Secrets of Siem ReapDiscovery, Passion | 26 August 2016
Welcome to mystical Siem Reap. Growing as a must-see destination for adventurers over the past decade, visitors are drawn here by the hundreds of temples scattered amidst the dense Cambodian jungle. These ruins are testament to a civilisation with centuries of experience and knowledge, and exploring Siem Reap and its surrounds gives you a glimpse of the rich history of the region.
The most magnificent and revered of Angkor’s temples, the grandeur and design of Angkor Wat are truly a sight to behold. Thousands flock to see the towering monument each day from dawn, and for good reason - it’s the largest religious monument in the world, spanning the size of over 300 football fields. Within this expanse are intricate carvings, sprawling grounds and dizzying towers that date back around 900 years.
While this site is probably best known for featuring in the film ‘Tomb Raider’ starring Angelina Jolie, it’s set apart from Angkor’s other temples by its unique atmosphere. Left in almost the same state in which it was discovered, the ruins are intertwined with tree trunks and walls bursting with buttresses. Walking through Ta Prohm feels like you’re discovering it for the first time - buried deep in the jungle, shadows sprawling across your path, as you uncover a historical monument lost for centuries.
At the very heart of Angkor Thom, the formidable capital of King Jayavarman VII, lies Bayon. This temple is best known for its serene stone faces which tower over visitors and gaze watchfully in all directions. It also features an impressive gallery which documents the everyday life of Cambodians in the 12th century. Musicians, dancers, soldiers, fishermen and even acrobats can be found etched in the ancient ruins.
There’s much more to Siem Reap than its temples. Khmer food is plentiful and delicious, with similarities to both Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. Cambodian Kampot pepper is used in many dishes, in favour of chili. A coconut and galangal curry known as amok is very popular, and often served with fish. A traditional paste known as kroeung is made of blended herbs and spices, and used in many soups, marinades and stuffings. For the more adventurous, a number of menus also feature frogs and insects as delicacies.
Located between Pub Street and the Siem Reap River, the Old Market is a spot for both tourists to discover unique souvenirs, and for locals to pick up their fresh produce. Also known as Psah Chas, it’s such a hub for the town that many addresses use the market as a reference point. Amidst the labyrinth of stalls, you can find jewellery, carvings and fabrics, including krama, a traditional Cambodian scarf still worn today. In addition to the fresh fruit and vegetables, you’ll also find brightly coloured soups, different varieties of rice, dried fish and pork sausages for sale.