The resort town of Siem Reap is in north western Cambodia.
Monumental temples including the famed Angkor Watt, delicious street food and fun-filled night time activities ensure travellers flock to this thriving tourist centre.
You’ll find great value hotels in Siem Reap. Also very cheap shopping and budget restaurants are available.
The peak travel season is December through March. This avoids the rainy season usually from June to October and the April – May season when the temperature is the hottest.
Siem Reap is the gateway to the ruins of Angkor, the seat of the Khymer Kingdom of the 9th to the 15th century.
Angkor’s vast complex of intricate stone buildings include 17 temples and covers an area of more than 162 hectares. The preserved main temple of Angkor Wat is included.
The temples were built for the Hindu, faith and later became Buddhist. The work required to create these buildings, with carvings and stonework is unbelievable.
Activities to pursue in Siem Reap include:
- Exploring the Angkor Archaeological Park. You can start with the official ‘Wonder of the World – The Angkor Wat Temple’. It is part of the largest religious site in the world. You can also visit a hilltop complex such as Phnom Bakheng before the heat of the midday sun but better still at sunset. The ‘Tombraider Temple – Ta Prohm’, shaded by tightly-knotted banyan trees is fine for afternoon visiting. Off road temples such as Preah Pithu around the main city of Angkor Thom are also worth exploring. A three-day temple pass is available.
- Visiting the Angkor National Museum. You’ll learn about the powerful Angkor civilisation and see many Buddhist and Hindu treasures. Ideal to visit the museum first to understand the history of the Angkor complex.
- Explore temples further out from the core complex. The tenth century Hindu temple, Banteay Srei is beautifully carved out of pink stone with delicate artwork thought to be made by women. It is only a 40-minute tuktuk (rickshaw) ride from Siem Reap.
- Take the hour-long trip to Beng Mealea. This mysterious temple is in the jungle. Fewer tourists tend to visit this. If you do you will feel connected to the lost empire.
- Visit the floating villages of Chong Khneas or Kompong Khleang. You will see a working Khmer community. The stilt houses are particularly memorable. You book a boat trip for this excursion.
- Party on Pub Street. Siem Reap’s Pub Street is full of life all day and night. Café Central comes highly recommended for daytime visits. A mix of Khmer and Western restaurants are available to choose from for dinner. The Red Piano serves one of the best Khmer curries in town. The Angkor What? bar and club allow partying late into the night.
- Bicycle around the town. Hiring a bike gives you the freedom to explore the town. You won’t need a plan or a map. Simply follow the river which divides it in half to explore all the side streets. The Angkor temple complex can be reached by bike.
- Visit the country on a quad bike. Experience watching the sun go down over rice paddies. Bump along dirt tracks and cycle past flat green land to gain insight into the lifestyle of the Cambodian people.
- Go shopping at the Angkor Night Market. Only two minutes’ walk from Pub Street you can sample sumptuous street food, buy local handicrafts and be dazzled by Khmer artwork.
- Get a massage for $3. Masseurs are readily available. A thirty-minute sit-down massage or an hour at places like the Khmer Relief Spa will help reinvigorate you for more
- Visit the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary situated near Tonle Sap Lake. See many of Southeast Asia’s endangered birds. You can take a boat tour through the marshes and explore the lake.
- Visit the Landmine Museum and School. Here you can learn about Cambodia’s recent difficult past. You will understand the legacy left by the totalitarian Kymer Rouge and the effect on the Cambodian people.
Other key events are:
- The Giant Puppet Parade (February)
- Khmer New Year (April)
- Bon Om Touk Water Festival (Angkor, November), with longboat races, music and dancing.
The average stay at Siem Reap is seven days. However, because there is plenty to see and do staying longer means you can see and experience so much more.
How to Reach Siem Reap
- Flights from Australia are readily available.
- You can also travel with Thai Airways from Bangkok.
- You can reach Siem Reap from Phnom Penh.
As a low-key but modern gateway to the archaeological site, Siem Reap has great value hotels. There are all types from budget to 5 star, with prices that are fantastic value. You can choose from boutique hotels, through to large resorts.
Golden shopping opportunities are readily available. There are numerous galleries and spas.
Travellers are flocking to Siem Reap.
There are more things to see and enjoy as well as the great Angkor Wat temple.