Part of the world famous destination of Angkor, the Bayon temple features a sea of over 200 massive stone faces looking in all direction. The curious smiling faces, thought by many to be a portrait of king Jayavarman VII himself or a combination of him and Buddha, are an instantly recognizable image of Angkor. Built in the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII as part of a massive expansion of his capital Angkor Thom, the Bayon is built at the exact center of the royal city.
Phnom Kulen, or Kulen Mountain in Siem Reap province, offers a great day trip away from Angkor. The sacred site doubles up as a national park and is especially popular with Khmers during religious holidays, when offerings are left at the hilltop temple. The area is also home to two waterfalls for swimming, picnic areas, and Kbal Spean, an archaeological spot where The River of a Thousand Lingas is located.
Standing as the capitals only hill, this well-manicured park offers welcome respite from the capitals heat. Wat Phnom pagoda and its intricately-detailed temple sits atop and welcomes visitors, with foreigners paying a $1 fee. Steer clear of the mischievous, and often vicious, monkeys. Searching for Private Villa Siem Reap?
The laidback riverine town of Kampot has oodles of old world ambience. The compact central district is a joy to ramble around; full of surviving shop-house architecture, some of which has been painstakingly restored. Kampot’s charm lies in its exceedingly chilled out atmosphere, and many a traveler finds themselves waylaid here longer than they expected, having succumbed to its easygoing pace. For the more active though, this is also an excellent base for discovering the surrounding sights of the south. The old French summer getaway of Bokor Hill Station, with its abandoned church and eerie, empty shell of an once-grand hotel, is an easy day trip from town, as are the limestone caves of Phnom Chhnork and Phnom Sorsia, both with old temples inside.
Tonle Sap is Cambodia’s most important waterway and Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. As well as being an important source of food and a vital tool for Cambodian irrigation, the lake itself is home to 170 floating villages that depend on fishing for their livelihood, with homes built directly on the water. The houses, shops, churches, schools, and temples of these villages are built on rustic buoy foundations of lashed together barrels and bamboo, and all transport is by boat. They’re a fascinating place to spend a day exploring. One of the most interesting is the sprawling village of Kompong Luong, near the town of Pursat on Tonle Sap’s western shore, although the most popular village to visit is Chong Kneas near Siem Reap.
For a touch of Indiana Jones-style temple exploring, you can’t beat Banteay Chhmar. This mammoth temple complex sits consumed by surrounding jungle in Cambodia’s lonely northwest, providing the perfect opportunity to discover the highlights without the crowds. It was built by the 12th-century Angkorian king Jayavarman VII, and the remarkable stone reliefs along its walls are some of the most intricately detailed you’ll see in the country. In particular, the spectacular bas reliefs depicting Avalokitevara on the south wall and the dizzying array of battle scenes depicted on the eastern walls are prime examples of the Angkorian era’s artistry.
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