SHOPPING IN SIEM REAP
The Angkor Night Market is designed to give visitors a safe, secure, and enjoyable shopping and dining experience in a vibrant, contemporary Khmer environment.
As well as a wide variety of stalls offering a diverse range of goods and services in a hassle-free environment, the Angkor Night Market includes the ambient Island Bar and food court serving all the usual drinks, cocktails and large menu of Asian and Western cuisine from the afternoon until late night.
The Angkor Night Market is unique. Not only do the naturally constructed stalls display good quality local wares but many are stocked with original items from outside Siem Reap. This has earned The Angkor Night Market a well-deserved reputation of place where you can find different and unusual products not readily available elsewhere in the local area.
What to Buy
Hand-woven Cambodian silks, stone and woodcarvings, statues and castings, contemporary Cambodian art, Cambodian handicrafts and traditional musical instruments, temple rubbings, silver betel containers, colored gems and basketry are among the most popular souvenirs. The most useful and one of the cheapest souvenirs that you can buy is a traditional checkered Cambodian scarf (krama). If you don’t mind looking like a tourist, wear it around your neck like the locals to keep the intense tropical sun off the back of your neck.
Angkor National Museum
The newly opened Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap promises eight chronologically ordered galleries of Angkorian-era artifacts and multi-media presentations of Angkorian history and culture. The Museum had just opened its doors and was not quite completed at time of printing, but should be very soon. Admissions price: US$12 (for foreigners). $2 for a camera. Hours: 9:00AM – 8:00PM. Located in town, on the road to the Angkor Park.
The construction of Cambodian Cultural Village (CCV) started in mid year of 2001, opened to the public in September 24, 2003, with total area of 210,000 meter-square, CCV assembles all the miniatures of famous historical buildings and structures, local customs and practices of all races. There are 11 unique villages, which represent different culture heritages and characteristics of 19 multi races. At each village, the tourists will be able to enjoy the excellent wood houses, carving, soft skill in stone, traditional performances in the different style such as: Apsara Dancing, performance of ethnic minorities from Northeast of Cambodia, traditional wedding ceremony, Circus, Popular games, Peacock dancing, Acrobat, elephants shows, boxing, and more…
Unique new addition to the Angkor area. Take a tethered helium balloon ride 200 meters straight up for an amazing aerial view of Angkor Wat, Phnom Bakheng, West Baray and other ruins amongst the surrounding jungle and rice paddies. Bring a camera and binoculars if you have them. The big, yellow balloon is based on the road from the airport to Angkor Wat, about a kilometer from the front gates of Angkor Wat.
During the day, elephants await customers near Bayon or at the South Gate of Angkor Thom. In the evenings, elephants are stationed at the base of Phnom Bakheng, ready to transport riders up the hill for sunset. $10-$15 for a 25 minute ride.
If your schedule allows, set aside a day or three to get out of the Siem Reap Town/main temple area and into the countryside. The vast majority of Cambodians live and work in the rural countryside and a countryside tour or even a day trip to a remote temple ruin can provide a glimpse of ‘real Cambodia’ – picturesque, bucolic scenery, rice paddies and water buffalos, countryside pagodas and little villages filled with traditional stilted houses… And there are a number of ways to see it: by 4WD, bicycle, ox cart and more. The following tour operators specialize in countryside expeditions.
Tonle Sap Lake – The most important lack in Cambodia
Cambodia’s Great Lake, the Boeung Tonle Sap (Tonle Sap Lake,) is the most prominent feature on the map of Cambodia – a huge dumbbell-shaped body of water stretching across the northwest section of the country. In the wet season, the Tonle Sap Lake is one of the largest freshwater lakes in Asia, swelling to an expansive 12,000 km2. During the dry half of the year the Lake shrinks to as small as 2500 km2, draining into the Tonle Sap River, which meanders southeast, eventually merging with the Mekong River at the ‘chaktomuk’ confluence of rivers opposite Phnom Penh. But during the wet season a unique hydrologic phenomenon causes the river to reverse direction, filling the lake instead of draining it. The engine of this phenomenon is the Mekong River, which becomes bloated with snow melt and runoff from the monsoon rains in the wet season. The swollen Mekong backs up into the Tonle Sap River at the point where the rivers meet at the ‘chaktomuk’ confluence, forcing the waters of the Tonle Sap River back upriver into the lake. The inflow expands the surface area of lake more than five-fold, inundating the surrounding forested floodplain and supporting an extraordinarily rich and diverse eco-system. More than 100 varieties of waterbirds including several threatened and endangered species, over 200 species of fish, as well as crocodiles, turtles, macaques, otter and other wildlife inhabit the inundated mangrove forests. The Lake is also an important commercial resource, providing more than half of the fish consumed in Cambodia. In harmony with the specialized ecosystems, the human occupations at the edges of the lake is similarly distinctive – floating villages, towering stilted houses, huge fish traps, and an economy and way of life deeply intertwined with the lake, the fish, the wildlife and the cycles of rising and falling waters.
The lake sits only about 15 km south of Siem Reap town. If you take the ferry between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap you will cross the lake and dock at the village of Chong Khneas. There are several ways to see the culture and wildlife of the lake area depending on the amount of time you have and your interest.
Chong Khneas Floating Village
Chong Khneas is the floating village at the edge of the lake closest and most accessible to Siem Reap. If you want a relatively quick and easy look at the Tonle Sap, boat tours of Chong Khneas are available, departing from the Chong Khneas boat docks all day long. Take a Car the 11-15km from Siem Reap to the boat docks where there are always boats waiting for passengers. A two-hour boat trip through the floating village runs $15 each person. The boatman will probably point out the differing Khmer and Vietnamese floating households and the floating markets, clinics, schools and other boatloads of tourists. Chong Khneas, while interesting, is over-touristed and is not as picturesque and ‘unspoiled’ as floating villages further from Siem Reap. The boat trip usually includes two stops: one at a touristy floating ‘fish and bird exhibition’ with a souvenir and snack shop, and the other at the very highly recommended Gecko Environment Centre, which offers displays and information introducing the ecology and biodiversity of the lake area.
Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary – Strongly recommended
The ‘bird sanctuary’ at the Prek Toal core area of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve has been called “the single most important breeding ground in Southeast Asia for globally threatened large waterbirds.” The Biosphere covers 31,282 hectares at the northwest tip of the Tonle Sap Lake and plays host to species including Greater and Lesser Adjuncts, Black-headed Ibis, Painted Stork, Milky Stork, Spot-billed Pelican, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle and many more species. Of the three Biosphere core areas on the Tonle Sap Lake, Prek Toal is the most accessible from Siem Reap and the most popular with birdwatchers. The best time of year for viewing is the dry season when flocks of migratory birds congregate at Prek Toal. As the dry season progresses and the water recedes, the number of birds increases but the travel to some of the more important viewing areas becomes more difficult.
Most people arrange a trip to Prek Toal through their guesthouse or a tour operator. To do it yourself, take a moto or taxi from Siem Reap to the Phnom Krom/Chong Khneas boat dock. Arrange a boat to the Prek Toal Environmental Research Station (starting at $35-$45 return,) and then from the Research Station a $5 entrance fee and $15-$25 for a guided boat tour of the sanctuary. The Research Station has information on the area’s flora and fauna. There are also basic overnight accommodations at the Research Station if you want to stay the night to take full advantage of the sunset and early morning viewing hours.
Kampong Phluk Floating Village
Kampong Phluk is a cluster of three villages of stilted houses built within the floodplain of the Tonle Sap about 16 km southeast of Siem Reap. The villages are primarily Khmer and have about 3000 inhabitants between them. Flooded mangrove forest surrounds the area and is home to a variety of wildlife including crab-eating macaques. During the dry season when the lake is low, the buildings in the villages seem to soar atop their 6-meter stilts exposed by the lack of water. At this time of year many of the villagers move out onto the lake and build temporary stilted houses. In the wet season when water level rises again, the villagers move back to their permanent houses on the floodplain, the stilts now hidden under the water. Kampong Phluk’s economy is, as one might expect, based in fishing, primary in shrimp harvesting.
Kampong Khleang – Highly recommended
The area can be reached by boat from the Chong Khneas docks or by a combination of road to Domdek on Route #6 and then boat to the village, the best method depending on the time of year. During the dry season, boats cannot get all of the way to the main villages. Consult your tour operator about current conditions. Many tour operators have very little experience in this area so it is best to consult with adventure tour operators that specialize in this area. Small group tours begin at about $35 for a half day and range up through $70 depending on the size of the group and the type of tour. To get there yourself, either charter a boat from Chong Khneas or take car to Domdek village on Route #6 east of Siem Reap, turn south and continue to the water’s edge where boats wait to ferry passengers into the village. During the dry season the road is clear and you can take a car all of the way to the village.)
Apsara Dance performance (Traditional)No visit to Cambodia is complete without attending at least one traditional Khmer dance performance, often referred to as ‘Apsara Dance’ after one of the most popular Classical dance pieces. Traditional Khmer dance is better described as ‘dance-drama’ in that the dances are not merely dance but are also meant to convey a story or message.