A couple of years ago, I was given the chance to travel to the Kingdom of Cambodia. To be more specific, Siem Reap, the second most visited city in Cambodia. It has been quite a long time since my last travel to Cambodia, so the idea may be quite vivid but I will surely remember the parts that struck me the most.
It is without doubt that I had a humble experience during my stay. If it were not for Profil Holidays, I would have probably not enjoyed my trip as much. The travel agency handled every documentation process efficiently and provided a local guide – who spoke fluent English – in the city to help me get around and warn me with all the common scams that occurs to tourist. Big thank you, Profil Holidays, for this wonderful travel experience and thank you for letting me share my journey with others.
For those who are not aware of the pronunciation of the city, it is pronounced as “SIM RIP” – which I proudly learned from my local guide during my stay there.
Upon checking-in at athe Sokha Angkor Resort, I was directed to take a photo and encouraged to smile (I am not 100% certain as to why they encouraged me to do so, but I would say maybe it is a way for the visitors to look more pleasant to be in the city) – unless you are a national citizen, then you must possess an entrance pass.
I was then told that this process was mandatory for all foreign nationals who plan on visiting Angkor Wat and other significant monuments in Siem Reap. The photo taken will be used as a “passport” or “ID” during your stay in the city. You will need to present it upon entering the monuments. So, if you want to enjoy the magnificent sights of Cambodia, why not look decent enough on the ID, right? – just make sure you do not lose your “ID” because you will be given a severe penalty fee ranging from USD 100 to USD 300, I know pretty crazy !
CITY OF TEMPLES
The best way to explore the religious architecture of the city of Siemp Reap is walking through the famous complex of Angkor Wat.
Here, you will be greeted by many different aspects that will make you feel like you left the busy city. Enjoy the sights of ancient stones, massive trees and roots in every corner; some of these trees have overgrown, causing their roots to be seen above the ground – yes, the roots are that huge. As you walk further, you will notice a section of simply walls, I’d call it the walled city because in this part of the complex, you will not be able to witness many ruins but rather, a couple of monuments and hundreds of smiling faces carved on the walls and stones of the temples.
The temples of Angkor Wat will surely bring an ambiance that will make you realize that the ancient history and culture of Cambodia is truly engraved within its city.
Find yourself staring at the famous Wat Thmey, known as the Killing fields. It is a glass case filled with skulls and bones.
You will feel the pain of the people when you make your way towards the Wat Thmey. Here, you will learn everything about the city during the reign of Khmer Rouge, considered to be a horrific period for the people.
When I learned about the past and why I was looking at the glass case filled with skulls and boned, the beat of my heart swayed so intensely. I could not convey my thoughts whilst my guide touched the dark depth history of Cambodia. Seeing the victims of genocide ultimately changes my outlook and perspective of this tour.
I did not expect to encounter a dark past of the Cambodian during my trip here. At this moment, I admitted to myself that I was caught off guard and this may have been the most difficult and depressing day of my entire trip. Up until now, just by reminiscing the loss and hope of this horrific site brings back the feeling that I first felt upon hearing the history during my trip.
Tonle Sap Lake Floating Villages
Despite their difficult history, Cambodians are resilient, positive and accommodating. I remember the first time that I visited one of the famous Floating Villages of Siem Reap. I was in awe with what I was seeing.
As far as I remember, the guide told me that this area is home for the Ethnic Vietnamese individuals, which majority of them are stateless. This means that they do not have any nationality – they are not citizens of Cambodia nor of Vietnam. In short terms, they have no place to call their home.
Making the Floating Village a temporary home. During that time, their main source was fishing – although, given that the world is slowly progressing, this may have changed. So, I guess it is your turn to discover something new!
To explore Tonle Sap Lake Floating Villages one must ride the boat to see and appreciate the floating houses! Oh, another aspect to take note of during this trip is that some children or adults will or might begin to shove some water snakes on you. So, if you are afraid or have any fears of reptiles, then I highly suggest you do not take this tour excursion!
Along the way the boat stopped at a local store for some souvenir shopping, I remember hearing recommendations from the by-standers about watching the “King Cobra” live show or going to the crocodile farms. Since I’m not a fan of both activities, I didn’t go. But do take the opportunity to try it out if you are a big fan of it
I’ll be honest, you may find the Tonle Sap Lake Floating Village tour appealing and enjoyable, or maybe it will not reach your expectation. Yet, in my opinion, it is still worth the try regardless of what you think!
Amazon Angkor Restaurant
Another way to encounter the local culture of Cambodia is witnessing the Traditional Dancing.
I was able to witness the traditional dancing of Cambodia when I found myself devouring delicious local dishes at a restaurant located in the heart of Siem Reap. – I regret not being able to remember the name of the restaurant, but if I was able to intrigue you, then make sure to ask your local guide or some locals for the restaurant in the heart of the city showcasing the traditional dance! As for the food, enjoy delicious Khmer local cuisines as well as International dishes coming from Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, European and Western dishes.
Personally, this is a must visit. Being able to witness the traditional dance made my heart flutter because of how the dancers truly put their emotions and effort in their every movement. I could feel that they were proud to be Cambodians and even more proud to be able to perform in front of various foreign nationals.