Siem Reap is a charming provincial town defined by a cluster of villages, Chinese-style shop houses, and French-colonial architecture. As a gateway to the ancient temple ruins of Angkor, Siem Reap has experienced exponential growth in recent years with hotel and resort developments turning this once sleepy village into a tourism mecca. Activities to experience in the town of Siem Reap include watching a traditional Cambodian “apsara” dance performance and participating in a Khmer cuisine cooking class. The rural outskirts offer plenty of interesting activities such as visiting craft shops and silk farms, taking a bike ride through the scenic countryside, or participating in a humanitarian assistance program by making a pump well donation or helping children at an orphanage.
TEMPLES OF ANGKOR
Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1992, the Angkor Archaeological Park encompasses dozens of temple ruins whose artistic and archaeological significance and visual impact place it alongside other wonders of the world like the Pyramids, Machu Pichu and the Taj Mahal. Built between seven and eleven centuries ago, the temples — about 100 of which are still standing — were devoted to Buddha and Hindu deities. Within the fortified city of Angkor Thom lies the Bayon temple, the third tier of which is lined by more than 200 huge, carved faces that stare down from 54 towers. Other highlights include the Buddhist temple of Ta Prohm, which was not been restored and looks just as it did when French explorers stumbled upon it in the 1860s, and Angkor Wat, a vast temple complex dedicated to Vishnu in the early 12th century. Many of the temples are covered with fantastic carvings depicting religious stories and scenes from daily life.
Average daily maximum temperature in
Cambodia is blessed with one of Asia's simpler weather systems and despite having two distinct weather seasons you can travel in Cambodia all-year-round. In general, the entire country is subject to the same weather patterns, mainly due to the relatively uniform altitude and latitude throughout Cambodia.
There are two distinct seasons – dry (October to late April) and wet (May to late September). Within each season there are variations in temperature, with the final few dry months leading up to the wet season (March and April) and the early months of the wet season (May and June) usually being the hottest of the year with temperatures in excess of 35°C at times.
Humidity is at its height during March and April whilst the coolest months of the year tend to between October and December, however this is cool for Cambodia but far from chilly (avg temperatures 24°C - 26°C).
The Tonle Sap, "Large Fresh Water River" (but more commonly translated as "Great Lake") is a combined lake and river system of major importance to Cambodia.
The Tonlé Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and is an ecological hot spot that was designated as a UNESCO biosphere in 1997.
The Tonlé Sap is unusual for two reasons: its flow changes direction twice a year and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons. From November to May, Cambodia's dry season, the Tonlé Sap drains into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh. However, when the year's heavy rains begin in June, the Tonlé Sap backs up to form an enormous lake.
Another interesting property of the lake is the lifestyle of the local floating villages. Wooden houses are built on high stilts so as to keep the houses out of the water at the height of the water level and these houses are left looking like awkward creatures with tall legs when the water level gets low. The livelihood of the local people also depends largely on the resources from the lake. With a trip to the Tonle Sap, tourists shall enjoy both the opportunity to witness the wonder of nature and to experience Cambodian floating villages complete with houses, schools, health centres, gas stations, restaurants, markets and even a church.
Dance in Cambodia consists of three main categories: classical dance of the royal court used for invocation, entertainment and to pay homage, folk dance which portrays cultural traditions, and social dances performed in social gatherings.
Classical dance (Main article: Royal Ballet of Cambodia)
Cambodia's premiere performing art form is the, Khmer classical dance, or Robam Preah Reach Trop, is a highly stylized dance form originating from the royal courts.
Performances of classical dance consists of elaborately costumed dancers and music played by a pinpeat ensemble.
It is performed for invocation of deities and spirits as well as to pay homage to royalty and guests.
In the mid-20th century, it was introduced to the general public and became widely celebrated as iconic of Cambodian culture, often being performed during public events, holidays, and for tourists visiting Cambodia.
Two of the most performed classical dance are the Robam Chun Por ("Wishing dance") and the Robam Tep Apsara ("Apsara dance").
Created in the 20th century are folk dances that emphasize that various cultural traditions and ethnic groups of Cambodia.
Cambodian folk dances are usually more fast-paced than classical dances. The movements and gestures are not as stylized as classical dance.
Folk dancers wear clothes of the people they are portraying such as Chams, hill tribes, farmers, and peasants. Some folk dances are about love or folktales.
Most of the music of folk dances is played by a mahori orchestra.
In Cambodia, social dances are dances which are danced at social gatherings. Such dances are: Romvong, Romkbach, Saravann, Chok Krapeus and Lam Leav.
In addition, other social dances from around the world have had an impact on Cambodian social culture include the Cha-cha, Bolero, and the Madison.
Such dances are often performed at Cambodian banquet parties.
It lies near the hill of Phnom Dei, 25 km (16 mi) north-east of the main group of temples that once belonged to the medieval capitals of Yasodharapura and Angkor Thom.
Banteay Srei is built largely of red sandstone, a medium that lends itself to the elaborate decorative wall carvings which are still observable today.
The buildings themselves are miniature in scale, unusually so when measured by the standards of Angkorian construction.
These factors have made the temple extremely popular with tourists, and have led to its being widely praised as a "precious gem", or the "jewel of Khmer art."
Ta Prohm is the modern name of a temple at Angkor, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, built in the Bayon style largely in the late 12th and early 13th centuries and originally called Rajavihara. Located approximately one kilometre east of Angkor Thom and on the southern edge of the East Baray, it was founded by the Khmer King Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university.
Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which it was found: the photogenic and atmospheric combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made it one of Angkor's most popular temples with visitors.
UNESCO inscribed Ta Prohm on the World Heritage List in 1992. Today, it is one of the most visited complexes in Cambodia’s Angkor region.
The conservation and restoration of Ta Prohm is a partnership project of the Archaeological Survey of India and the APSARA (Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap).
Angkor Thom, located in present day Cambodia, was the last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It was established in the late twelfth century by king Jayavarman VII. It covers an area of 9 km², within which are located several monuments from earlier eras as well as those established by Jayavarman and his successors.
At the centre of the city is Jayavarman's state temple, the Bayon, with the other major sites clustered around the Victory Square immediately to the north.
Angkor Thom was established as the capital of Jayavarman VII's empire, and was the centre of his massive building programme. One inscription found in the city refers to Jayavarman as the groom and the city as his bride.
Angkor Thom seems not to be the first Khmer capital on the site, however. Yasodharapura, dating from three centuries earlier, was centred slightly further northwest, and Angkor Thom overlapped parts of it.
The most notable earlier temples within the city are the former state temple of Baphuon, and Phimeanakas, which was incorporated into the Royal Palace. The Khmers did not draw any clear distinctions between Angkor Thom and Yashodharapura: even in the fourteenth century an inscription used the earlier name. The name of Angkor Thom — great city — was in use from the 16th century.
Faces on Prasat Bayon. The last temple known to have been constructed in Angkor Thom was Mangalartha, which was dedicated in 1295. Thereafter the existing structures continued to be modified from time to time, but any new creations were in perishable materials and have not survived. In the following centuries Angkor Thom remained the capital of a kingdom in decline until it was abandoned some time prior to 1609, when an early western visitor wrote of an uninhabited city, "as fantastic as the Atlantis of Plato" which some thought to have been built by the Roman emperor Trajan. It is believed to have sustained a population of 80,000-150,000 people.
Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world. The temple was built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century in Yasodharapura, the capital of the Khmer Empire, as his state temple and eventual mausoleum.
Breaking from the Shaivism tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu. As the best-preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist.
The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture. It has become a symbol of Cambodia, appearing on its national flag, and it is the country's prime attraction for visitors.
Angkor Wat combines two basic plans of Khmer temple architecture: the temple mountain and the later galleried temple, based on early Dravidian Architecture, with key features such as the Jagati.
It is designed to represent Mount Meru, home of the devas in Hindu mythology: within a moat and an outer wall 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi) long are three rectangular galleries, each raised above the next. At the centre of the temple stands a quincunx of towers.
Unlike most Angkorian temples, Angkor Wat is oriented to the west; scholars are divided as to the significance of this. The temple is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture, its extensive bas-reliefs, and for the numerous devatas adorning its walls.
The modern name, Angkor Wat, means "Temple City" or "City of Temples" in Khmer; Angkor, meaning "city" or "capital city", is a vernacular form of the word nokor, which comes from the Sanskrit word nagar. Wat is the Khmer word for "temple grounds", derived from the Pali word "vatta".
Prior to this time the temple was known as Preah Pisnulok (Vara Vishnuloka in Sanskrit), after the posthumous title of its founder.