Siem Reap’s very own killing field, Angkor Night Market and Pub Street are places where one should visit while in town.
Wat Thmey — Killing Field
I never knew that there was a Killing Field Temple in Siem Reap. I have only heard of the main sites in Phnom Penh all these while. As I had about two hours left before my check-in, Tim suggested that I should visit Wat Thmey and there are killing fields spread across Cambodia. I was not planning to visit Phnom Penh during my trip so, I thought why not since it was free too.
Two young girls were playing jianzi (feather-ball) in the temple premise. I could not help but to have mixed feelings about their little ball kicking game in such a solemn and bleak venue. They seem to be unfazed by the severity of the Cambodian war.
Wat Thmey has a smaller than average temple grounds. Yet, it used to serve as the killing field during the Khmer Rouge period. It is nothing near the word grandiose or spiritually enhancing. As you enter, you will see a large prayer hall on your left, stupas and some guardian statues with no tails.
Something else caught my eyes. I walked straight into the middle part of the grounds. As I walked closer, I realized the single-glass monument contains skulls and bones collected from the Pol Pot massacre. Apparently, before it was painted red, there were words written on its wall. The words written on the walls were names of victims from the country’s recent horrific past.
Tim explained to me that the Khmer Rouge took hold of Cambodia in 1975–1978. They humiliated the locals, strip them of their dignity, and force them out of the main cities. A total of two million innocent lives (25% of the nation) were lost during that 3 years period. The bodies of the deceased were thrown into two pits and six water-wells located in the south of the prison where Wat Thmey stands.
I took a stroll behind the memorial, and read the boards that explained the massacre. There were not many details about what has happened in Siem Reap, rather there were more gory images of victims and photos taken during the massacre. Executions were mainly done by a hammer, axe, spades and sharpened bamboo sticks to save armour.
Tim saw the disturbed look I had looking at these spirit-crushing images. He proceeded to voice his thoughts about the incident and how it has impacted their lives. It was indeed a dark period for the Cambodians. I paid my respect to those who have lost their lives and continued to walk towards the main shrine.
“Tim, what does Siem Reap actually means?” I asked curiously.
Tim stopped his paced. He answered,”Siem refers to Siam or better known as Thailand now while reap in Khmer means defeat. So, Siem Reap literally means the defeat of Siam.”
I wondered if Siem Reap will ever stop surprising my ignorant mind.
Onederz Hostel and Angkor Night Market
An indeed warm-welcome was received as I checked in to my hostel that was located right next to the busiest part of Siem Reap town. The staffs in Onederz Hostel was lovely, helpful and knowledgeable.
The stay was a tad pricier than the average hostels around town. I paid 8 USD for a standard bunk bed in a six-bed mixed dorm. On an average price, one can easily find the same package for about 5 USD a night. I wanted a super-close hostel to the night market and a great common area. Not forgetting a rooftop swimming pool — where I can take a dip in this hot weather with a cheap 1 USD bottle of Angkor beer overlooking the city of Siem Reap. It was very comfortable compared to most hostels that I have ever stayed in too. So, I guess I cannot complain about the price.
Besides that, it was located right next to Angkor Night Market and 5-minutes walk away from Pub Street. Angkor Night Market did not really interest me because most stalls sold the same items. For others, I guess it is a good place for haggling and buying generic souvenirs e.g. magnets, t-shirts, handicrafts, and elephant pants. It is only worth it if you are able to haggle your prices to be in between 1-3 USD.
P/S: I am a petite and short Asian girl with a well-rounded bum. Thus, tore 3 elephant pants that I bought at Angkor Night Market while visiting temples — thankfully, I always have my jacket with me. If you have a nice bum like mine, I suggest forgoing the pants because they tear easily. It is best to buy their sarong (a long-wrap-around skirt) if you need a bottom to visit the temples.
Ah… Yes, Pub Street is the nightlife of Siem Reap. One must not miss visiting the ever so famous The Red Piano Bar and Restaurant when in town. What makes this bar and restaurant exceptionally famous? Well, the answer would be Tomb Raider.
Or, maybe it is just the cocktail ‘lucky draw’ they have if you order the Tomb Raider cocktail. Every 10th Tomb Raider cocktail sold, you will have a chance to get the drink for free. My roommate managed to get the cocktail for free. We did wish that it was the 100th cocktail though. The customer who orders the 100th Tomb Raider cocktail is entitled for the drink to be free, a free t-shirt, and a bonus 100 USD cash.
Nevertheless, there are many other fascinating pubs that are worth visiting on Pub Street. These bars, pubs, restaurants and nightclubs are only closed at 4 am every day. Cocktails are available for 1 USD (or less) during happy hours and most beers are priced at 50 cents per glass. Anyone with any budget who loves to party should definitely visit this street.
Another bar that I enjoyed my time there was Temple Balcony. There is free cultural show there every night at 8 pm. My roommate and I ordered 2 USD worth of beer to enjoy the show. After the cultural show, we left the second-floor of the bar and was welcomed by a dance battle that was happening on the street. Patrons of Temple Balcony were dancing on the street as it was packed inside. It was highly-entertaining for us to watch.
Some other recommended bars located on or a street away from Pub Street are as below:
- X Bar (rooftop-skateboard bar for the adventurous)
- Miss Wong Cocktail Bar (1920s Shanghai style sophisticated bar with wide range of imported beers)
- Asana Bar (Khmer-style cocktails in a Khmer stilt house with hammock upstairs)
Siem Reap is definitely one of the few ancient cities that I have visited in Asia with a super-hyped nightlife.
Click here to skip to Part 4 of the story where it is all about the majestic Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. (Coming soon)