Although has so much to explore and discover, for many tourists the main reason for visiting the country is to see the world famous temples of Angkor. One of the Eight Wonders of the World, you can’t come to Cambodia and not see these ancient temples, matched in scale and grandeur to only a few other man-made sights on earth such as the Pyramids or Machu Picchu. Angkor is the home of the ancient gods and with over 100 mesmerising temples was built to represent heaven on earth between the 9th and 12th centuries. So, if you only have 48-hours in Cambodia, make this your focus and head to the town of Siem Reap, the gateway to the temples. Although unlike anywhere else in Cambodia, Siem Reap is packed with hotels, bars, boutiques and backpacker’s hostels all catering specifically for all Angkor’s visitors.
Start early as you have a lot to fit in.
Take a private tour and start at the South Gate, your guide will be able to explain the carvings and buildings as you walk around and add hugely to your experience. First, explore the Bayon, the centerpiece of the ancient walled city. Its 54 Gothic towers are decorated with 216 gargantuan smiling faces of Avalokiteshvara, and it is adorned with 1.2km of extraordinary bas-reliefs incorporating more than 11,000 figures. Then continue to the Baphuon, a three-tiered temple built in the mid-11th century and fully restored in 2011. Also explore the Royal Enclosure, the Terrace of Elephants, the Terrace of Leper Kings and the Phimeanakas temple before enjoying lunch in front of the majestic Angkor Wat. Having missed the worst of the morning crowds you can then enjoy this magnificent temple, easily the most famous and best-preserved of all structures within the complex. Spend the afternoon in awe of the beauty of this mesmerising structure built in the 12th century as a funerary temple for King Suryavarman II. Also wander around the enormous moat and reflection pools, and take some time in the galleries with the amazing collection of ornate Hindu bas-reliefs (carvings). Having had a long day walking around the ruins you will then be ready to put your feet up and enjoy a well earnt sundowner back at your hotel.
Although you could easily spend at least 3 days visiting the temples, you shouldn’t leave Siem Reap without exploring the fascinating floating and stilted villages on the nearby freshwater lake of Tonle Sap. The majority of this massive lake’s inhabitants are fishermen who live in extremely basic conditions, however, the tourists visiting the lake provide a new source of revenue for the villagers. There are lots of trips you can take out to see the floating villages, try and take one to one of the further villages on the other side of the lake for more authentic experience. Or another great way to enjoy the lake is to take a kayaking tour on which you can see the locals at work and your guide can explain their customs.
Once you have kayaked through the floating village you can then head out to the exotic mangroves (in the high-water season) and enjoy spotting rare birds that have this spellbinding lake as their home. As well as the wonderful wildlife, the tranquillity of the lake surrounded by palm trees and rice paddies is simply spectacular.
Back in Siem Reap for the evening get tickets to see Phare the Cambodian Circus, the country’s answer to the Cirque du Soleil. This show is so much more than a circus and each brilliant display of performance art also includes a social message – don’t worry, no animals are involved.
This 48-hour trip to Cambodia will give you the chance to see one of the most impressive man made sights on earth. Take a look at some of our Far East Multi Centre Holidays for inspirational ideas.