Day 3 at Cambodia: Ancient Siem Reap!

(Here are the Day 1 and Day 2 at Cambodia. The story about Day 3 is longer than other stories that I have written so enjoy reading it 🙂 )


Siem Reap with me is a mystical city with many old buildings. And because they imported electricity from Thailand, many restaurants and cafes there cut the light and use candles at night. That makes the city more mystical and beautiful when the night. One interested thing, houses and buildings at city can’t be built over 5 floors following the rule because it’ll be higher than the temples.


And this is about my trip.

1. Phnom Bakheng

The ancient constructions and temples are located in Angkor area; and to enter the area, you have to buy a ticket which is like your ID to go all of those places. The price of tickets will be depended on how many day you want to go there. After breakfast, I visited the first place Phnom Bakheng. This temple’s located highly in a hill so it will take your time and energy to walk to. (It used to have elephants to take us there but now I don’t see one 😦 ).

Buddha Foot

They call it Buddha Foot, a foot shape that appeared very long time a go. Traditionally, the locals told that a Buddha has step on the ground and made this sign. They told me to grab cash in my hands and wish, then throw it to the sign and it will come true 😀

Phnom Bakheng is currently on maintenance so there are many spots that I can get to for taking picture 😦

2. Angkor Thom

The second construction I visit in the area is Angkor Thom, a unique place that famous with Bayon. But before getting to the temple, I have to switch to a smaller carrier because the gate is only fit with an elephant-size (the constructions were implemented with helping of elephants). Along the bridge, there are two sides of gods which represent the fight of good and bad in the past.

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This is the bad side. Faces on the statues are always expressed angry and scowling. There is a myth about the good and bad sides are always fighting for the control of the land. The fight had affected a lot to living creatures. Then the god have to create a final game to decide who will win so they can stop the fight and everything can live safely. That game was tug of war so you can so the statues are lined up.

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This is the good side. The statues are more white. But don’t be confused here. The most white heads are not the ancient made. A head is valued about $5m so many thieves tried to steal and sell it (and there were some that actually gone). Then they have to use newest technic from Germany and French to make the new heads. And the new painting technic will make the heads quickly go old if it keep exposing to sun, rain and wind. You can see in the picture some heads are going to be old.

Bayon is placed right at the central of Angkor Thom. The temple is very famous with 54 4-faces Buddha which add up to 216 smiling faces. Because all the 4 sides of Bayon are quite similar, you should take care and remember the way to enter and out.

3. Ta Phrom

The third place I visited in the area is Ta Phrom. This place is well-known with many large, old trees and also a place that used to be in film ‘Tomb Raider’.

You can easily find many images of this dancer around Angkor. It’s Apsara, a very beautiful spirit that represent for the Champa female. Furthermore, she is super in dancing. Many visitors touch the statue and wish to be more beautiful, that’s why you can see some statues at the temples are quite glossy.

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This is the tomb of a queen. But after Ta Phrom was opened for visitor, the body of the queen had been moved out. You can see many holes in the wall, it used to have a lot of jewels there. In a story, to express the love with the queen when she was dead; the king wanted to add gems (I hear those are Ruby and trust me, it has a lot of holes there so meaning it used to have a lot of gems, OMG :0) on the wall so when the sun rise, the sun light will be reflected among the gems then bright the whole tomb. Of course, when she was not there, all the gems were gotten out.

4. Tonlé Sap – the Great Lake

I’ve gone to Tonlé Sap after Ta Phrom, it’s a super big lake that you can’t see the lake shore and looked like a sea so many people call it the Great Lake. Actually, it wasn’t a destination in my tour; however, I have decided to go there after hear the story told by the tour guy.

It’s about the life of the locals at the lake in the past and current. ‘From 1975 to 1978, there was a war between Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Democratic Kampuchea; there were a lot of Vietnamese had been killed under the policy of Khmer Rouge. Many people have to run away and find a place to hide; and they have chosen the Great Lake. It’s not only because the lake is very big but also there are forests around so it’s hard to find them. Furthermore, from June, the water level in the lake increases significantly up to 9 meter so it’s ideal for fishes breeding. And of course it’s ideal for fishing. Time pass, those people are more familiar with this place and they cannot get used to the modern world outside; so they live there for generations based on catching fish then sell in the market. That means their lives are quite difficult‘. As a result, many tours when going to Siem Reap, the tour guys usually introduce this place and ask visitors if they want to go there and do charity. My tour guy also told me a story that one time he had met. ‘It was the time that he had taken a group to go there for charity. That group made a tank of mixed water and soap for kids to wash their hands after playing around and to eat. But then one kid was thirsty and drank that water because he thought it was find’. They are living poor that they don’t know many things. Here are some pictures I took at that lake:

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At the lake, they live in boat houses above the water or make some temporary house by some wood piles. They will move the houses based on the water level in the month.

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These are the kids living with their family in the lake. They always ask visitors if they have anything or money to give them. It’s what they do daily. I asked them to take some pictures, they had made ‘V’ with their fingers for style. When I gave some candies to the girl in red, she said “I had candies, can you give it to those boy? (she pointed to the boy in the right picture). Then I asked the boy to take him a picture, he said “I let you take my picture, do you have candies for me?”.

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This is a school at the lake. They teach the kids for free. They man in left is the teacher. They go there to teach the kids voluntarily with love.

5. Angkor Wat – the Capital Temple

After Tonlé Sap, my last destination is Angkor Wat. It’s the largest construction in the Angkor area. Angkor Wat was built by a Khmer King firstly for Hindu, but now it’s for Buddhism. In Khmer, Angkor Wat means ‘Capital Temple’ so it is chosen to be the symbol of Cambodia and appear in the flag of this country. Let’s see some pictures that I took

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The Angkor Wat from the view across a lake.

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It’s a building in the Angkor Wat area. Perhaps it was the library for the monks there. I didn’t remember it clearly.

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The war happened at Angkor Wat is told by a long picture sculpted in the wall. It shows a bad side army is attacking the temple and the monkeys are protecting it.

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A fortune teller in the temple. See the red wristbands on hands of some people? He will tie it on your wrist to bring you lucky. He also can tell your future by the book that the woman is holding (on the left, you see it?). The book has a stick and you will use that stick to stab on a page then he will tell your fortune.

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One of the pools inside the temple. They have totally 4 pools like this. And each one will be use differently by a level or a kind of position in the empire in the past.

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This mark represent the very center of the temple. You can find it in the center of the pools and near the fortune teller.

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The art of sculpture here at Angkor Wat. Again it’s the image of Apsara and if you notice on the column in the left, it shows her dance.

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A very old Pagoda in the area.

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Some image around Angkor Wat when sundown.

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Those are the monkeys outside the temple. Perhaps they are the descendants of the monkeys on the wall (remember?).

It’s about 21 kilometers for a round Angkor area (good for exercise ha?; if you like jogging, cycling or running ;)). So if you are tired of going around Angkor, you may want to have a foot or body massage. There are many massage shops in the night market at Siem Reap. Also there are many pubs and bars at the night market, even a pub road, if you want to leave the ancient environment behind and enjoy a modern world in Siem Reap.

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This article is now available online. Free download here to read offline and use it as a tour guide. Or upgrade with a small fee for a planned trip with destinations showed as written in the article.


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Khoi Nguyen
Khoi founded The Broad Life to save his memories of places that he has been visited. And he wants to share his memories with everyone to inspire people go exploring the world.

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