Getting Acquainted – Siem Reap, Cambodia

Getting Acquainted – Siem Reap, Cambodia
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap has many activities that showcase Cambodian culture and history. Also look for shopping and markets in the downtown section.

Cambodian Cultural Village: This tourist attraction claims to present “Cambodia in miniature” by having different villages showcase the heritage of various tribes in the country. There are native costumes and performances at each of the 11 sites, including a traditional wedding ceremony and games and shows. The brochure I saw mentioned the fancy gift shops, but make sure to check local markets if you want better prices. Half-day tours are popular; learn more at www.cambodianculturalvillage.com.

Formal Gardens: If you want a nice relaxing walk after climbing all of those temple stairs, wander through the Formal Gardens near the center of town. The park is located near the Route 6 roundabout, and there’s also a grand view of – why, wouldn’t you know it! – the Grand Hotel, one of the swankiest spots in town, where rooms go for $1,900 per night.

A sign at the Khmer Rouge Memorial implores visitors for donations.
A sign at the Khmer Rouge Memorial atrocities implores visitors for donations.
Khmer Rouge Memorial: This memorial to the vicitims of the Khmer Rouge atrocities is found by heading toward Angkor Wat and taking a turnoff down a dirt road 500 m past the Grand Hotel. There is a temple on the grounds along with the memorial; monks and teachers will hound you for money, both for the school and the memorial. (Be warned that no matter how much you donate, you’ll still feel guilty for not giving more.)

Visitors can climb the steps to get a better look at bones from victims of Pol Pot's bloody regime.
Visitors can climb the steps to get a better look at bones from victims of Pol Pot’s bloody regime.
The donations for the memorial will go to building a better one; for now, it’s just a plain white pagoda with tall windows on each side so you can see that it’s filled waist-deep with human skulls and bones.

Khmer Art of Carving Center: You can watch craftsmen make traditional Khmer wood carvings at this shop. Watch for a sign on the left of the road as you’re leaving Siem Reap to go to Angkor Wat. The center is open daily 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Across the road is also a stone carving workshop that features pieces for $10-15 U.S.

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