A holiday in SE Asia; Cambodia 2011

My wife and I visited Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in November 2011. This was our first visit to Cambodia and Laos, our forth visit to Vietnam. We had most of one day in Singapore – by accident. This page is about the few days we had in Siem Reap Cambodia.

The purpose of these pages is partly as a short record of our holiday, partly to show friends and others some of our better photos, partly to record some interesting (at least to me) observations on SE Asian culture, and partly in the hope that it might be of some use to others who are considering a similar trip.

Written 2011/12/16, last edited 2024/01/19
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

Angkor Wat at sunrise
Angkor Wat at sunrise

Siem Reap

Our only place of call in Cambodia was Siem Reap. Probably if you have ever heard of Siem Reap it would be because it is the city closest to the famous temple complex of Angkor Wat (Wat simply means temple).

Where we stayed in Siem Reap

Golden Temple Villa
Golden Temple Villa staff
Golden Temple Villa staff, and us
(855) 12 943 459, email: temple_angkor@hotmail.com; Website: www.goldentemplevilla.com
We would highly recommend the Golden Temple Villa. The rooms were good (we had plenty of space, air conditioning, an ensuite and a balcony – although the view was poor; we were not at the front), the price was good ($20 per night), there was always someone at reception who spoke good English, we had a free pick-up waiting for us at the airport, free welcome drink, free (and reliable) Internet access, a free 20 minute massage and a good restaurant right adjacent. As you can see from the photo, the decoration and landscaping were excellent as well.

Oh, and the rooms have colour TV too; but Denece and I hardly watched TV while we were in SE Asia, there seemed plenty of other things to do.

A curious thing about both Cambodia and Laos is that streets do not necessarily have names. This is apparently the case with the street on which the Golden Temple Villa is on; so I can't give an address, but it is in the guide books and on Trip Advisor.

Mey Mey Restaurant

On the same (unnamed) street Golden Temple Villa, even cheaper, and good food. Their coffee, in particular, was good and was served in the genuine traditional style. Out of curiosity I ordered a Greek Salad at Mey Mey. (Denece and I mostly made a point of eating local styles of foods rather than those that we could eat at home.) The Greek Salad had no lettuce nor any fetta cheese; the restaurant owner apologised for not having olives, she had run out.

Getting around Siem Reap

Tuk-tuk transport – well ventilated, suits the climate
Cambodian Tuk-tuk
Mr Kim Seng and his tuk-tuk at Angkor Thom
Phone number 0977291328
There are several ways of getting around Siem Reap and the temples. In the old part of Siem Reap walking is highly practicable; distances are small and finding one's way about is not difficult.

For the wider area of the temple complexes, some people travel by car (comfortable, fast, relatively expensive), bicycle (for the fitter people, who don't mind working up a sweat), and tuk-tuk. We used the latter. (Compare with Luang Prabang tuk-tuk.)

The weather at Siem Reap is usually hot. My wife and I found travelling by tuk-tuk comfortably cool because we were completely open to the breeze created by the movement, which was typically around 50 km/h, at a guess. Mr Kim Seng's services were good, and his charges reasonable; his English, though, was very limited. He could talk about places to go, but his very limited vocabulary made anything beyond this difficult or impossible.

Siem Reap: the city

Foot massage by fish
Fish foot massage
A trendy and probably quite new thing to do in Siem Reap is to have your feet 'massaged' by fish. There were quite a few aquariums like the one in the photo set up so that people could sit on the side and hang their feet in. The fish would presumably nibble the dead and dry skin.

On the end of the tank is written "No pirahna".

Modern building

Temple construction
Wat Preah Prom Rath is on the western side of the old market area of Siem Reap. (There is another temple/monistery across the river; Wat Damnak.) As can be seen, the scafolding is all made of bamboo.

It is interesting to note that the thin nobby columns in two of the visible windows are very similar to those on some of the ancient temples.


SE Asian bricks
Bricks similar to these seem to be used exclusively in SE Asia. The people seem not to use the solid clay bricks that are normally used in Western nations at all. Compared to the solid Western-style bricks, these would have slightly less load-bearing strength, but significantly better insulation properties (because of the air spaces) and would be lighter to transport and work with.

These were in Cambodia. Bricks in northern Vietnam seamed typically to be thiner and have only two holes, those in southern Vietnam were of a similar size to these and had six holes.

This is part of a temple, but similar brickwork was used on many other types of buildings.

I don't remember seeing solid clay bricks anywhere.

Helmets and lights on bikes

Tuk-tuk drivers seemed always to wear helmets, while perhaps only about half of other motor bike riders did. If I remember rightly, few if any bicycle riders wore helmets. At night motor bikes had lights, but less than half of bicycles had head lights; almost no bicycles had tail lights or even reflectors on the back.

Jimmy's Village School

Jimmy's Village School
Jimmy's Village School
Jimmy is on the left
Image credit: Jimmy's Village School
This is a free evening school for children wanting to learn English; on the same (unnamed?) street as the Golden Temple Villa. English is seen as the international language by people in SE Asia. In conversation with several university students at Dalat, Vietnam, I was surprised to learn how much lower on the desirability scale Chinese was; English was seen as being far more valuable as a second language. Jimmy Chan Sarath had set up a little school in front of his Aunt's house. (Jimmy's Aunt did laundry; she did ours while we were in Siem Reap).

Denece and I felt that Jimmy's Village School was a valuable initiative and that Jimmy was doing great work with the kids.

Email Jimmy at jimmysvillageschool@gmail.com or look up the Facebook group "Jimmys Village School".

Angkor: the ancient temples

According to Wikipedia Angkor was built between 1122 and 1150 BCE.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat not long after sunrise
Angkor Wat

On our first day we stayed with the crowd and waited near the main entrance on the western side for the sunrise (see top). On our second day we walked straight around to the eastern side, the side that would be illuminated by the newly risen sun. The photo above was taken from the northeast.

Stone carving gallery

This gallery runs around the outside of Angkor Wat and is lined with bass-relief carvings all the way. A photo of a few of the carvings is below.

Modern stone carvings in the same style can be bought at Artisans Angkor.

Stone carvings on Angkor Wat
Stone carvings on Angkor Wat

Outlying buildings

The Angkor Wat compound enclosed a number of buildings other than the central temple; this is some of the outlying buildings, looking toward the west.


Angkor Wat and its outlying buildings was surrounded by a wide, tree lined, moat; which was itself quite beautiful in the early morning light.

Angkor Wat

The northern side of Angkor Wat

Refreshment area

Inside the Angkor Wat moat and wall, in an part away from the temple and subsidiary buildings, is a refreshment area (on the left in this photo).

There is a line of large tables, each with a name and number and each served by a separate group of people in a family business.


The table we sat at was number 6, "Spider Girl". In Southeast Asia one doesn't have to go to the shops, the shops come to one. Here Denece is looking at clothes to take home as gifts.

The coffee and food on offer was very good; although, for some reason most of the multitude of people who were wandering around Angkor Wat did not seem to avail themselves of it.

An interesting point in the Angkor area relates to the toilets. Very near this refreshment area was a line of not particularly good toilets. One had to pay to use these, while near several of the other temples (Angkor Tom and, I think, Pre Rup) there were better toilets that were free. This may well have been a work in progress.

Angkor Thom; the gate

The gate
Going from Angkor Wat to Angkor Thom one passes over a causeway before going through the gate in the great wall surrounding Angkor Thom. The walls on the sides of the causeway are decorated with these fellows who are busy 'churning the ocean of milk'. (See also the image below.)

The churning of the ocean of milk is a common theme in Cambodia; it must be an important part of the Kmer creation mythology.

What foolish things we find in religions! I hasten to say that Western religions are just as foolish, consider the creation myth of Scientology and the golden tablet myth of Mormonism; for that matter the way that women were created in the Bible.


This is a modern statue of a single figure (god, demigod?) working at the churn; this one is at the front of a building in Siem Reap. Imagine a continuous line of such fellows. That is roughly what is on the causeway near the Angkor Thom gate (above).


The faces of Bayan
The faces of Bayan

To the north of Angkor Wat is Angkor Thom, which includes a temple called Bayan. Angkor Wat does not have giant faces on it; Bayan has them in enormous abundance.

No arches used at Angkor

Not an arch
It seems that the Kmers, like the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, didn't use arches in their construction. (Arches have been used occasionally since several millennium BCE, but not regularly until the Romans, who used them to great advantage in many structures: aqueducts, bridges and buildings. Variations on the arch are the dome and vault.)

The opening shown in this photo would have worked better had an arch been used.

It seems surprising that people who were obviously so skilled in working with stone did not happen to discover the arch with its valuable structural advantages.

Pre Rup

Pre Rup 1

Pre Rup is a temple that is passed on the way from Siem Reap to Angkor Wat.

Pre Rup 2

The main courtyard of Pre Rup. The steps were steep, the weather hot.

Pre Rup 3

Work was under-way removing the vegetation on the temple. Note the very long ladder.

River of a Thousand Lingas
Kbal Spean

Carving in river
According to Wikipedia the archeological site "is situated along a 50 metres stretch of the Stung Kbal Spean River, 25 kilometres from the main Angkor group of monuments."

It is posible to get within a couple of kilometres by road; the last part must be walked. It's a rocky and steep scramble in places, and the weather is usually hot and humid.

Banteay Srei

Banteay Srei 1

This temple was close to the River of a Thousand Lingas. Wikipedia gives the name as "Banteay Srei or Banteay Srey".

Banteay Srei 2

The carvings on this temple were sharper than those on most of the other ancient temples; probably due to a different rock type being used in construction.

Neither my photography nor the space available on this page can do justice to the Angkor complex of temples.