Siem Reap is the capital city of the Siem Reap Province in Cambodia. Siem Reap literally translates to ‘The defeat of Siam’ and is the most prosperous region of modern Cambodia. It has become a popular tourist destination, with over one million tourist visitors a year, as it is the gateway to an Angkor region- over a thousand years of heritage.
Siem Reap has much beautiful architecture, with colonial and Chinese-style building in the Old Market and the Old French Quarter. As a Cambodian city there is plenty of culture, including museums, performance, and a cultural village displaying handicrafts, silk farms, rice paddies and fishing villages. There is plenty to see and do here, with great food, great history and culture and great hotels and hostels.
Siem Reap is a poverty stricken city, despite the prosperity of tourism. 36.6% of the population lives below the poverty line: this is defined in Cambodia as persons whose household income is less than 45 cents per person per day. Factors for this poverty include lack of education and training, leading to a lack of teachers; insufficient food due to the poor environment and landscape; lack of infrastructure and poor health care. In Siem Reap you will see beggars, and children and landmine victims selling books and souvenirs on the streets. The people are very thankful of the tourism and welcoming to travellers as it is bringing real benefits, such as an increase in jobs.
Eat and Drink
The restaurant scene of Siem Reap is as vibrant as it’s culture, with powerful flavours and intriguing dishes. Here are some of our favorite restaurants in Siem Reap.
1. Green Star
One of the must-eat places in Siem Reap is Green Star. The blackboard specials change daily, and this is a not-for-profit restaurant supporting the former street kids in Siem Reap.
Address: Green Star South end of Wot Bo Road (T-Intersection) Wat Dam Nak Siem Reap Kingdom of Cambodia
Phone: Avee – 092 255 241 (Khmer & English) Doug – 089 411 830 (English)
Haven Training Restaurant is another restaurant that supports disadvantaged youths, helping them form an independent future. The Cambodian dishes here are said to be delicious, and they offer a variety of Asian and Western foods.
Address:Sok San Street, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Phone: +855 78 342 404
Genevieve’s is a Khemr and Western restaurant. They provide high quality food, excellent service and donate to local charities.
Address: Sok San Street, Siem Reap 3058, Cambodia
Phone:+855 81 410 783
Where to Stay
The city provides for all types of travellers. Here are a few options for backpackers, families and those seeking a little bit of luxury in their temporary residence.
For the families:
Sojourn Boutique Villas is one of the most unique places to stay, and also one of the most caring. Not only is it caring in terms of supporting the people of Siem Reap, but also in ensuring that you are well looked after during your stay. These villas are a resort of 10 villas, surrounded by palm trees and centred around a swimming pool. Most of the workers here are from the village Treak, and 7% of profits go to helping their village by providing such services as water filters and garbage collection. The workers will take guests on a tour of their village; offer cooking classes and also a moonlit theatre.
Treak Village Road, Treak Village, +855 12 923 437, sojournsiemreap.com.
For the indulgence-seekers:
Navutu Dreams Resort and Spa, on the outskirts of Siem Reap, is truly what dreams are made of. This resort is at the end of a dirt-track, located among rice paddies, however it once you arrive and see the white-washed walls, tropical gardens, on-site spa and two swimming pools you will know that you are in paradise. You will receive a free foot massage- why not take this massage on a four-poster bed situated on a rooftop? Another inclusion in the price is a tuktuk and driver at your disposal.
Angkor High School Road, Salakomruk Commune, +855 63 688 0607,navutudreams.com.
For the backpackers:
Angkor Boutique Hostel is a favourite among backpackers, and it is not difficult to see why. This hostel has a beautiful swimming pool, clean rooms and very friendly service for a very low price. There are a variety of rooms: dorms, quad, triple, double, single and family rooms. There are many affordable and exciting activities arranged that you could take part in, such as ox-cart trips and house building projects, arranged by the hostel.
Salakanseng village, Svay Dangkheum commune, +855 63 760 697,angkorboutiquehostel.com.
See and Do
There is so much to do and see in Siem Reap that we could not possibly list them all here. However, here are some of the things you simply cannot leave out of your visit:
Angkor Wat– officially the largest religious structure in the world, your visit will not be complete unless you see this iconic temple. Go to Angkor Wat at sunrise or sunset for not only a beautiful view but also to avoid the crowds.
Ta Prohm – this site is untouched by archeologists, and a favorite among tourists. It has become known as ‘the tomb raider temple’ and is overrun with nature. It is peaceful early in the morning when less tourists are around.
Banteay Sreai– another beautiful temple, this is made from red sandstone and covered in intricate carvings. It is best seen at dusk, when the soft light brings the carvings to life.
West Baray Lake – if you want to relax then head down to this former water reservoir. You could hang out in hammocks, take a swim in the fresh water or rent a boat for the day.
Phare – This Cambodian circus has entertained audiences all over the world. You will not only witness a brilliant spectacle and display of Cambodian culture but also be supporting a project that continues to offer up ways for Cambodian children to develop their skills.
Angkor Night Market – if you truly want to experience the Cambodian culture then wander through the endless market and admire the stalls selling clothes, jewelry and souvenirs before stopping off for a massage or a drink at a market bar.
Siem Reap Airways has several flights daily to and from Phnom Penh. Other affordable airlines include Air Asia and Lao Airlines. The airport is 6km from the town, and there is a ticket booth for registered taxis just outside the departure lounge.
There are daily ferries between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The ferry arrives at Chong Khneas, 12km from the town. There is always transportation in the form of taxis and motorbikes waiting at the dock.
Most guesthouses and travel agencies will offer daily bus transport between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. It is a 5-7 hour trip, and buses usually make two stops along the way. The buses are extremely cheap, all costing $3.50.