Siem Reap riverside is an overlooked location by most visitors in Siem Reap and this for several reasons: first the city is quite spread out and visitors spend most of their time around the neighborhood of their hotel. The second reason is that most people stay only 3 days so do not have the time to explore other parts of the city as touring the temples of Angkor is the priority.
So what is all about the riverside?
If you stay at Villa D Riverside, located on the western bank of the river, you will have to opportunity to explore this area of the city without being too far from the city center and from the temples of Angkor. Just across the street in front of the hotel you will find the wider section of the riverside with lush gardens and palm trees.
Siem Reap river crosses the city from the north, coming from the temples of Angkor, to the south to ends up in the great Tonle Sap lake, about 15 km away. The banks of the river have a lot of greenery compared to the city center and the area is also quieter. From the pub street area, walking north you will pass by no less than 8 bridges before reaching Villa D Riverside. Along this area the most interesting thing is you will have a have a peak into the daily life of Cambodians. We went for a walk around the hotel with our camera to capture some pictures.
Pagodas and Shrines
Pagodas (also called wat) are part of Cambodian’s everyday day life where they go to pray and pay respect to their ancestors. There are peaceful and colorful places to visit. If you are lucky, depending on the Buddhist calendar you can stumble upon some celebrations. As monks are living on their grounds you will have chances to talk them, they are always open to practice their English.
Two nice pagodas are situated on the opposite side of Villa D Riverside and are quite different from one another. The closest one, Wat Preah An Kau Saa has very stylish architecture with some golden Buddha statues and shrines.
About 1 km north, you will find Wat An Kau Sai, most commonly called Wat Enkosei. This pagoda has the rare feature to share its grounds with a temple built about 200 years before Angkor Wat. Its two distinct towers made of bricks are still standing today and one has very nicely conserved pediment above one the door with a carving of Indra on his mount Airavata. The good news is that you do not need the Angkor pass to access this site.
On the east side of the river, just south of Wat Preah An Kau Saa, you will find Baskets of Cambodia where you will witness the manufacture by hands of l baskets made very long dried reed grass called “la peuk” in Khmer (belongs to the rattan family). If you have more time and want to learn the art of making baskets you can join on their classes.
EFEO (École française d’Extrême-Orient)
Monk passing in front of the EFEO buildings along Siem Reap riverside
Just beside Baskets of Cambodia, two large wooden buildings are housing one of the centers of the EFEO (French School of the Far East) in Asia. The EFEO played a critical role in the restoration of the temples of Angkor for more than 100 years now. It is worth to stop there and have a look at their library if you want to learn more about the history of the temples.
Just across Baskets of Cambodia, you will find a local food market, mainly indoor, but it extends along the road as well. In the street, locals are selling fruits, lotus flowers or goods like clothes and shoes. The best time to visit is of course in the morning when locals are doing their shopping.
You can find on the map below the different locations pinned down in dark orange color.