants and spas. We loved Gelato Lab and Blue Pumpkin for a refreshing sweet treat, and we spent time shopping at the local boutiques and markets, including the Night Market and the Artisans Night Market.
Cambodia is an affordable destination with an intriguing history. The Khmer people have overcome such daunting obstacles being caught in the middle of multiple wars with landmines still littering the country killing dozens of people every month, yet their kindness and welcoming demeanor feels so genuinely heartfelt. Wandering among ancient temple ruins and learning about the history of the Cambodian culture was an inspiring experience I’ll carry with me forever.