Explore Cambodia – Part 1 – Siem Reap – Top 5 Must Visits

Are you considering exploring South East Asia?

If Cambodia and the largest temple complex on the planet are filling you with dreams of wunderlust, mystery and exploration then I heartily encourage you to come and visit . . .

My Top 5 Must Sees

1. The Temples

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Whether you take a small tour including Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm or get on the road to discover the pink stoned citadel of women, Bantea Srey (be sure to check out the Bantea Srey Butterfly Conservation Centre on the way Number 4 on this list!), Kbal Spean Waterfall or beautiful Beng Melea with it’s Ta Prohn like towering trees there is a truly a temple to tempt everyone.

Tips –

  • Dress conservatively, I cover shoulders and upper legs, a scarf is helpful to carry. By dressing this way I get far better access to some of the most beautiful areas of the temples and working wats.
  • Take the ‘short tour’ if you find the heat hard to bare.
  • Do ask your tuk tuk driver for advice if you would like to avoid the crowds caused by coach\bus tours.
  • Do explore around Angkor Wat ‘island’ beyong the actual stone complex, it’s beautiful and shady, quiet corners can be found for respite and contemplation.
  • The path less travelled leads to some of the most memorable travel encounters, photography and away from the crowds!

2. Phnom Kulen

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The ‘mountain’ where the stones of Angkor were sourced. The locals believe Phnom Kulen to be a very sacred site and it is said everything you think or say will become true when there.

Not only does Kulen have temples and ruins there is a waterfall where you can bathe, a hidden magic mineral pool and if you get yourself up to the huge rocks beyond the sleeping golden buddha there you will find, if you are lucky, the tattoed monk of Phnom Kulen who lives in a cave in the rock. Ask very nicely and he, or one of his helpers (men in white shirts and black trousers) can arrange a personal blessing. You can even have a true linga / yoni blessing up there, find the mermaid and you should be able to see the linga / yoni blessing stone. It’s quite big …. !

Tips –

  • Do explore but do stay with your guide or to clear worn paths, the mountain is not fully de-mined. Ok? OK!
  • Don’t miss the big waterfall! Find the small one, turn around, take the path through the woods to your left. If you dont like heights or very steep stairs let the others go, go get a drink and watch the locals at the side of the river and do some paddling in the dappled light of a tree. Ahhhh, lovely.
  • Phnom Kulen can become inaccessible in Monsoon season.

3. Water Villages

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I suggest both Kompong Phluk, a good tuk tuk journey or the further Kompong Khleang. Now there is some controversy over Kompong Phluk and to avoid any issues I do recommend researching your tour to compare costs. For me it is my favourite water village for many reasons, it is amazing photographically in high or low water. In dry season the boats cannot go so far but you get the opportunity to walk the ‘high street’ which in rainy season is the lake.

For a street and portrait photographer dry season is fantastic, get brave and go say hello to the locals. Walk up the high street to the left and you meet the schoolkids, take the right, be respectful with your camera, go gently with a smile and you may well end up drinking rice wine with fishermen, making betlenut blessings with the elderly women and learning to cast a net too!

Tips –

  • For PK research total tour prices including charge for boat. I find groups of 5 or so people most cost effective but entrance ticket does depend on some bartering. Have a chat with your tuk tuk driver before hand!
  • Take a boat with life jackets.
  • Be careful if you are ‘heavy’. Ok? OK! Our boat once bottomed out on the top of a tree because of this!

4. Bantea Srey Butterfly Conservation Centre

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On the way to Bantea Srey Temple, a great drive to see the rural Cambodian countryside, is BCC. Walk amongst beautiful Asian flora and butterflies, they have an area where you can view stick insects and golden butterfly cocoons plus a cafe. Fantastic for the whole family, nature lovers and wild life photographers plus the only resource like it in Cambodia.

Tips –

  • On the way you will pass village crafts people at their stalls, stop and say hello. Buy your tourist gifts from them rather than in town if you can!

http://www.angkorbutterfly.com

5. The Giant Puppet Project

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Check the dates and be in town if you can. A visually stunning parade of giant puppets made by numerous schools and organisations tour the streets in the dark, a wonderful example of community arts and working together. Take your camera there too!

Tips –

  • Find out the route, find a restaurant with a balcony on the route, book a table and enjoy!!

http://www.giantpuppetproject.com

If you would me to organise a tour for you to ensure you can visit the best areas of Siem Reap in 4×4 comfort with local insider knowledge drop me a line through the contact form.

Half Day Private Photo Tours with 4×4 transport start from 60USD. Group discounts available.

 

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