Located in northwest Cambodia you will find Siem Reap. The city and its province are famous due to one main reason: Cambodia’s major tourism hub, the world famous temples of Angkor, lie in the north of the city. These temple ruins turned Siem Reap into a boomtown in less than half a decade. But Angkor should not be the only reason for a visit. The Tonle Sap Lake, the greatest sweet water reserve in whole Southeast Asia is quite close, as well as the floating fishing villages of Kompong Phluk. And of course the city of Siem Reap also has a lot of things to offer.
How to get there?
You can easily reach Siem Reap via bus with lots of connections available. A more comfortable way would be to fly to Siem Reap International Airport.
Surprise, surprise – our highlight in Siem Reap was Angkor. We simply could not get enough of walking around the ancient temples and ruins. They all are so different and there are so many interesting things to learn and explore. We decided to buy the 3-day ticket for 62$. It is valid for three visits within one week from the day of purchase. Day passes cost 37$ and 7-day tickets 72$ (valid for one month).
How long to stay?
We recommend to stay for at least 3 nights. This will give you enough time to enjoy Siem Reap itself and also to explore Angkor for one or two days. In the end we decided to stay for 5 nights because exploring Angkor can be quite exhausting and you will not be able to get the proper experience in just one day. This is why we split our Angkor adventure in two parts: 1) sunrise + small tour and 2) big tour + sunset. On the other days we enjoyed the city.
Where to stay?
We stayed at the Dream Butterfly Garden Boutique Villa for 20 EUR per night/double room. The rooms are spacious, clean, modern and very nice. The place opened in summer 2016 and the owner and his family are very helpful and friendly. Additionally the rooms have access to a pretty garden with lots of butterflies. Breakfast is included and the city center with its restaurants, the old market and pub street are just a 1 km walk away.
Angkor Driver There are many ways to explore Angkor. You can book a guided tour, you can go there by bus, scooter, e-bike or bicycle. And of course you can also hire one of the many tuktuk drivers to take you around. We decided to go for the tuktuk option and found Mr. Sophara who operates under the name Angkor Driver Sophara. He is a really reliable and attentive guide who not only offers fair prices but also speaks good English. He knows some quite nice spots in the area and always has cold water for you during the tour. We highly recommend his services. Just drop him a message via mail or Facebook and he most probably will pick you up once you arrive in Siem Reap to discuss any further plans. Angkor Wat This is the biggest temple within the area of Angkor and maybe the ultimate expression of genius Khmer architecture. It is Cambodia’s most iconic temple and you probably will know it from their national flag. It also is the most popular spot to watch a beautiful sunrise. Rise early and join countless others for this special moment. The favorite place to be is right opposite of Angkor, a little on the left at a small pond. In case you did not visit the area before, no worries: Just follow the crowd. We recommend to bring a torch/headlight and something warm to wear. It can get quite cold in the early morning hours and the ancient paths can be quite messy in the dark. Just in case you want to go there to take the perfect picture make sure to be there super early and it probably would be good to visit the place during daylight to already look for the perfect spot. Angkor Thom Angkor Thom once was the largest and most enduring capital city of the Khmer empire. It covers an area of about 9 square kilometers within which you can explore several temples and monuments. Entering Angkor Thom via its South Gate is quite a nice experience as you pass a bridge with 54 stone figures on each side. If possible take the chance to pass the bridge by foot. This way you can enjoy a nice view and the many different figures. Shortly after entering Angkor Thom you will reach a temple called Bayon. It once was the official state temple of King Jayavarman. Today it is well-known due to being richly decorated with almost countless smiling stone faces. We also enjoyed exploring the temple of Baphoun. If you are lucky you can climb its many steps all the way to the top and enjoy a quite nice view. Pre Rup There are two main spots to view the sunset at Angkor. One is at Phnom Bakheng (only 300 people are allowed on top) and the other (probably less crowded one) is Pre Rup. This temple also makes a great ending point of the so-called “big tour” around Angkor. Just be patient and enjoy the sunset until its end. Most visitors leave early and miss the best parts. Some staff member will make sure to tell you when it is time to go home so you will also be able to safely descent the steps when there is still some light. Preah Khan A lot of Angkor’s temples have been beautifully restored during the past years, some still are being restored and there also are some gems which have been left largely unrestored. With numerous trees and other vegetation growing amongst the ancient ruins. Preah Khan was one of our favorite temples as it is less crowded but still offers you lots of stuff to see and explore. It is quite impressive how some massive trees took over the place and grow on top of towers, walls and doorways. Just amazing! Ta Prohm Just like Preak Khan this temple has been left largely unrestored and you will find lots of trees growing over the place. As the temple is one of the most well-known and popular ones the place is very crowded. But still worth a visit. The temple also became famous due to its appearance in the Tomb Raider movie. This is why most locals also call it the “Tomb Raider Temple”. Pub Street In case you favor some Western food, insanely cheap beer, music and entertainment: Pub Street is the place to be in Siem Reap. You sure will find what you desire in this long road with all its bars, restaurants and bright lights. Restaurants We did not favor to eat in Pub Street and found two cute places which we visited quite often: 1) Crane – A modern coffee shop with good design and delicious cake. They have nutella brownie! And they also sell nice t-shirts. 2) Our favorite place for dinner was the Hill Street Cafe – They offer good Western, Asian and traditional Khmer food at fair prices. The first draft is free with a meal. Markets As probably all bigger Asian cities you also have some nice markets in Siem Reap. In Siem Reap the most popular markets are the Old Market (traditional market selling food, clothes and household goods) and the Angkor Night Market (handicrafts, souvenirs etc.). Both are located within the city center. Especially the old market is worth a visit as its labyrinthine web of stalls will give you a proper Asian market experience.