Siem reap - Il Forno

Siemp reap italian restaurant
When you see the bright lights of temple street, turn around and dig deep so you can find the fountain of  reasonably priced food with excellent quality.

Il Forno [WEB] is hidden in a small inner alley, where several good looking restaurants are tucked away from the noise in a relatively small yet welcoming space. We picked it because of its good rating and high probability to deliver on my veggie expectations.

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Angkor VIP tour - Angkor Wat「អង្គរវត្ត」

Angkor VIP tour, Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat「អង្គរវត្ត」
  • Date: Early 12th century
  • Style: Angkor Wat
  • Highlights:  Angkor Wat literally means 'the city which became a pagoda'. It is the World's largest religious monument, apogee of classical Khmer architecture built by king Suryavarman II as capital and state temple dedicated to Vishnu, complete representation of the Hindu universe featuring a broad moat, towers in temple-mountain formation and carvings extremely rich in detail. Dedicated to Vishnu, symbol of Cambodia featured on the National flag. Save for the last of the first day, its W orientation provides gorgeous lightning during the golden hour.
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Angkor VIP tour - Le pit stop

Angkor snack, coconut shake
Back off b**ches - he mine.

I've expressed my sincere coconut romance along innumerable occasions - from my local Bangkok joint through Bali sunset drinks down to PR's cocotazo I haven't yet managed to find time to write about - but here comes another one. We hardly ever eat lunch during our tropical escapes, blame the love for humongous breakfast combined with the heat, fact is the only thing that goes through my throat for as long as the sun shines has to be liquid & chilled - as my friend Jorge calls it "la puleva".

I don't know about other Cambodian street foods. We both drank a couple of those during our short stay in Siem Reap and had no tummy issue. They are about 5$, widely available and a perfect option to refuel without risking it much in terms of flavour or calories. Now that I remember... We also ate some boiled eggs our driver bought for us - completely confused by our consistent refusal to eat lunch whenever he offered the possibility to stop - no tummy issue either!

Definitely one of the best things about South East Asia is the ubiquitous availability of freshly cut fruit to go and fruit based smoothies. It is very common for people to have them as afternoon snack in office, quite funny when they all come back from lunch with a tiny little bag featuring transparent fruit and a wooden little stick that serves as minimal fork. With this, I encourage you to give it a shot!

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Angkor VIP tour - Bayon「ប្រាសាទបាយ័ន」

Bayon temple, ancient Angkor
  • Date: Late 12th to late 13th century
  • Style: Bayon
  • Highlights: 49 towers with 4 faces of Lokesvara, bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. Extreme clutter with towers and architectural elements compressed and place irregularly, seems to indicate change of construction plans after the start e.g. it is believed that the central tower was originally not planned for to respect Ta Prohm and Banteay Kdei but eventually placed there. The charm is ruined by the extreme amount of tourists.

To understand the relevance of Bayon and the reason why it is so compressed, it is important to consider that it was located at the exact centre of Angkor Thom which you see in the map below. Roads lead to Bayon directly from the gates at each of the city's cardinal pointsthe last and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire, where only temples were built out of rock, reason why there isn't anything left in terms of palaces or daily life - which was all built on wood - and we can only account for temples, city gates and walls.
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Angkor VIP tour - Baphuon「ប្រាសាទបាពួន」

Baphuon temple, ancient Angkor
  • Date: Mid 11th century
  • Style: Bapuon
  • Highlights:  Intricate carvings, huge size, temple mountain with varied elements that combine Hindu with surprise Buddhist elements. One of our favourites.

Baphuon started as Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva 'the destructor' just like Elephanta Caves, which are reachable from the Gateway of India in Mumbai - that I never really found time to visit despite spending 3 weeks there.

Hinduism also has a trinity:
  • Brahma the creator, often depicted as 4-faced man, like towers in Bayon.
  • Vishnu the preserver, often presented as a 4 armed man, but also appears incarnated in 10 different avatars, that we have met in art or previous trips like Kurma the turtle who churns the sea of milk; Rama, the star of Ramayana loved from Thailand to Bali; Krishna who rights wrongs and brings happiness to the world; Buddha at least for Vaishnava Hindu who belief the human ascetic Gautama Buddha to be an avatar), he rides the Garuda
  • Shiva the destroyer, by no means a negative force - with his dance, Shiva ends a kalpa and begins a new one, often wearing Vasuki snake on the neck.
Baphuon it is the archetype of the Baphuon style with intricate carvings covering every available surface. The temple is huge 120mx100m at its base and stands 34m - estimated 50 with the tower which is no longer there, adjoins the southern enclosure of the royal palace. Its appearance apparently impressed Chou Ta-kuan, an envoy from Yuan dynasty of China during his visit from 1296 to 1297, who said it was 'the Tower of Bronze a truly astonishing spectacle, with more than ten chambers at its base.'

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Angkor VIP tour - Ta Keo「ប្រាសាទតាកែវ」

Ta Keo temple, ancient Angkor
Ta Keo「ប្រាសាទតាកែវ」
  • Date: Late 10th century
  • Style: Khleang
  • Highlights:  This giant temple-mountain stands out for being the first one to be built entirely of sandstone, a stone used exclusively by Khmer builders taken from the nearby Kulen mountains. Sandstone made it possible to create elaborate carvings and bas-reliefs, despite its tendency to flake when used for upright supports (against the way its layers were laid down). Together with Pre Rup, Ta Keo is a temple-mountain, with 5 sanctuary towers arranged in a quincunx (like the 5 side in a dice) built on the uppermost level, with one central gopura higher than the rest as symbolic depiction of Mount Meru - home of the gods, surrounded by moat that represents the sea. It was left unfinished as carving had just begun when the works stopped, hence the lack of decorations in many of the blocks.
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Angkor VIP tour - Ta Phrom「ប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្ម」

Ta Phrom temple, ancient Angkor

Ta Phrom「ប្រាសាទតាព្រហ្ម」
  • Date: Early 13th century
  • Style: Bayon
  • Highlights: Initially named 'the Royal monastery' founded by the king as a Mahayana 'greater vehicle' Buddhist monastery and university, this half-collapsed huge flat temple site where strangler ficus and silk-cotton trees grow at ease is one of the major temples in Angkor. Chosen by the École française d'Extrême-Orient to be left it its 'natural state' as an example of how most of Angkor looked during its Western discovery on the 19th century, Ta Phrom has not further collapsed but keeps the romantic appeal of imperial decadence. Maybe because of this, it was picked as a location in the film Tomb Raider which took visual liberties with other Angkorian temples, but kept Ta Phrom scenes quite faithful to its actual eerie qualities.
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