Day 5 - Siem Reap (B,L)
This morning, head out to the countryside to see the “gem” of the Angkor area, the pretty temple of Banteay Srei. The so-called “Citadel of the Women” remains the best preserved temple in Cambodia. It displays some of the finest examples of classical Khmer art as this small temple is noted for its truly remarkable fine bas-reliefs. Banteay Srei is unique in that it is constructed of pink sandstone, which is seen nowhere else in Angkor.
Continue north to Kbal Spean, one of the earliest Hindu pilgrimage sites in Cambodia. A short 3 km trek up the hill through dense jungle will reward you a remarkable sight of the “River of 1,000 Lingas”, with some remarkable stone carvings of Hindu gods, animals and other symbols in the river bed. During the rainy season, you can enjoy a refreshing bath in the waterfall, which is extremely popular with the local families.
On returning from your trek you will be welcomed with a succulent Khmer picnic lunch.
On the way back to Siem Reap, stop at the Landmine Museum which promotes mine awareness. Mr. Aki Ra, the museum founder, was trained as a child soldier during the Khmer Rouge regime and is working today as a de-miner. The museum serves also as a rescue center for a number of landmine amputee children that Aki Ra has brought off Phnom Penh’s streets or from impoverished rural communities.
On arrival back in Siem Reap you will continue your exploration of the Angkorian temples. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing the Mount Meru, home of the gods. The divine residence of Vishnu, the King himself was to reside here after his death. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindu mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Moreover, Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Apsara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia's national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people. Your visit will coincide with the ‘Golden Hour’ to ensure you catch the Apsaras gleaming in their best light.
Finally, the night ends with an incredible performance of ‘Phare, the Cambodian Circus’. Starting at 8pm, professional artists of Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) will perform an inspiring show suitable for people of all ages. Set up in Battambang in 1994 by young returnee Cambodians from the refugee camps who learned about using art as a means of coping with trauma, PPS has played an influential role in promoting and developing Khmer culture over the years after the Khmer Rouge genocide. The hour long show mixes traditional and modern theater, music, dance, acrobatics, juggling and contortion performed in a story about Cambodian lives and society.
Student performances can still be seen twice weekly in Battambang but now the circus has arrived in Siem Reap!
Overnight in Siem Reap.
Distances and journey time:
Siem Reap – Banteay Srei (37 km): 45 mins
Kbal Spean – Siem Reap (50 km): 1hr 20 mins
Siem Reap – Temples (06 km): 10 mins