As the gateway to the temples of Angkor, Siem Reap is the epicentre of Cambodia’s burgeoning tourism industry, and the fastest growing city in the country. Having transformed from a sleepy town to a bustling tourist hub, Siem Reap is now the country’s most developed city without losing its distinctly rustic charm. Most that come to Siem Reap will rush headlong toward the Angkor temples without ever looking back, but those that do will miss out on central Siem Reap’s own fascinating culture. Now a flourishing hub of live music, cafes, bars and restaurants, this artistic and cultural hub is worth a dedicated day of wandering for anyone heading in the area.
Aside from the temples of Angkor that most people come to Siem Reap for, the area is home to a collection of attractions and destinations that are well-deserving of their own visits. Foremost is the Angkor National Museum. The museum houses thousands of delicate artefacts from the temple complex that provide fascinating insight into Khmer civilization. A great way to enhance an Angkor Wat experience is to come here first.
Siem Reap was heavily affected by the Khmer Rouge. Just beyond the walls of Angkor is Wat Thmei, which was built to commemorate victims the area’s victims. Behind a glass stupa are the bones of those who had fallen. It’s not all gloom, though. There’s also a large monastery with abundant monks and a working orphanage.
For those interested in performance art, Aspara Dances are one of Siem Reap’s biggest must-see attractions. These beautiful and hypnotic performances recount ancient myths and tales of the Khmer civilisation, and are even depicted on the walls of Angkor temples.
For a more modern take on culture in the area, head to Pub Street to take on the area’s vibrant nightlife – or head to Old Market, where you can find some outstanding handicrafts and souvenirs at a bargain.
How to get there:
By Plane: Siem Reap International Airport is Cambodia’s second largest airport and is served through direct flights internationally from Bangkok, Pattaya, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang, Singapore, Manila, Luang Prabang, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Hong Kong, Kunming and Guangzhou. The airport is about seven kilometres from the city-centre and most hotels offer free pickup if booked in advance.
By Bus: Phnom Penh can be accessed easily by bus from nearly everywhere in Cambodia, and also from most major cities in neighbouring countries. Most buses terminate at an out-of-town bus station on the east side Siem Reap. From there, grab a tuk tuk to get into town.
By Train: Getting by there by train is perhaps the cheapest and most scenic route. Trains regularly depart from Hualamphong Train Station and take between 90 minutes and two hours. From Ayutthaya Station, simply take a ferry across the river or take a tuk tuk to Siem Reap.
By Boat: Siem Reap can be accessed via hydrofoil along Tonle Sap Lake from Phnom Penh or Battambang. Although a bit costly and time consuming, it’s a great way to see areas of the lake that you wouldn’t otherwise see.