Siem Reap City

The name Siem Reap literally means "Siam Defeated". These days, however, the only rampaging hordes are the tourists heading to the Angkor Archaeological Park. This once quaint village has become the largest boom town and construction site in Cambodia. It's quite laid-back and a pleasant place to stay while touring the temples and a nice compromise between observing Cambodian life and enjoying the amenities of modern services and entertainment, thanks to a large expatriate community.

Since Siem Reap is a major tourist destination, prices in many instances are higher than elsewhere in Cambodia. Expect to receive almost constant offers for motodop and tuk-tuk rides, along with everything else which drivers may be able to offer to you.

APSARA (the acronym is based on the French for the "Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap" and also the Sanskrit for a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology) has a very informative website detailing the history and architecture (in 6 languages) and endorsed by the recently deceased King of Cambodia.

You can obtain a visa on arrival at the airport. Bring US dollars to pay for it, as proffering other currencies will result in a large "conversion fee". Bring a passport-sized photo also. Immigration and Customs staff are possibly the unfriendliest Cambodians you will meet on your trip: grin and bear it, as entry procedures don't take long. You may be asked for a "tip" by Immigration staff. Politely decline: you will be allowed in regardless. Fingerprinting is now in operation at the airport for International visitors arriving from outside of Cambodia.

During festive seasons such as Chinese New Year, immigration officers may demand for 'red packet' money when they stamp your passport. This may be meant as a joke and they may point to a pile of USD on their counter. However, politely decline and do not give in.

The airport is around 7 km from the town centre. Prepaid taxis cost US$12, see the prepaid booth just outside the terminal. Prepaid tuktuk rides are also available for $9. Thrill seeking solo travellers without much baggage can save a few dollars by opting for back of a motodop for US$5. Most hotels offer a free airport pick-up if you've booked in advance.

Most people come to visit Angkor Archaeological Park, which is thoroughly covered in its own article. The town itself has some worthwhile attractions and a number of beautiful modern Buddhist temples.

  • Angkor National Museum, Daily 8:30-18:00. Exhibits covering the history of the Angkor complex as well as Khmer culture and clothing using high tech displays and video screens. Some say the 1,000 Buddhas room is as impressive as it sounds. Exhibits cover Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom rather well, however the museum does not function as primer to the whole Angkor Archaeological Park. US$12
  • Angkor Silk Farm (Artisans Angkor), Puok District (National Road 6 (20 minute drive from the centre)), 8am-5pm. Close to Siem Reap centre yet located in the lush and charming countryside, Angkor Silk Farm is a great place to go to when you want to take a break from visiting the Angkorian temples. Discover at Angkor Silk Farm how incredible the silk-making process is: from a silk worm to a cocoon, from a simple thread to a high-quality fabric, you will go through all those different stages by understanding the traditional Cambodian weaving techniques. Free shuttle buses depart at 09.30 and 13.30 from Artisans Angkor's main center in Thmey Street (2 minute walk from the Old Market). The visit is free. 0$.
  • Angkor Handicraft Association, Road 60, Trang village, Sangkat Slorkram. Workshops, demonstrations and a wide range of authentic handicraft products. AHA is an NGO working with the artisans from the rural areas of Siem Reap Province, promoting only authentic and certified handicrafts. Friendly staff and lots of interesting traditional items and activities to see.
  • McDermott Gallery, FCC Angkor, Pokambor Avenue (On the river next to the Royal Residence), 10am-10pm. The exhibition by legendary photographer John McDermott shows photographs of the temples of Angkor before crowds of tourists arrived. For those of us who came too late to see the temples in solitary splendor, this is a chance to go back in time. The New York Times calls them “the defining images of Angkor.” The visit is free and the staff is friendly and helpful. Gifts and cards also for sale. $0.
  • Senteurs d'Angkor Workshop, Airport road (3km from Caltex Station, airport direction on the National 6), 7:30 am - 6:00 pm. This visit introduces the different workshops where around 100 artisans are working in the middle of a tropical garden. A provided guide will welcome you at the entrance, she will explain to you all the manufacturing steps of the Senteurs d’Angkor product range. From the eco friendly boxes made from palm tree leaves to handmade soaps, natural cosmetics, candles and incense. You will also discover how to mix local spices to obtain the traditional Curry or Amok. Do not leave without a free tasting of Rattanakiri coffee or flavored tea! There is also a shop there to buy the products. You can get a free tuk tuk from their shop opposite of the Old Market to take you there.

Temples Around Town

  • Wat Preah Prom Rath: Wat Preah Prom Rath, Pokambor Ave. The glittering modern temple grounds gives a few hints to its 500 year history. Though the lotus themed architecture seem to emulate temples from over the border, the front gate integrates Bayon style heads and a scene in relief of the Buddha seated under a tree, while armies fire arrows on one side and others are eaten by crocodiles on his other, that looks like it could have been taken directly from Angkorian mural. Legend holds it that the site was established around 1500 when a famous monk landed ashore on a piece of his sinking boat. The boat wood was carved into the oddly foreshortened reclining Buddha installed in a swimming pool like pit behind the imposing, yet despondent looking, seated Buddha in the main hall. Perhaps mimicking the construction materials origins the reclining Buddha has taken on a sunken slant at the feet end. A pair of small weather worn cannons on either side of the hall are of unknown origin but their style, an embossed crown-like seal and mysterious numbers suggest a European origin.
  • Wat Prohm Rath - modern but quite boring, might as well stop in on your way to the museum.
  • Wat Preah Enkosa - average little temple.
  • Wat Preah Enkosei - interesting little temple, painted orange.
  • Wat Po Lanka - little temple painted white.
  • Wat Bo - two large brand new temples and one old white one. The new ones, almost finished, have been under construction since 2011.
  • Wat Damnak located behind the market on the south-eastern side of the river. Also houses the Center for Khmer Studies, a library and a primary school.
  • Wat Kesararam located in central Siem Reap on National Road 6 towards the Airport, adjacent to Sokha Angkor Resort. The temple is known for its beautiful ceiling and wall murals.

Ceramic classes

  • Angkor Pottery Center (Traditional Khmer Pottery Workshop and Pottery School), Wat Atwear Village (3.5 km South of Old Market on Main Road 63),  08:00-17:00. Daily pottery classes for beginners as well as professionals in pottery making, carving and glazing by Siem Reap’s most famous local potter, Mrs Paruth Hann. Make your own design and take your glazed pot home as a souvenir. Enjoy a truly khmer experience and support an enterprise creating fair wage jobs for the poor village women in Siem Reap.
  • Pottery Classes & Painting classes, Pottery class and clay class course, you can make your own ceramic artifact on the potter wheel. You can feel the potters sensation. After you finish your piece, you can add different designs on it with special tools.Paint your own Pottery course, you can draw and / or paint your own design on a pot.

Cooking classes

  • Champey Cooking Class: Would you like to learn how to make authentic quality Khmer food like you eat in the restaurants? Well look no further. Champey Cooking Class gives visitors to Cambodia the opportunity to learn how to prepare traditional and delicious Khmer dishes under the guidance of a genuine professional Chef. You’ll visit the local market, see the action for yourself and learn about the produce soon to become your food. Our clean, professional standard facility is centrally located (approx. 150m from the Old Market) in a traditional style Cambodian house with beautiful gardens you can enjoy dining in once your meal is made. This is a truly unique and unforgettable experience for those who wish to do more than just see the sights.

Cultural performances

  •  Phare, The Cambodian Circus, Phare Circus Ring Road (just south of the intersection with Sok San Road, 2km from Old Market & Pub Street). daily, 19.30, gates open at 19:00. "Unmissable" -Lonely Planet. Siem Reap's most unique, authentic, home-grown, top-rated (TripAdvisor) evening entertainment. Has Khmer essence, vibe, energy and emotion. An extension of the NGO school Phare Ponleu Selpak Artistic Center in Battambang, but here the show is different, professional and performed daily. The New York Times 36Hours in Siem Reap
  • Smile of Angkor, Smile of Angkor Grand Theatre (Angkor COEX) (North east outskirts of Siem Reap, direction to Angkor turn right to Apsara Road). 19:15-20:25 nightly. Things to do in Siem Reap ? It is the first Grand Epic show that recreates the Angkor Civilization in all its glorious aspects.A production of Cambodian traditional dances equipped with multimedia large screen, featuring Angkor civilization. Grand epic show that revives the Angkor dynasty in all aspects; from foundation to prosperity, tale to folk customs, past to present. The performance expresses the traditional Cambodian culture with the latest technology. The performance contains traditional Cambodian dances such as Apsara Dance, Peacock Dance, Shiva Dance, Bokator (traditional Khmer martial art). You can dinner on place
  • Rosana Broadway, (Rosana Broadway), National Highway 6. Show Time: 5:45 PM/7:30 PM Daily (The schedule may subject change). Famous Cambodian Traditional Dance and International Cabaret Show which provides a unique mix of entertainment on stage.The Stunning Performers are trained by a Professional Choreographer to bring you several varieties of dancing, with magnificent costumes to sweep you away on a magical and musical journey of song and dance.
  • Cambodian Cultural Village, Airport Road # 6, Khum Svay Dang Kum, Krus Village (between Airport and Siem Reap city centre, along National Road 6, 3 km from Siem Reap Airport) 10:00-18:30 daily. Cambodian culture in a nutshell, miniatures of Cambodian landmarks and ethnic traditional houses together with cultural performances. US$15.

Festivals

  • The Water Festival. This vast festival is probably the most extravagant festival in the calendar. Over three days starting with the last full moon day in October or the beginning of November up to a million people from all walks of life from all over the country flock to the banks of Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers in Phnom Penh to watch hundreds of brightly coloured boats with over 50 paddlers battle it out. The boat racing dates back to ancient times marking the strengths of the powerful Khmer marine forces during the Khmer empire. In the evening brightly decorated floats cruise along the river prior to and complimenting the fireworks displays. there is often a parallel festival at Angkor Wat and although it is smaller in scale it is just as impressive due to the backdrop of Angkor Wat. The festival marks the changing of the flow of the Tonle Sap and is also seen as thanksgiving to the Mekong River for providing the country with fertile land and abundant fish. It is at this time when the river flow reverts to its normal down stream direction. The remarkable phenomenon that is the Tonle Sap sees the river flowing upstream during the rainy season and then change direction as the rains cease and the swollen Tonle Sap Lake empties back into the Mekong River leaving behind vast quantities of fish.

Massages

  • Bodia Spa, New Street A, Behind UCare Pharmacy, Old market area Siem Reap, Cambodia. Great spa with a nice atmosphere, peaceful rooms, and experienced staff. It has been design by Lisa Ros, a French-Cambodia Architects based in Siem Reap. Rotin furnitures are from Riem, a Cambodia Artist. There is no special services or hidden fees. It is a nice place to go as a couple or alone. $25-$50.  
  • Frangipani spa, no. 615/617 Hup Guan St, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Wonderful spa with a nice atmosphere, peaceful rooms, and experienced staff. The massages actually feel like trained people are giving them. No special services or hidden fees. It is a nice place to go as a couple or alone. They have massage tables and air conditioning. They are on a short side street behind Samdech Tep Vong St which isn't always shown on tourist maps. At the ANZ Royal bank on the corner go a few feet south to the next (small) street and turn right on Hup Guan St. The spa is near the end of the street with a tasteful exterior surrounded by frangipani plants (partly obscuring their tasteful green sign saying "frangipani"). $25-$50.

Quad tours

·  Quad Adventure Cambodia. Bring you to places where life is still the same as it was before, where changes seem to have passed the people without touching their traditional way of living. Share their feeling and meet the friendly people. The quad bikes are specially designed off road vehicles that cope with all kind of terrain. After clear instructions and practice, you will go for an unforgettable off road experience amongst rice fields and traditional villages. Guides will show you the way

Sport activities

  • Angkor Wat Putt (Mini Golf Fun For Everyone), Khnar Village, Chreav Commune (2 km from Old market vai Angkor High School road.  08:30-23:00. 14 hole Miniature Golf Course with 9 replicas of the Angkor Temples, including Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Bayon, Banteay Srei, Preah Vihear and the Terrace of the Elephants. The course is set in a large, well maintained garden with a bar and seating area.
  • Shooting Range, (along Road 67 to Banteay Srey, 3kms north of the road to Phmon Bok, turn right down the large dirt road when you see a blue and red sign like their flag with '4th Troops Training Centre', past the school and take the left (1 km), look for the sign 'shooting range' at the 2nd base entrance on the right (720 m)). Armament and explosives availability apparently is only limited by how much you are willing to spend. Listening to the soldiers-turned-used car salesmen put the hard sell on a new machine gun is almost worth the trip. This is a game of Russian roulette - fancy pulling the pin of a 30+ year old grenade and possibly getting the faulty one? Make sure that whoever is supervising you is also willing to stand next to you. It can be a little bit difficult to find, and a tuk-tuk driver may know where it is. Its GPS location is 13°29'7.49"N 103°57'22.78"E. US$50 per AK-47 or M-16 magazine; US$80 per M-60 belt (50 rounds) (Nov 2011). Grenade throwing: US$30.  edit
  • Fishing Trip on the Tonle Sap (Middle Ways. October to December: Fish with the locals on the Tonle Sap lake. This tour involves fishing, by net or fishing rod, in a flooded forest west of the lake. You may be able catch-and-release or hold on to your catch and finish the day with a BBQ. January to February: As the water of the Tonle Sap recede, the flooded forest slowly become a network of muddy channels linked to one another by fish ponds surrounded by the green of the rice fields. There, for half a day you will team up with other people to experiment net fishing. A fun experience that will teach you skills that passed down from one generation to the next since the dawn of Cambodia. Fishing Trip on The Tonle Sap Lake  
  • Flight of the Gibbon Angkor, Inside (Near). 6.30 a.m. - 3 p.m. Flight of the Gibbon is located within Angkor Archeological Park and is the only zipline in the world located within a UNESCO World Heritage site. Zipline for two hours through the ancient Angkor rainforest which includes 21 station platforms, four hanging sky bridges, a rappel descent and more. Included in the price is a traditional Cambodian meal with refreshments and roundtrip shuttle service from anywhere in Siem Reap or the surrounding area.   Flight of the Gibbon Angkor

Old Market area

Though Pub St is better known for its bars a handful of places are known for great food, many with seating upstairs so you can escape above the partying milieu on the street below. Crammed along The Alley is a wider selection of restaurants that offer a generally quieter and more intimate experience. The local restaurants lining Phsar Chas have extensive yet near identical menus of cheap fried rice and westernised approximations of Khmer dishes. At dusk the Kindergarten on the corner of Street 8 and 11 erupts into a a rabble of small BBQ stalls, billowing smoke, noise and the persistently entreating peddlers.

Drink

The distinction between eating and drinking establishments is fairly blurry as even the most humble of restaurants can have an extensive cocktail list on their menu. Nonetheless, a vibrant drinking scene concentrated along Street 8, aptly dubbed Pub St, is where serious drinkers head for cheap beer, loud music and the sweaty backpacking hubbub scene which some consider to be akin to Bangkok's Khao San Road. The reality is that it is much more relaxed and attracts wider age range and socio economic group than KSR. The biggest and most well known Pub St bars, Angkor What?, The Red Piano, Temple club and Le Tigre de Papier, are easy to find. Street entertainers in the evenings add to the fun.

Visitors looking for more subdued place to appreciate a quiet drink can seek out some of the smaller places along The Alley, The Lane and the adjoining streets.

Steung Thmei Road is a quiet and lesser-known street directly behind Sok San Road where the bars have a more chilled out vibe and don't have to compete with each other's music systems. This can be a welcome break from the deafening throb of pub street.

Most places have draft Angkor beer for US$0.50 and cans of other beers for US$1-2. Higher-quality, smaller-batch craft beer is now up and coming in Cambodia and offered at a few places in town, such as Moringa Bar or the Siem Reap Brew Pub. Cocktails and spirits go for as little as US$2. Imported red and white wine, generally from the less prestigious wine producing countries, is widely available and cheaper than you would expect. Better quality Australian and French wines are available in more upmarket establishments at a correspondingly premium price.

Bubble tea, also referred to as Boba tea, and real fruit smoothies are non-alcoholic options.

The Alley

  • Linga Bar, The Alley. A sophisticated gay bar that welcomes patrons of all preferences. A good list of classy cocktails and decent wine to enjoy on the big lounges.

Pub Street

  • Soup Dragon, Pub St. A restaurant/bar on one of the corners of the "bar" street in the old part of town. Great sunset vista from their rooftop with the added bonus being it is the same time as happy hour - two for one cocktails, drinks range from US$2-4.
  • Banana Leaf Cafe, Pub St. Small contemporary street side café, with week-end live music. Efficient and professional staff will entertain the crowd until late hours. Great cocktails.  
  • Xbar, Pub St. 3pm til sunrise. An open air rooftop bar featuring a 6ft skateboard halfpipe, jam sessions every wednesday evenings, live Djs and bands every week and a resident Tattoo shop with a French artist. Probably the best city views in town, and unusual sunset over the halfpipe. At the end of Pub Street, look up for the X.