Tourist Attractions and Activities
The major attraction of the Siem Reap area is of course the Angkor monuments and other archaeological sites. There are also other features, which can be developed to broaden the tourists' experience and increase their length of stay. Some of the attraction features in the Siem Reap area have been designated as protected areas by the government. Phnom Kulen is designated as a National Park. An-or is a Protected Landscape and the Tonle Sap Lake area is a Multiple Use Management Area.
1. The Heritage of Angkor
The archaeological heritage of the Angkor period of Khmer history comprises one of the most important historic sites and architectural achievements in Asia and the world generally. The famous temples of Angkor were mainly built between the 9th and 13th centuries and abandoned in the middle of the 1 5th century. During this period the Khmer civilization was at the height of its creativity and ruled a vast territory extending from the of what is now Vietnam northward southern Laos and westward through Thailand to Burma. The Angkor complex of temples represents the rains of the capital and religious centre (Angkor means the capital) of the Khmer Empire because they are built of stone and brick Palaces, houses and public buildings were constructed of wood and long since decayed. Having been constructed over several centuries, various different styles and Hindu and Buddhist religious beliefs are represented at Angkor.
The entire historical development covers approximately 5,000 square kilometers of which the capital city complex occupies about 300 square kilometers. A total of 1,000 archaeological features, including pre-Angkor sites, were identified by the ZEMF survey from existing records and new studies, using aerial photography, satellite imagery, and ground and helicopter field surveys. Of the 900 Khmer features, some 300 are temples and another 300 could indicate the sites of temple structures. The complex includes not only the buildings but also moats, barays (reservoirs), canals and irrigation works. The largest barays, now called the east and tourists can visit west barays.
National Parks: natural and scenic areas of significance rice for their scientific. educational and recreational values. The following parks are designated:
- (1) Kirirom,
- (2) Phnom Bukor,
- (3) Kep,
- (4) Ream.
- (5) Botom Skat,
- (6) Phnom Kulen,
- (7) Virachey.
Wildlife Sanctuaries: natural areas where nationally significant species of flora and fauna, natural communities, or physical features require specific intervention for their perpetuation. The following sanctuaries are designated:
- (8) Aural,
- (9) Peam Krasop,
- (10) Phnom Samkos,
- (11) Ronien Daun Sam,
- (12) Kulen - Promtep,
- (13) Beng Per, (14) Lomphat,
- (15) Phnom Prich,
- (16) Phnom Nam Lyr,
- (17) Snoul.
Protected Landscapes: nationally significant natural and semi-natural landscapes, which must be maintained to provide opportunities for recreation and tourism, are
- (18) Angkor,
- (19) Banteay Chhmar and
- (20) Preah Vihear.
Multiple Use Management Areas: areas, which provide for sustainable use of water resources. timber, wildlife, fish, pasture and recreation with the conservation of nature primarily orientated to support these economic activities. They include
- (21) Doing Peng,
- (22) Samlaut and
- (23) Tonle Sap.
The West Baray extending over an areas of 2.2 by 8 kilometers has been partially restored and currently being used to store water for irrigation. The hydraulic engineering involved is as equally impressive as the building architecture. Constriction of the monuments, barays and irrigation works obviously required highly centralized organization of large populations in labour-intensive work
Considerable archaeological research has beer, carried out at Angkor. Resulting form the 19th century re-discovery of Angkor and concern about the deterioration of the monuments, the Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient (EFEO) began work on the site in the early 1900s. The research and restoration work of EFEO revealed the richness of the Khmer culture to the world and stimulated interest in tourists visiting Angkor. Research and restoration continued through the 1960s. From 1908, the Conservation d'Anakor or the Angkor Conservation Office conducted or-site maintenance and restoration work. This once adopted a policy for forest protection and management in 1911, and dealt with maintenance, forestation, the opening of access roads and the clearing of vegetation around each monument. In 1925, a central area was officially designated as the Angkor historic Park.
In 1979, the Angkor Conservation Office was revived with a minimal staff, and in 1986 Indian and Polish assistance was provided. Since 1989, UNESCO has coordinated multi-lateral assistance for restoration of building at the Conservation Office, maintenance and visitor safety at important sites, clearing moats, and technical studies and restoration activities at selected monuments with the cooperation of various other organizations. Much is still unknown about the site and Angkor civilization and archaeological research needs to be continued. Maintenance and preservation of the monuments still require much more work and is a long-term continuing process.
The government has adopted conservation zoning for Angkor. A protected archaeological zone is designated within which new development including tourism development will not be permitted. Other cultural zones are designated to protect archaeological sites including those, which are yet to be excavated.
The most visually sine and visited temples are Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prom.
Also popular are Banteay Srei, and Preah Khan and Bakong in the Roluos group. Several other temples are impressive in their own way and visited by tourists. The touring circuits at Angkor are the 27-kilometer Petit Circuit and 46-kilometer Grand Circuit. These were laid out over 60 years ago when less was known about the site and they do not represent the historically correct or visually most rewarding approach to the temples. It is well recognized that improvements are greatly needed to the interpretation and presentation of Angkor. A visitor centre should be developed to provide information material, exhibits, sales of crafts and books on Angkor and other facilities. This centre is being planned for development by APSARA. A site museum could be developed either as part of the visitor centre or as a separate project. Interpretive signs, in an attractive and uniform design, are required at the various sites. The road network connecting the monuments needs improvement and perhaps some realignment. Parking at the major sites should be improved. Guide services are currently available but the knowledge of many guides could be enhanced. All aspects of Angkor, including the barays and irrigation works and the historical and cultural context of the Angkor civilization, should be presented to tourists so that they understand the background of the monuments.
Sales of crafts and souvenirs at the sites require better management and hawking must be controlled. As referred to previously, the residents in the Angkor monuments area are very low income, which leads to hawking of many of these people including children as a source of income. Alternative employment should be organized for residents including being trained to work effectively in the park and tourism enterprises.
A sound and light show- has been proposed at Angkor Wat, and this can help interpret the monument in an interesting manner. The show will provide an evening activity that is now lacking in the area and induce tourists to stay longer at the site. Assurance has been given that installation of the show gill is carried out so that there is no damage to the monument. APSARA should be involved in determination of the best approach to develop the sound and light show. Fees will, of course, be charged to attend the show, which can provide additional revenue.
A performance of the Ramayana was organized at Angkor Wat in 1995 and was considered to be very successful. This type of performance should be organized on a regular basis each yea. or more often as an important attraction for local and foreign visitors and an expression of an important aspect of Cambodian and Asian cultural heritage. It would be interesting to re-introduce local animals, of the type that previously lived there, into the Angkor environment. Elephants, monkeys and deer particularly would be appropriate.
Entry fees are charged foreigners visiting Angkor at the rate of US $20 for one day, $40 for two-three days and $60 for four-seven days. Entry charges on tourism vehicles are currently S2 per taxi, 55 per mini-bus and $10 per large bus. Cambodian nationals are admitted at a nominal fee. In addition, payments are made for use of Ministry of Tourism tour guides. These entry fees are not out of line with entry fees paid at major archaeological sites elsewhere in the world, especially when site interpretation is improved at Angkor. In 1995, total revenue was estimated at almost US $1.3 million. Entry to the monuments is not greatly controlled, and it is known that some visitors gained entrance without paying any fees.
As more tourists visit the monuments in the future, the revenue from fees will greatly increase. The fees now go to the government general fund, and are not used to improve Angkor. Much work on conservation and interpretation is needed at Angkor and the fees can be an important source of revenue for this purpose. It is important that all or a major proportion of the fees be used to assist with the conservation and interpretation at Angkor. In addition to providing the revenue needed for conservation activities, tourists will be more willing to pay the fees if they know it is being used for conservation and interpretation.
Although Angkor has many monuments and is spread over a wide area, some of the temples are particularly popular and visited by virtually all tourists. As the number of visitors increases in the future, the carrying capacities of some of the monuments may be reached or exceeded based on present patterns of use.
The Angkor monuments comprise the major attraction and, as emphasized previously all aspects of the Angkor period should be included in the interpretation and tours of Angkor so that tourists pair. full exposure to the monuments. This approach will involve visits to different areas of the monuments including the Roluos and Banteay Srei groups of temples, the West Bar ay where one can swim and go boating to a small island and visit the ruins of West Bebou temple, and relic irrigation works.
- Phnom Krom Hill - Lying 13 kilometers to the south of Siem Reap town, this hill commands superb views over the Tonle Sap Lake and its port and floating villages. At the top of the hill is a 9th century temple of some interest. A road leads up the slope to the hilltop. Wat Athvea can also be included on this trip.
- Phnom kulen national park - This park is not new accessible because of the poor sate of the-road and safety problems, but is a potentially important natural feature for tourists in the future. The major features of the park are the waterfalls and generally scenic environment, complemented by forest vegetation and wildlife.
- Tonle Sap and floating villages - The floating villages located in the northern part of the Tome Sap Lake are highly interesting to visit by boat. Stops could be made at one or two of the structures to observe fish farming and other activities. Complementing the villages is the unusual character of the lake itself with its rich fish and bird life and local fishing techniques. The road to the port on Tonle Sap is being improved, although. access to the floating villages is most easily accomplished during the rainy season. This tour can include the nearby Phnom Krom Ell as a stopover.
- Town tours - Siem Reap is a basically attractive town complemented by the river environment and large trees. In the old town centre are architecturally interesting historic colonial buildings with traditional buildings in the peripheral areas. Specific interesting buildings include the 'palace' and the Grand Hotel, now being renovated. The new central market will be of interest to tourists. A half-day tour can be organized based on the interesting features of the town. Also, self-guided walking tours could be promoted with production of a walking tour map and guide. The compact character of central Siem Reap is conducive to walking
- Crocodile farm - Already existing in Siem Reap, the crocodile farm is open to tourists. Besides crocodiles, the farm has exhibits of monkeys, birds and deer. It could be improved with better interpretation techniques.
- Village tours - The villages in the Siem Reap area are still traditional and offer insight into life in rural Cambodia. Tours can be organized to selected villages with stops at the villages to observe the local life styles, architecture and agricultural techniques. It is important that village stops be pre-arranged and suitable payments be made to the villages to allow tourist visits. The villagers to finance community projects such as infrastructure, school and medical clinic improvements can use this revenue.
- Provincial museum - A provincial museum could be developed in Siem Reap that presents the history, culture and environment of the area. This would be in addition to any site museum developed at Angkor.
- Crafts - As previously mentioned, Siem Reap has a tradition of silverwork, silo textile wearing and basket making, but only a few- people still know these artisan skills. Crafts can be of much interest to tourists and an important source of income for residents, including the villagers. Expansion of crafts should be encouraged as tourism develops. The new market in Siem Reap town can include a crafts section and a handicraft centre already is developed a few kilometers out of the town.
- Sports and recreation - There are no sports facilities available to tourists in Siem Reap. However, discussion is underway for development of the former Olympic Stadium on the road to Angkor as a sports club similar to the International Youth Club in Phnom Penh This will primarily serve residents including resident foreigners but can be open to tourists. The new hotels planned for the area are expected to include swimming pools, tennis courts and other recreation facilities. Some of the larger existing hotels could also develop swimming pools.
- Evening entertainment - Evening entertainment for tourists is presently limited in Siem Reap, except for going to restaurants. There are some nightclubs but these cater mostly to a local clientele. One of the hotels now offers ;traditional Khmer dance and music show. As mentioned, a sound and light show is proposed for Angkor Wat. A cultural centre may also be developed. It is expected that the new hotels planned for development will include provision for evening entertainment.
Siem Reap is the province rich in groups of big temples which consists of:
a. GROUP OF ANGKOR TOUCH TEMPLE:
Located in Siem Reap District, North of the provincial town of Siem Reap about 7 km from the provincial town by Ko May Road .
b. GROUP OF ANGKOR THOM TEMPLE:
Located about 10 km from Siem Reap provincial town through the connecting road from Angkor Touch temple. The group of Angkor Thom temples consists of the temples of Bayon, Bapuon, Vimean Akas, Prolean Chol Damrey, Bali Lay, Suor Proat having 12 peaks, Khlang Khang Cheung, Khlang Khang Tbong, the group of Phreah Pithu temples with 3 temples, Viheah 17 Lveng, and terrace of Sdach Kumlung with five statues of Phrea Thom each has 5 m high consisting of Pheah En Tep, Preah Ang Ngut, Preah Tep Pro Liem and Preah Sang Tuk.
c. SMALL CIRCLE:
Located about 12 km from Siem Reap provincial town. The Small Circle consists of a group of temples including Thorm Nun temple, Chao Say Tevada, Stone bridge, Ta Keo temple, Ta Ney temple, Ta Prum temple, Bon Tey Kdey temple, Sras Srong (pond) and Kro Van temple.
d. BIG CIRCLE:
Located at 13 kilometer distance from the provincial town of Siem Reap. The Big Circle consists of a group of temples of Neak Poan, Kruol Ko, Ta Som, East and West Mebon temple, Pre Rup temple and Sras Srong (pond).
e. BANTEAY SAMRE TEMPLE:
Located at Preah Dak commune, Banteay Srey District via Angkor Wat about 16 km from Siem Reap provincial town.
f. BOK MOUNTAIN:
Located at Ka Van Commune, Banteay Srey District about 25 km from the Siem Reap provincial town by NR No. 6.
g. BAKONG TEMPLE (GROUP OF ROLUOS TEMPLES):
Located at Au Luok village, Bakong Commune, Prasat Bakong District about 15 km from Siem Reap provincial town of NR No. 6.
h. BANTEAY SREY TEMPLE:
Located at Banteay Srey village, Banteay Srey commune, Banteay Srey District about 32 km from Siem Reap provincial town.
i. KULEN MOUNTAIN:
Located in Svay Len and Va Rin Districts about 48 km from Siem Reap provincial town.
j. CHUP PREAH:
A plain spot where cool water flows located in the valley of Kulen mountain. Next to it, there is a rare big Cham Pa tree measuring 0.7 m in diameter and 15 m high. At Chup Preah, there is a big Buddha statue surrounded by many other small statues made during the 16th century.
k. A THOUSAND LINGAS:
Located on the Kulen mountain, along the Siem Reap river and thousand of figures of Yonis and Lingas scarved on the riverbed.
l. TERRACE OF SDACH KUMLUNG:
A plain terrace on Kulen Mountain covered by lava for hundreds years with a small temple ruins made of solid brick in the middle.
m. PREAH ANG THOM:
A big Buddha statue who had achieved nirvana. The statue was built in the 16th century as an 8 m long statue carved onto a big rock. Preah Ang Thom is the sacred and worshipping god for Kulen Mountain.
On Kulen Mountain, there are two waterfall spots:
- First Waterfall: 4 to 5 m high and 20 to 25 m wide during the dry and rainy seasons.
- Second Waterfall: 15-20 m high and 10 to 15 m wide during the dry and rainy seasons.
o. FLOATING VILLAGE:The village is named Chong Khnoas located in Chong Khnoas village, Chong Khnoas commune about 15 km from Siem Reap provincial town.