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Siem Reap

Cambodia

Home to the legendary Angkor Wat, the town of Siem Reap is in itself a discovery of sorts. From a sleepy village just 10 years ago, Siem Reap is now home to a growing array of world-class restaurants, a vibrant night life and expat scene and of course, outstanding boutique hotels; while a blossoming contemporary arts scene is taking root. It’s as though Siem Reap is set on reclaiming its throne as the epicentre of Khmer culture and arts, following in the footsteps of its Angkor rulers over 600 years ago.

Then of course there is the star attraction and the reason that everyone’s here – the fabled ruins of Angkor Wat, one of the great wonders of the world. To witness the sunrise over the majestic stupas is an incomparable experience that you'll never forget. And should you find yourself experiencing temple fatigue, a day trip out on the massive Tonle Sap Lake or the Floating Villages will provide an eye-opening insight into rural village life.

Why Go?

Siem Reap is synonymous with Angkor Wat, recently voted the No. 1 tourist attraction on the planet by Lonely Planet and a must-do item on every traveller’s bucket list.

When to Go

The cool season (Nov–Feb) is the best time to visit, when it’s cool enough to explore the temples in comfort and yet warm enough to sunbathe by the coast. Avoid the hot months of March till May when humidity and temperatures soar up to 33–35°C, when the unrelenting hot sun makes exploring the temple ruins a torturous act. Intrepid travellers can also consider visiting during the rainy season from June to October, when tourism is at its lowest and visitors will have Angkor Wat pretty much to themselves.

Average Temp

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High °C

32

33

35

36

35

34

33

32

32

31

30

31

Low °C

19

20

26

26

25

25

25

25

25

24

22

20

High °F

88

91

93

95

93

91

90

90

88

88

88

86

Low °C

72

75

77

79

79

79

79

79

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77

75

72

 

Book to Pack

Temple of a Thousand Faces, by bestselling author John Shors: a gripping love story and murder mystery set amidst the historical backdrop of Angkor Wat.

  • Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
  • Ta Prohm, Siem Reap
  • Children playing at Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap
  • Angkor Wat
  • Novice Monks in Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
  • A travel guide to Angkor Wat and Siem Reap
  • Flooded Forests in Kompong Phluk
  • Flooded Forest boat tour in Siem Reap
  • A monk descending Angkor Wat in Siem Reap
  • Angkor temples at dusk

Things to Do

  • Explore Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples

It’s the reason everyone is here after all. Recently voted the No. 1 tourist attraction in the world by Lonely Planet, there’s no preparing you for the sight of mystical Angkor Wat, surrounded by its watery moats and ethereal stone carvings. You’ll need at least two days to scratch the surface of this iconic World Heritage Site (covering a vast 400 square kilometres and open from 5am-6pm daily). While Angkor Wat gets most of the glory, don’t miss nearby temples such as the majestic Angkor Thom, the root-covered Ta Prohm and the enigmatic Bayon Temple with its many faces. If time permits, venture outside the city to explore the pink-hued Banteay Srei, about half an hour’s drive from the Old Market.

  • Visit Tonle Sap Lake and Kompong Phluk Floating Village

Nicknamed “Cambodia’s beating heart,” the mighty Tonle Sap Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and a designated UNESCO biosphere. Hop onto a boat to spot the unique fish, birds, reptiles and mammals that live in the area, including crab-eating macaques, giant catfish and crocodiles. Combine this with a tour nearby Kompong Phluk where you can visit communities of traditional stilt-house villages built over the water as well as local crocodile and fish farms. During the rainy season, a boat tour of the nearby Flooded Forests -- where you'll be rowed among the treetop canopies -- is a surreal experience.

  • Go shopping

The bustling Old Market (Phsar Chas) in town is Siem Reap’s oldest market, filled with handicrafts, local produce and souvenirs. Go in the early morning to watch locals haggling over fresh produce. The narrow alleys and passages nearby are also filled with small and interesting shops for browsing: Alley West is filled with indie boutiques offering a wide selection of clothing, art and souvenirs. Our top picks in town include Eric Raisina Couture House for stylish outfits by the former Yves Saint Laurent and Christain Lacroix designer; Galerie Cambodge for ethically-produced cotton scarves, leather sandals and jewellery, and Theam’s House, the atelier and residence of Cambodia-born ceramic artist and painter Lim Muy Theeam.

  • Explore Siem Reap's blossoming restaurant and arts scene

Practically non-existent just 10 years ago, Siem Reap has blossomed into a destination in its own right with some excellent galleries, restaurants, bars, boutiques and museums. Admire priceless artifacts at the Angkor National Museum up the road, wine and dine at the city’s blossoming restaurant scene along Pub Street and be dazzled by a performance by disadvantaged Cambodian youths at the Phrae Cambodian Circus.

  • Learn to cook traditional Cambodian dishes

What better way to learn about Cambodia’s rich culinary heritage than by experiencing a hands-on cooking class? Besides learning to cook authentic dishes, you’ll also be taken on a tour of the market where you’ll learn to identify local herbs, spices, roots, pastes, and learn about other key ingredients – everything from kroeung to prahok.

  • Sign up for a cocktail-mixing class or sample locally-distilled rice spirits

If drinks are more your thing, head to Asana bar in the Pub Street area to sign up for cocktail-mixing classes, where you’ll learn how to use Cambodian herbs, roots and spices to create delicious Khmer cocktails. Alternatively, pay a visit to the Sombai Workshop (176 Sombai Road) to enjoy a free tasting session of this locally-distilled rice spirit infused with local herbs and spices.

  • Play a round of golf or mini-golf.

For a whimsical break from sightseeing, Angkor Wat Putt is a delightful 14-hole mini-golf course, with each hole designed to look like a miniature Angkor temple. Aim for a hole in one to enjoy a free beer reward. If you're itching for the real deal, the Angkor Golf Resort is Cambodia’s first PGA-standard championship golf course and was recently named one of Asia’s best new golf courses by Asian Golf magazine.

  • Visit a silk worm farm and learn how traditional Cambodian silks are woven

Run by the Artisans Angkor creative collective, the Angkor Silk Farm (National Road, 20 minute drive from the Old Market) is a great place to visit when you want to take a break from touring temples. Here, you can observe the laborious process that goes into weaving Cambodia’s renowned silk fabrics: from rearing silk worms to spinning cocoons into a thread and weaving this by hand into a high-quality fabric. It’s a unique opportunity to witness a traditional cottage industry that has long since vanished from more developed parts of the world. Free shuttle buses depart from the main Artisans Angkor office in Thmey Street (2 minute walk from the Old Market) at 9.30am and 1:30pm. Admission is free of charge.   

  • Shop for handicrafts at the Well Made in Cambodia market

Held on the grounds of Shinta Mani Club every Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday from 4-9pm, the popular Well Made in Cambodia market brings together a sampling of the most exciting local craftsmanship in the country today, alongside live entertainment, artist workshops and mouthwatering street food. Browse the colourful outdoor stalls and shop for handmade items by both emerging and internationally-recognised designers based in Cambodia, and feel good knowing that your dollars are going towards supporting a variety of charity causes.

  • Visit Phnom Kulen National Park & Beng Melea Temple

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Phnom Kulen National Park is often overshadowed by Angkor’s temples. Yet its holy mountain, thousand year-old sacred carvings and dazzling waterfalls makes it one of the most scenic and historically-significant locations in the region and absolutely worth a visit. On the way, be sure to stop by the atmospheric Beng Melea Temple, an unrestored Angkor temple that looks like it's straight out of an Indiana Jones movie.

Angkor Thom, Siem Reap
Ta Prohm, Siem Reap

Getting There

NOTE: Travel information such as flight, train, bus and boat schedules and fares are subject to constant change. The information below is intended as a basic guide only; please check with the relevant companies/authorities before planning your journey.

By Air

Siem Reap International Airport (REP) is the country’s second-largest airport with fairly modern, although somewhat limited, facilities. The airport serves a number of regional airlines from around South-East Asia and China, including direct flights to Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang, Manila, Hong Kong, Luang Prabang, Guangzhou, Kunming and Seoul. There are also domestic flights to and from the capital of Phnom Penh as well as Sihanoukville. Taxis into town are available outside the arrival terminal for a fixed price of US$7.

Getting Around

By Tuk-tuk/Motodop

Tuk-tuks and motodops (motorcycle taxis) are the main mode of transport, and are easy to flag down in town. These are extremely affordable and generally trustworthy, costing between US$0.50 - $1 to travel within the downtown area. Note that international visitors are prohibited from driving motorcycles within Siem Reap.

By Car

If travelling outside city areas, it is advisable to hire a car with a driver for a day to ensure that you have return transportation. These generally cost US$40-$50 for a licensed car with an English-speaking guide, although travelling to places further afield such as Beng Melea and Banteay Srei may cost more.

By Bicycle

This is a pleasant way to get around the flat and compact city. Most hotels will rent bicycles for free or for a nominal sum of US$1-3 per day. Be sure to carry bottled water and sun protection.

The Essentials

Visa Requirements

Nearly all international visitors, apart from citizens of Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, are required to have a visa to enter Cambodia. Visas for most nationalities can be obtained at the airport upon arrival – a one month tourist visa (which can be extended for an extra month) costs US$30 (pay in USD to avoid high conversion rates) and requires two passport sized photographs. It is also possible to apply for an ‘e-Visa’ online prior to arrival for US$30 plus a US$7 processing fee. This ‘e-Visa’ is valid for 30 days, with entry within 3 months from the date of issue. Visit http://www.evisa.gov.kh for further details.

Currency

Cambodia uses the Riel (KHR), which has a tendency to fluctuate wildly in value. US dollars and Thai Baht are widely accepted and even preferred. As a general rule, US$1 is approximately equivalent to 4000 KHR – visit xe.com to view the latest exchange rates. ATMs are widely available in town.

Electricity

230 W / 50 Hz. A combination of both round and flat two-pin sockets are used, as well as occasionally the 3-pin British-style sockets.

Health & Safety

Siem Reap is generally a safe place to travel, and the majority of dangers or annoyances take the form of scams. Beware of people posing as charity workers (complete with ID and brochures) approaching you on the streets for donations, and decline requests for baby milk formula, food or water from child or adult beggars as this just ends up getting resold for profit by syndicates. Finally, do your research and arrange for tours and tour guides by reputable organisations to avoid getting ripped off.

Mosquitos can be a concern – bring insect repellent and wear long pants when visiting jungle areas. There is no longer any risk of land mines in Siem Reap. Lastly, avoid drinking tap water; bottled water is cheap and readily available – bring a reusable bottle and get it refilled at your hotel to be eco-friendly.

Responsible Tourism

Visitors to Siem Reap should keep in mind Cambodia's sensitive wartorn past, the people's Buddhist beliefs as well as the society's relative poverty and conservative values. Below are some guidelines to follow:

- Avoid touching anyone’s head, especially someone older than you, as this is considered extremely disrespectful

- Avoid sitting with the bare soles of your feet pointing at people or religious objects, as the feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body and doing so is therefore insulting.

- Avoid touching locals of the opposite sex. Women should never touch monks as this is strictly forbidden.

- Remember that Angkor’s temples are active religious sites and world heritage treasures, and should be treated accordingly. Avoid touching the carvings and bas reliefs to avoid damage, and dress appropriately with shoulders and knees covered when visiting.

- Don't give money to begging children and think twice before buying souvenirs from them, as this keeps them out of school. Visiting orphanages is also increasingly discouraged, as many scams abound and the children (many who still have living parents) become little more than tourist attractions. If you wish to help, do your homework on reputable organisations and give your money to those instead. For more information, visit the ConCERT office, a local NGO dedicated to promoting responsible tourism.

Children in Kompong Phluk, Siem Reap

Learn the Lingo

Khmer is the official language of Cambodia. Most shops, businesses and tour guides also speak basic English.

Hello - jum-reap soo-a

How are you? - sok-sa bai jee-a tay?

What is your name? - laok ch’moo-ah a-vwai?

How much is this? - Ta veer t’lai pbon-maan?

Excuse me / sorry - som-dtoah

Thank you - arkun