DestinationsAsiaDay 3 at Cambodia: The Ancient Siem Reap!
Day 3 at Cambodia: The Ancient Siem Reap!

Day 3 at Cambodia: The Ancient Siem Reap!

Siem Reap with me is a mystical city with many old buildings. Because they import electricity from Thailand, many restaurants and cafes there cut the light and use candles at night instead to save cost. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things to do in Siem Reap at night. Moreover, it makes the city more mystical and beautiful when night comes.

Another interesting thing is, that houses and buildings in the city can’t be built over 5 floors following the rule because it’ll be higher than the temples.

And this is the list of places to visit in Siem Reap on my third day.

1. Phnom Bakheng

The ancient constructions and temples are located in the Angkor area. To get in, you have to buy a ticket which is like your ID to go to all of those places. The ticket price will depend on how many days you want to go there. After breakfast, I visited the first place Phnom Bakheng. This temple’s located high on 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 at the Ancient Siem Reap
They call it Buddha Foot, a foot shape that appeared a very long time ago. Traditionally, the locals said that a Buddha had stepped 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 pictures.

2. Angkor Thom

The second construction I visited in the area is Angkor Thom, a unique place famous for Bayon. Before getting to the temple, I had to switch to a smaller carrier because the gate only fit an elephant size. In fact, the constructions were implemented with the help of elephants. Along the bridge, there are two sides of gods which represent the fight between good and bad in the past.

This is the bad side. Faces on the statues are always expressed as angry and scowling. There is a myth about the good and bad sides always fighting for control of the land. The fight affected a lot of living creatures. Then god has to create a final game to decide who will win so they can stop the fight and everything can live safely. That game was a tug of war so you can so the statues are lined up.
This is the good side. The statues are more white. But don’t be confused here. Most whiteheads are not anciently made. A head is valued at about $5m so many thieves tried to steal and sell it (and there were some that actually went). Then they have to use the newest techniques from Germany and France to make the new heads. And the new painting technique will make the heads quickly go old if it keeps exposed to sun, rain, and wind. You can see in the picture some heads are going to be old.

Bayon is placed right at the center of Angkor Thom. The temple is very famous with 54 4-faces Buddha which adds up to 216 smiling faces. Because all 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, Siem Reap. This place is well-known with many large, old trees and also a place that used to be in the film ‘Tomb Raider’.

You can easily find many images of this dancer around Angkor of Siem Reap. It’s Apsara, a wonderful spirit that represents the Champa female. Furthermore, she is super at 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. Yes, they are touched too much.

tomb of a queen in TaPhrom, SiemReap, Cambodia

This is the tomb of a queen. But after Ta Phrom was opened for visitors, 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 the story, to express the love for the queen when she was dead, the king wanted to add gems on the wall so when the sunrise, the sunlight would be reflected among the gems then brighten the whole tomb. Of course, when she was not there, all the gems were gotten out.

I hear those are Ruby and trust me, it has a lot of holes there meaning it used to have a lot of gems, OMG!

4. Tonlé Sap – the Great Lake of Siem Reap

I’ve gone to Tonlé Sap after Ta Phrom. It’s a super big lake that you can’t see the lakeshore and looks like a sea so many people call it the Great Lake. At first, it wasn’t a destination on my tour. However, I decided to go there after hearing the story told by the tour guide.

The Story of the Great Lake

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. A lot of Vietnamese people had been killed under the policy of Khmer Rouge. Many people had to run away and find a place to hide and they have chosen the Great Lake. It was not only because the lake is very large but also there are forests around so it would be 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. As a result, it’s ideal for fishing. Time pass, those people became more familiar with the lake, and they cannot get used to the modern world outside. Hence, they live there for generations, depend on catching fish, then sell in the market. That means their lives are quite difficult‘.

Humans of Tonlé Sap

As a result, on many tours when going to Siem Reap, the tour guide usually introduces this place and asks visitors if they want to go there and do charity. My tour guide 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 fine’. 

They are living so poor that they don’t know anything. Here are some pictures I took at that lake:

Tonlé Sap, Siem Reap
Houses at Tonlé Sap, Siem Reap

At the lake, they live in boat houses above the water or make some temporary houses by woodpiles. People will move houses based on the water level during the month.

A kid at Tonle Sap
The boy living at Tonle Sap, Siem Reap

These are the kids living on the lake. They always ask visitors for money or anything they can have. Actually, it’s what they do daily. I asked them to take some pictures, they had made a ‘V’ with their fingers for style. When I gave some candies to the girl in red, she said “I had candies, can you give them to that 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?”.

A charity school at the Great Lake, Siem Reap
A charity school at the Great Lake. The man on the left side is a teacher, he works voluntarily here to help the kids.

5. Angkor Wat – the Capital Temple

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

After visiting Tonlé Sap, my last destination is Angkor Wat. It’s the most significant construction in the Angkor area. Angkor Wat was built by a Khmer King firstly for the Hindu religion, but now it’s for Buddhism. In Khmer, Angkor Wat means ‘Capital Temple’. Therefore, it is chosen to be the symbol of Cambodia and appeared on the flag of this country.

Getting Around Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat across the lake in Siem Reap
The Angkor Wat from the view across a lake.
AngkorWat building, SiemReap, Cambodia
It’s a building in the Angkor Wat area. Perhaps it was the library for the monks there. I didn’t remember it clearly.
A picture tells the war happened at Angkor Wat
The war that happened at Angkor Wat is told by a long picture sculpted on the wall. It shows a bad side army is attacking the temple and the monkeys are protecting it.
One of the 4 pools in Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
One of the pools inside the temple. They have a total of 4 pools like this. And each one will be used differently by a level or a kind of position in the empire in the past.
A fortune teller in Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
A fortune teller in the temple. He will tie a red wristband on your wrist to bring you luck. 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.
The very center of Angkor Wat
This mark represents the very center of the temple. You can find it in the center of the pools and near the fortune teller.
Image of Apsara in Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
The art of sculpture here at Angkor Wat. Again it’s the image of Apsara and if you notice the column on the left, it shows her dance.
An old pagoda at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
A very old Pagoda in the area.

And here is some image around Angkor Wat when sundown.

Sunset at Angkor Wat
Sunset at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Sundown at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
The monkeys live around the Angkor Wat temple, Siem Reap
Those are the monkeys outside the temple. Perhaps they are the descendants of the monkeys on the wall (remember?).

Enjoy Your Trip to Siem Reap

It’s approximately 21 kilometers around the Angkor area. Therefore, if you are tired of going around Angkor, you may want to have a foot or body massage. Indeed, it is not hard to find massage stores in the night market at Siem Reap. Furthermore, 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 the modern world in Siem Reap.

The ancient Siem Reap has ended my 3-day trip to the land of Cambodia. Otherwise, don’t forget to check out my first day and second day of this trip to Cambodia!

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The Ancient Siem Reap - The Broad Life

Khoi Nguyen builds The Broad Life with a desire to inspire people go exploring the world and live a more interesting, experience, and adventurous life. This blog shares the stories, pictures, and experiences at destinations where he has traveled to.


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