By Christopher Feddersen
Siem Reap
Cambodia
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Siem Reap, Cambodia is the home of Angkor Wat and the Angkor temple complex, perhaps mankind’s greatest and most awe-inspiring temples. Rising up between rice fields and amidst jungles, these emblems of Cambodia’s rich and glorious history could take weeks or months to experience fully. Located in northwestern Cambodia, this charming and rapidly growing city also offers visitors a look at modern Cambodian life as Siem Reap has become a bustling transportation hub for the country.

Plan your visit to Siem Reap, Cambodia with EscapeWizard.com. Find flights to Siem Reap International Airport (REP) at (www.escapewizard.com/flight.php). EscapeWizard.com can also help you reserve your accommodations in Siem Reap at (www.escapewizard.com/hotels.php?flag=htl).

Visiting the Angkor ruins is the primary focus of any first time visitor’s trip to Siem Reap. The complex is a sprawling area of dozens of temples that requires transportation to reach and to explore. Most visitors find it easiest to hire a local tuk tuk driver for the day, which combined with entrance fees are a bargain compared to other UNESCO World Heritage sites. Plan on a full day for the visit and be prepared to return to your hotel to rest and relax at midday when the sun and humidity can be brutally hot and the light for photos is equally harsh. In one day, you will only be able to see a portion of the temple complex so consider taking multiple days to see the temples that you’re most interested in.

The Angkor temples were built over hundreds of years beginning in the 9th century spanning the height of the Khmer Empire which encompassed not only present day Cambodia but also parts of Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. It was the political capital of this Hindu kingdom but also served as its spiritual center. The complex is as much a city as it is a collection of temples. Canals and reservoirs constructed in and around the temples operate today just as they did a thousand years ago. The architecture, for all of the influences it absorbed from its neighbors, is unique to the Khmer civilization and in no more obvious way than in the gargantuan scale of the buildings here. 

Visitors are struck by the fact that the temples continue to be in operation and are visited by monks and pilgrims daily. This also means that visitors can enter and scale the temples provided they are doing so with proper care and respect. Given the size of these temples, most visitors come away from Siem Reap prizing the time that they spent navigating steep staircases or narrow passageways deep in the Angkor temples. Temples that are considered a ‘must see’ include Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple, Banteay Sri, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei and the Elephant Terrace.

Activities in Siem Reap that are popular in tandem with visiting the Angkor complex are balloon rides over Angkor Wat, elephant rides among the temples and taking advantage of the many spas that have cropped up to cater to dusty-footed tourists.

The Cambodia Landmine Museum in Siem Reap is interesting not only as a ghastly reminder of the extreme weaponry of the Khmer Rouge era, but of the story of the museum’s founding. The museum was begun by a former child soldier pressed into war by the Khmer Rouge who later became a de-miner for the UN and continued to remove mines on his own. It was only in 2007 that the museum has been given a proper building to house its chilling artifacts in.

Another peculiar characteristic of tourism in Cambodia has become visits to military shooting ranges. This activity comes with plenty of risk, but for gung-ho Rambo-type tourists it can prove irresistible to fire off an AK-47 or lob a live grenade. Ranges can be found around Siem Reap. Caution and safety are up to you and this is absolutely not for children.

Angkor National Museum, which holds the best collection of artifacts outside of the Angor Wat complex, are on display at the Angkor National Museum. The museum offers tourists video displays, narrations and detailed descriptions that should answer some of the questions you had exploring the complex on foot.

Kampong Phluk and Tonle Sap Lake are a short drive from Siem Reap city center. The community of Kampong Phluk is a stilted fishing village which captures the lifestyle of thousands of Cambodians who rely on the wondrous body of water, Tonle Sap. During the rainy season, Tonle Sap Lake swallows much of the country of Cambodia and teems with the Mekong’s most bizarre creatures including enormous fresh water stingrays and thousand-pound carp.

Wat Thmei is a dignified memorial to the victims of the Khmer Rouge. The Wat includes glass cases holding the remains of thousands of victims of the killing fields in the Siem Reap area, but the main feature of the Wat is its monks’ devotion to care for orphans.

Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary is visited by endangered birds from all around Asia. It is nestled on the shores of Tonle Sap Lake. Live a birders dream seeing more birds in a glance than you would see in a year at home. Exotic plants, other animals and the beautiful lake are also wonderful. A boat ride is part of the trip to the sanctuary which can usually be arranged through your hotel.

Visiting Siem Reap will impress you not only for the unforgettable experience of walking within its temples but also for witnessing Cambodia’s rebirth as a nation with energy and vitality and a warm friendliness toward visitors. To plan your visit to Siem Reap, Cambodia click the EscapeWizard.com links above.
Hotels in Siem Reap
By Dawn Isbell Wilson
Le Meridien Angkor
Vithei Charles de Gaulle, Khum Svay Dang Kum, Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Just 15 minutes from Siem Reap Airport, Le Meridien Angkor is a stunning example of modern luxuries amid ancient architectural marvels. While staying at the hotel, you will be in close proximity to the much celebrated Temples of Angkor Wat and flourishing jungles of unsurpassed beauty.  Check in time is 2 p.m. which allows you plenty of time to drop off your luggage and do some shopping or explore the capital city where colonial and Chinese-style architecture harmoniously co-exist.

When selecting your room, you will have the option of one king or two twin beds. All of the rooms provide modern conveniences, delightfully designed with and neutral colors splashed with jewel tones. Among the standard offerings you will find an in-room electronic safe, tea and coffee maker with refreshments, comfortable sofa and bathrobe and slippers. Smoke free rooms are available upon request and check out is 12 Noon.

The hotel is reminiscent of a temple; from the gorgeous, outdoor reflecting pond bordered by palm trees and lush, green plants to the shimmering swimming pool built with an eye for detail and reverence to the surrounding temple city. Stay on top of your work-out schedule while on vacation at Le Meridien Angkor’s fitness center. You will find up to date training equipment for both strength and cardio-vascular fitness; everything you could want in a hotel gym and more. The spa offers treatments and spa packages to ensure your stay at Le Meridien Angkor will be both invigorating and relaxing.

Should you be able to tear yourself away from the pool to visit the markets and temples, you will find a welcoming staff and a wide variety of dining choices when you return. Le Meridien Angkor boasts local, healthy ingredients in all of its meals. Whether you want lunch by the pool, afternoon tea, cocktails at the Naga Bar, room service or something more formal, you will never be disappointed for this hotel has it all and more.

So experience the allure of the jungle, ancient architecture and the fabulous hotel accommodations in one fantastic vacation. Let EscapeWizard.com help make your reservations today at Le Meridien Angkor by clicking the link (www.escapewizard.com/hotels.php?flag=htl).