Siem Reap

What the city of Siem Reap lacks in authenticity, makes up for in history (and tuk tuks). It is dirty and undeveloped, however less so than Phenom Penh. Tourists come to Siem Reap to see the magnificent temples of Angkor. The attention to detail and intricacies of design is astonishing at Angkor. The vastness and magnitude of the temples are awe- inspiring. Built in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat serves as a temple and mausoleum for Suryavarman II. Angkor Wat is the pride of Khmer culture, found on the Cambodian flag and riel.

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Angkor Wat

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My favorite temple was Banteay Srei, a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva built in AD 967. Banteay Srei means ‘Citadel of the Women’ and it is believed that women must have built it, as the elaborate carvings are too fine for the hand of a man.

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Banter Srei ‘Citadel of the Women’

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Banteay Samre – a secluded temple with little tourists and provides a lot of freedom.

Angkor Thom – 10 sq km, previously supported a population of 1 million people.

Bayon – 54 towers of smiling Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

Baphuon – This temple is often called the worlds largest jig saw puzzle, “The temple was taken apart piece by piece, in keeping with the anastylosis method of renovation, but all the records were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge years, leaving experts with 300,000 stones to put back into place. The EFEO resumed restoration work in 1995, and continues its efforts today. ” – Lonely Planet Cambodia

Nick and I were in Siem Reap for the Bon Om Touk ‘Cambodia’s Water Festival’ , which takes place every year in November. This 3 day festival is most famous in Phenom Penh, however is also celebrated around the country. The festival seems to celebrate a variety of things, including: the end of the rainy season, rice harvest and histroically (12th century) the victory of the Cambodian Naval forces. In 2010, 347 people were killed and 755 injured in a human stampede in the Phenom Penh celebrations. It was canceled for the next 3 years, however has since returned. The streets are lined with food, music and vendors. And the locals compete in long boat races.

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To escape Siem Reap, visit the floating village of Chong Kneas located on Tonlé Sap Lake. Here you’ll see what daily life on a lake looks like, you’ll see crocodiles and hear tales of water cobras.

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Chong Kneas Floating Village
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Crocodiles

Rent a motorbike or hire a tuk tuk to take you out of the city to enjoy Phare – The Cambodian Circus. Put on by a nonprofit that educates at risk youth, laugh and sit in amazement of these talented individuals.

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Phare- The Cambodian Circus

Favorite Eats:

Sugar Palm – Located in a beautiful wooden house on stilts try the pamelo salad and tofu satay (both about $5).

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Pamela, peanut, onion, cilantro and lime

Bugs Café – Insects are sold all over Cambodia, at rest stops and markets, however visit the Bugs Café and indulge in some classy insects. Try tarantulas donuts, ant spring rolls, waterbug and spider skewers.

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Nick enjoying tarantulas, ants, waterbugs grasshoppers and scorpions.

Peace café – This vegetarian garden café has reasonable prices and a great atmosphere.

And don’t forget to enjoy Happy Siem Reap Pizza.

 

 

World Vets

Nick and I decided to take a 5 day break from Vietnam to help Winnie (Nick’s mom) with a World Vet clinic in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Although we have no veterinary background, we’ve helped with 2 previous clinics and hopped we could lend some helping hands. World Vets is a non-profit that offers free spay and neuter surgeries and medical consults to animals around the world.

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This World Vets team consisted of a head vet (Winnie), induction team, surgeons and recovery team. As part of recovery, Nick and I gave injections to each animal (pain killer, antibiotic and anesthesia reversal for cats), fed a dewormer and provided flee and tick medicine. We monitored the animals as they woke up and made sure they recovered well. For those that did not, we gave them liquids through their iv catheter and gave honey to boost blood sugar levels. Like the previous clinics, it was chaotic, hot and hard work but extremely rewarding. Over the course of 3 days, 221 surgeries and 181 consultations were completed. We had a blast spending time with the locals and felt so much support from the community. In addition, it was a hoot seeing the majority of animals arrive on motorbikes and tuk tuks.

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221 surgeries and 181 consultations in 3 days

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Srey Mom, a 12 year old with the Green Gecko Project doing a great job helping in recovery!

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This clinic location was extremely unique. Nick and I previously worked in Nicaragua and Roatan where the clinics were held in an abandoned police station and small church. However, in Siem Reap the clinic was located in an open air Theravada Buddhist temple next to a crematorium. Each day we watched a parade of monks and loved ones walk their deceased to the temple. They prayed and held a ceremony then burned the body. This was an extremely interesting cultural experience that we were lucky to be a part of. We had a blast getting a taste of Cambodia and it was so nice to see some familiar faces (Winnie, Heather and Sally)! Now Nick and I are headed back to Vietnam to finish exploring the south! Stay tuned!

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Monks preforming the last right
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Funeral ceremony
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Buddhist Crematorium
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Siem Reap’s Crematorium