Siem Reap, which literally means the “Defeat of Siam”, is the most prosperous region of contemporary Cambodia. Its close proximity to the Angkor Wat temple complex has turned the city into one of the world’s premier travel destinations. More than one million travelers visit Siem Reap every year to explore over a thousand years of Khmer heritage built near Tonle Sap Lake, the foundation of the economic power of the ancient Cambodian empire.
The heart of Siem Reap’s tourist district is known as Old Market, or Psah Chas. This part of town is home to a large concentration of restaurants and shops geared towards an ever-increasing number of American, British and European tourists. The influx of tourism has transformed a quiet little city into a bustling downtown area with an eclectic array of restaurants, bars and nightclubs that rivals any college town along with a night market that keep going well past midnight.
The primary attraction for visitors to Siem Reap is the Angkor Wat and the Angkor Temple Region, which blankets more than 300km of northwestern Cambodia. The Angkor Temple Complex has been designated a UN Heritage Site and consists of hundreds of structures from the 9th to the 14th century that tell the story of the rise and fall of the Khmer empire. This vast collection of historical structures are decorated with intricately carved, priceless Khmer artwork and that provide an archaeological and a pictorial history of an empire that ruled much of southeast Asia for five centuries. Structure range from partially renovated temples, pagoda and imperial residences to recently discovered ruins which are virtual untouched for the last 500 years.
The Angkor International Airport (REP/VDSR) is less than 15 minutes from Siem Reap’s town center. Most flights arriving at Angkor International Airport are Vietnam Airlines, which offers services from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Bangkok, Thailand or Ho Chi Minh City.
Everyone who does not hold a Cambodian passport needs a visa to enter the country except for citizens of Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore. Visas are available on arrival at the Siem Reap and Phnom Penh airports. Be aware that you will have to pay a $20 visa fee upon entering the country and another $25 exit fee when you leave.
Cambodia has a tropical climate which is usually warm and humid averaging around 27 degrees. December and January are the coolest months.
The Cambodian Riel is the currency of Cambodia. However, most establishments and transport drivers accept US Dollars.
Siem Reap’s city center is best explored on foot or on “tuk tuk” (a rickshaw with the front-end of a motorcycle). Tuk tuks, although not luxurious, are easy to find and inexpensive, not to mention these quirky vehicles have views in all directions and will add a little adventure to your daily commutes.
Most of the city’s large hotels are located outside the central part of the city, along Airport Road, (technically) walking distance from the town center and the dining / entertainment districts. On the other hand, the price of a tuk tuk ride to the market is about 1 USD per person and you will do plenty of walking while exploring the Angkor complex, so you might want to save your feet. Unlike many popular tourist destinations around the world, Siem Reap reports very low crime rates, even at night. So feel free to take a moonlit stroll down Pub Street or along the Siem Reap River.