Siem Reap is the capital city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia, and is the gateway to Angkor region.
Siem Reap has colonial and Chinese-style architecture in the Old French Quarter, and around the Old Market. In the city, there are traditional Apsara dance performances, craft shops, silk farms, rice-paddy countryside, fishing villages and a bird sanctuary near the Tonle Sap Lake.
Siem Reap today, being a popular tourist destination, has a large number of hotels and restaurants. Most smaller establishments are concentrated around the Old Market area, while more expensive hotels are located between Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport and the town along National Road 6. There are a variety of mid-range hotels and restaurants along Sivatha, and mid budget to mid-range hotels in the Phsar Leu area.
Being located in the tropical zone north of the equator, Siem Reap has a monsoon climate. Monsoon season runs May – November, meaning that the most pleasant season for visitors is generally the dry season, stretching from November/December – April. Immediately after the monsoon, the blanketing green of the countryside can be stunningly beautiful.
The ancient Khmer capital of Angkor is today one of the most remarkable and impressive sights in all of Asia. For much of its 600 years, the Angkor empire’s regional power was unrivalled, and under a number of its ‘god-kings’ such as Jayavarman the 7th the artistic exploits of the Khmer kingdom went unrivalled. With Cambodia at peace again, and newly-developed tourist facilties, fine hotels and several daily flights into the nearby town of Siem Reap, the treasures of Angkor are now being rediscovered by the outside world.
Foremost amongst these is the 12th Century temple of Angkor Wat itself . Taking the lengthy sandstone causeway across the temple’s huge moat transports visitors into a world of Hindu and Khmer legend and artistry. Your Travel Indochina guide will explain the stories behind the stunning bas reliefs that line nearly a kilometre of the complex’s inner walls. From here, enter the main temple through the Gallery of a Thousand Buddhas and, if the steep and perilously narrow steps don’t deter you, climb the central tower representing the Abode of the Gods, Mount Meru, for superb views over the temple and surrounding countryside.
At the turn of the millennium Siem Reap was a Cambodian provincial town with few facilities, minor surfaced roads and little in the way of nightlife. Tourism industry catered largely to hardy backpackers willing to brave the tortuous road from the Thai border on the tailgate of a local pick-up truck. There were a couple of large hotels and a handful of budget guesthouses. Tuk-tuks and taxis were non-existent and the trusty motodup was the chosen means of touring the temples of Angkor.
Though some of the town’s previous ramshackle charm may have been lost the developments of the last few years have brought livelihoods, if not significant wealth, to a good number of its citizens. This has been at a cost to the underprivileged people living within and beyond the town’s limits that now pay inflated prices at the central markets and continue to survive on poorly paid subsistence farming and fishing. If Cambodia is a country of contrasts Siem Reap is the embodiment of those contrasts. Despite the massive shift in its economic fortunes, Siem Reap remains a safe, friendly and pleasant town. There is an endless choice of places to stay or dine and a host of possible activities awaiting the visitor.
Where to Stay
Siem Reap has an ever-growing number of hotel and guesthouse rooms, and a variety that is wide enough to satisfy all tastes and requirements. Though staying right in the middle of town is a bit more convenient to the Old Market and Sivatha road area, the town is relatively small making any location almost equally convenient as any other.
There are now several four and five-star hotels in town, especially along the airport road. Less expensive mid-range rooms with a/c, cable TV, and hot water are available in a variety of styles and look and begin at about $15 or $20 but average $25 – $60. More expensive usually means newer, more stylish rooms, and more hotel services. Budget guesthouses, usually family-run, cost $2-$10 a night. Dozens of budget places are scattered across town, with a concentration in the Wat Bo and Taphul Village areas. Almost all guesthouses and hotels can arrange anything a tourist might need including tours, transport and information
What to Do?
There are few places anywhere on earth to match the splendour of Angkor Wat. The temple is one of the largest monuments to religion ever built and is truly one the wonders of the world. Believed to have been constructed as a temple and mausoleum for King Suryavarman II at the peak of the Khmer empire in the first half of the 12th century, Angkor Wat is probably the best-preserved of the Angkorean temples. As with other Angkorean temples and walled cities such as Angkor Thom, the central theme of Khmer architecture revolved around the idea of the temple-mountain.
By the time building on Angkor Wat was begun early in the 12th century, this had been elaborated to a central tower surrounded by four smaller towers. The central monument represents the mythical Mount Meru, the holy mountain at the centre of the universe, which was home to the Hindu god Vishnu. The five towers symbolise Mount Meru’s five peaks. It is difficult to express in words the enormous scale of Angkor Wat, but it can be explained in part by a look at the dimensions of the complex. The temple is surrounded by a moat which makes the one around the Tower of London, built at roughly the same time, look like nothing more than a garden trench.
At 190 metres wide and forming a rectangle measuring 1.5 km by 1.3 km, it is hard to imagine any attacking force overwhelming the defences. But the moat was more than just a defensive bulwark, in line with the temple’s Hindu origins it represented the oceans of the world. A rectangular wall measuring 1025 metres by 800 metres borders the inner edge of the moat. There is a gate in each side of the wall, but unusually for the mainly Hindu-influenced Angkorian temples, the main entrance faces west. This entrance is a richly decorated portico, 235 m wide with three gates.
However, the temple’s greatest sculptural treasure is its 2 km-long bas-reliefs around the walls of the outer gallery and the hundred figures of devatas and apsaras. This intricately carved gallery tells stories of the god Vishnu and of Suryavarman II’s successes on the battlefield. The whole complex covers 81 hectares.
Bakong is located at Roluos south of Preah Ko. Enter and leave the temple at the east. A modern Buddhist temple is situated to the right of the east entrance to Bakong. It was build in late ninth century (881) by king Indravarman I dedicated to Siva (Hindu) followed Prah Ko art style.
Bakong was the center of the town of Hariharalaya, a name derived from the god Hari-Hara; a synthesis of Siva and Visnu. It is a temple representing the cosmic Mount Meru.
Four levels leading to the Central Sanctuary correspond to the worlds of mythical beings (Nagas, Garudas, Raksasas and Yaksas).
The temple of Bakong is built on an artificial mountain and enclosed in a rectangular area by two walls. It has a square base with five tiers. The first, or outside, enclosure (not on the plan) (900 by 700 meters, 2,953 by 2,297 feet) surrounds a moat with an embankment and causeways on four sides, which are bordered by low Naga balustrades. The second and smaller enclosure (1) has an entry tower (2) of sandstone and laterite in the center of each side of the wall. There were originally 22 towers inside the first enclosures. After passing through the entry tower at the east one comes to a long causeway (3) decorated with large seven-headed serpents across a moat. Long halls (4) on each side lie parallel to the eastern wall. They were probably rest houses for visitors. Two square-shaped brick building at the northeast and southeast (5) corners are identified by rows of circular holes and an opening to the west. The vents in the chimneys suggest these buildings served as crematoriums. There was originally a single building of this type at the northwest and southwest corners but today they are completely ruined. On each side of the causeway just beyond the halls there are two square structures with four doors (6). The inscription of the temple was found in the one on the right.
Further along the causeway, there are two long sandstone buildings (7) on each side, which open to the causeway. These may have been storehouses or libraries. To the north and south of the storehouses receptively there is a square brick sanctuary tower (8). There are two more on each side of the central platform, making a total of eight. Decoration on the towers is in brick with a heavy coating of stucco. The towers, with one door opening to the east and three false doors, have a stairway on each side, which is decorated with crouching lions at the base. The two to the east of the central platform have a unique feature, a double sandstone base, The door entrance and the false doors were uniformly cut from a single block of sandstone, The decoration on the false doors is exceptionally fine, especially that on the tower on the right in the front row, the false door of which has remarkable Kala handles. The corners of the towers are decorated with female and male guardians in niches.
Tip: the lintels of the west towers are in the best condition.
A long building with a gallery and a porch opening to the north (9) is situated close to the western wall (on the left); it is mostly demolished.
CENTRAL AREA (BASE AND TOWERS)
The square-shaped base (10) has five tiers with a stairway on each of the four sides and, at the base, a step in the shape of a moonstone. Remains of a small structure can be seen at the base of the stairway fairway flanked by two sandstone blocks, which may have held sculpted figures.
Elephants successively smaller in size stand at the corners of the first three tiers of the base. The fourth tier is identified by twelve small sandstone towers, each of which originally contained a linga. The fifth tier is framed by a molding decorated with a frieze of figures (barely visible) the ones on the south side are in the best condition.
The Central Sanctuary (11) is visible from each of the five levels because of the unusual width of the tiers. The sanctuary is square with four tiers and a lotus-shaped top. Only the base of the original Central Sanctuary remains. The rest was constructed at a later date, perhaps during the twelfth century.
Location: Lolei is at Roluos, north of Bakong. A modern Buddhist temple is located in the grounds of Lolei near the central towers.
Access: Enter and leave the temple by the stairs at the east.
Tip: Beware of the ants during certain seasons near the top of the entrance steps.
Date: End of the ninth century (893)
Religion: Transitional between Prah Ko and Bakheng
Although Lolei is small it is worth a visit for its carvings and inscription. The temple of Lolei originally formed an island in the middle of a Baray (3,800 by 800 meters, 12,467 by 2,625 feet), now dry. According to an inscription found at the temple the water in this pond was for use at the capital of Hariralaya and for irrigating the plains in the area.
The layout consists of two tiers with laterite enclosing walls and stairway to the upper level in the center of each side. Lions on the landings os the stairways guard the temple. A sandstone channel in the shape of a cross situated in the center of the four towers on the upper terrace is an unusual feature, the channels extend in the cardinal directions from a square pedestal for a linga. It is speculated the holy water poured over the linga flowed in the channels.
Four brick tower with tiered upper portions, arranged in two rows, on the upper terrace make up the Central Sanctuaries. As the two-north towers are aligned on the east-west axis, it is possible the original plan had six towers, which probably shared a common base like that at Prah Ko.
Tip: The northeast tower is the best preserved.
The entrances of the doors to the towers are cut from a single block of stone, as at Bakong. The corners of the towers on the east are decorated with male guardians holding tridents and those of the west with female divinities holding flywhisks. They are sculpted in sandstone with a brick casing. The panels of the false doors have multiple figures. The inscriptions on the doorframes are exceptionally fine. The workmanship on the lintels is skilled and the composition balanced. Some noteworthy depictions are: Indra on an elephant with figures and Makaras spewing serpents (northeast tower); Visnu riding a Garuda with a branch of serpents (south-east tower).
The bird that shelters under its wings. This little temple with its four square tiers of laterite, crowned by a brick sanctuary, might serve for a model in miniature of some of its giant neighbors, and is almost as perfect as perfect as the day it was built…
Prasat Baksei Chamkrong is located 150 meters (492 feel) north of Phnom Bakheng and 80 meters (262 feet) from the road leading to the south gate of Angkor Thom. A visit to Baksei Chamkrong can be combined with a stop at the south gate of Angkor Thom. Enter and leave the temple from the east entrance.
Tip: The stairs to the Central Sanctuary are in poor condition but the architecture and decoration of this temple can be viewed by walking around it (in a clockwise direction). Those who persist in climbing to the Central Sanctuary should use the north stairway. It was built in middle of the tenth century (947), perhaps begun by Harshavarman I and completed by Rajendravarman II, dedicated to Siva (Hindu) may have been a funerary temple for the parents of the king with following transitional between Bakheng and Koh ker
According to legend, the king fled during an attack on Angkor and was saved from being caught by the enemy when a large bird swooped down and spread its wings to shelter the king. The name of the temple derives from this legend.
Baksei Chamkrong was the first temple-mountain at Angkor built entirely of durable materials brick, laterite and sandstone. Even though it is small the balanced proportions and scale of this monument are noteworthy. Inscriptions on the columns of the door and the arches give the date of the temple and mention a golden image of Siva.
Baksei Chamkrong is a simple plan with a single tower on top of a square tiered base with four levels of diminishing size (27 meters, 89 feet, a side at the base) built of laterite (1-4). The height from the ground to the top of the Central Sanctuary (7) is 13 meters (43 feet). Three levels of the base are undecorated but the top one has horizontal molding around it and serves as a base for the Central sanctuary. A steep staircase on each side of the base leads to the top. A brick wall (5) with an entry tower (6) and sandstone steps enclosed the temple. Although it has almost all disappeared vestiges are visible on the east side of the temple.
CENTRAL SANCTUARY (7)
The square central tower is built of brick and stands on a sandstone base. It has one door opening to the east with three false doors on the other sides. As is typical of tenth-century Khmer architecture, the columns and lintels are made of sandstone. A vertical panel in the center of each false door contains motifs of foliage on stems. The interior of the tower has a sunken floor and a vault with a corbel arch.
The finely worked decoction on the sandstone columns and horizontal beams above the doors imitates woodcarving. An outline divinity can be seen in the bricks at the corners of the tower. A three-headed elephant on the east lintel is finely carved.
The citadel of the cells . In the ruin and confusion of Banteay Kdei the carvings take one’s interest. They are piquant, exquisite, not too frequent… they seem meant.. to make adorable a human habitation.
Banteay Kdei is located south of Ta Prohm. A enter the monument from the west and leave at the west or vice versa, either way, also visit Srah Srang.
It was built in middle of the 12th century to the beginning of the 13th century by king Jayavarman II in Mahaya Buddhism with following at least two different art periods Angkor Wat and Bayon -are discernible at Banteay Kdei.
Banteay Kdei has not been restored and allows the visitor to experience what it may have looked like originally. Changes and additions account for is unbalanced layout. Banteay Kdei was built of soft sandstone and many of the galleries and porches have collapsed. The wall enclosing the temple was built of reused stones.
The temple is built on the ground level use as a Buddhist monastery. The elements of the original design of Banteay Kdei seem to have been a Central Sanctuary (5), a surrounding gallery (6) and a passageway connected to another gallery. A moat enclosed the original features of the temple. Another enclosure and two libraries were among the additions in the Bayon period. The outer enclosure (700 by 500 meters 2,297 by 1,640feet) is made of laterite (1) and has four entry towers.
A rectangular courtyard to the east is known as ‘the hall of the dancing girls’, a name derived from the decoration which includes dancers (2)
The entry tower of the second enclosure (3) is in the shape of a cross with three passages; the two on either end are connected to the literate wall of the enclosure (4) 320 by 200 scrolls of figures and large female divinities in niches. In the interior court there is a frieze of Buddha.
A causeway of a later date, bordered with serpents, leads to the entry tower of the third enclosure. It comprises a laetrile wall (6) includes a gallery with a double row of sandstone pillars that open onto a courtyard. Tip Parts of this area have been walled in and passage is limited.
Vestiges of the wooden ceiling can still be seen in the central Sanctuary. The galleries and halls, which join it in a cross to the four entry towers, are probably additions. Two libraries (7) open to the west in the courtyards on the left and right of the causeway.
Banteay Sam Re
Banteay Sam Re located at Preah Dak commune, Bon Tiey Srey District by Charles De Gaulle Road via Angkor Wat in 16-kilometer distance from the provincial town of Siem Reap.
This temple is somewhat islocated, and you should be vigiland of your possessions and travel with a local guide. The temple is worth the extra effort to experience the elaborate architecture, and fine carvings, although theft has mutilated many of the temple’s treasures.
Location: 400 meters (1,312 miles) east of the East Baray
Access: enter and leave Banteay Samre from the east.
Date: middle of the 12th century
King: Suryavarman II (reigned 1113-1150)
Religion: Hindu (dedicated to vishnu)
Art Style: Angkor Wat
Banteay Samre is one of the most complete complexes at Angkor due to restoration using the method of anastylosis. Unfortunately, the absence of maintenance over the past 20 years is evident. The name Samre refers to an ethnic group of mountain people, who inhabited the regions at the base of Phnom Kulen and were probably related to the Khmers. No inscription has been found for this temple, but the style of most of the architecture is of the classic art of the middle period similar to Angkor Wat. The monument most likely dates from the same period, or, perhaps, slightly later, although there are additions attributed to the Bayon style. The proportions of Banteay Samre are plended. A unique feature is an interior moat with laterite paving, which when filled with water must have given an ethereal atmosphere to the temple. All of the buildings around the moat are on a raised base with horizontal mouldings, decoreated in some areas with figures framed by lotus buds.
Banteay Srey Temple
Location: 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) north-east of East Mebon
Access: enter and leave the temple by the east entrance
Date: second half of the 10th century (967)
King: Rajendravarman II (reigned 944-968) and Jayavarman V (reigned 968-1001)
Religion: Hindu (dedicated to Shiva)
Art style: Banteay Srei
The tenth century temple of Banteay Srei is renowned for its intricate decoration carved in pinkish sandstone that covers the walls like tapestry. This site warrants as much time as your schedule allows. The roads have been recently repaired and it takes about 30 minutes from Siem Reap to get to the temple.
To reach Banteay Srei, follow the main road north out of Siem Reap, turn right at Angkor Wat and follow the road to Srah Srang where you turn right past Preah Rup. At the East Mebon there is a check post where you need to obtain clearnce. Turn right again at the road before the East Mebon; pass through the village of Phoum Pradak, where there is a junctions (if you continue straight, after about 5 minutes, you will reach Banteay Samre). At this point, you come to a fork; take the road on the left and follow it to Batneay Srei which you will reach shortly after crossing two rivers – on your left hand side.
Banteay Srei is an exquisite miniature; a fairy palace in the heart of an immense and mysterious forest; the very thing that Grimm delighted to imagine, and that every child’s heart has yearned after, but which mature years has sadly proved too lovely to be true. And here it is, in the Cambodian forest at Banteay Srei, carved not out of the stuff that dreams are made of, but of solid sandstone.
The enchanting temple of Banteay Srei is nearly everyone’s favorite site. The special charm of this temple lies in its remarkable state of preservation, small size and excellence of decoration.
The unanimous opinion amongst French archaeologists who worked at Angkor is that Banteay Srei is a ‘precious gem’ and a ‘jewel in Khmer art’. Banteay Srei, as it is known by locals, was originally called Isvarapura, according to inscriptions. It was by a Brahmin of royal descent who was spiritual teacher to Jayavarman V. Some describe it a s being closer in architecture and decoration to Indian models than any other temple at Angkor. A special feature of the exquisite decoration was the use of a hard pink sandstone (quartz arenite) where enabled the ‘technique of sandalwood carving with even an Indian scent to it’.
This temple built by Udayadityarvarman II was the most poorly constructed of all the temples in Angkor. From the remaining ruins, it is possible to see how imposing it was. This temple hill was dedicated to Shiva, but in its reliefs many motives from the Vishnu epic can be seen. Restoration work continues to be carried out on the Baphuon.
North o f the Golden Tower [Bayon]…. rises the Tower of Branze [Baphuon] higher even than the Golden Tower : a truly astonishing spectacle , with more than ten chambers at its base.
Prasat Baphuon is located 200 metres (656 feet) northwest of the Bayon and south of Phimeanakas.
A enter and leave at the east.
Tip: Access to the summit is difficult as much of the temple has collapsed and it is overgrown but for those stalwarts who want to go to the top, use the way with columns at the east and the temple of Phimeanakas on the left. Visitors should walk down the causeway, climb the steps to the first tier, turn left and walk around the temple, always keeping it on their right. It was built in middle of the 11th century (1060) by king Udayadityavarman II, dedicated to Siva (Hindu) with following Prasat Baphuon.
The grandeur of Baphuon as described above by Zhou Daguan is unrecognizable today because of the poor condition of the temple. The French were in the process of restoring this temple when they were forced leave Angkor in 1972 because of war. Baphuon is situated inside the royal city of Angkor Thom but dates from the eleventh century and was built before the city was established. An interesting feature of Baphuon are the bas-reliefs which are scenes carved in small squares.
Unfortunately few of these are visible because of the poor state of the temple. The narrative themes are realistic depictions of daily life and forest scenes.
Baphuon is a single sanctuary temple-mountain situated on a high base. It is a symbolical representation of Mount Meru. A rectangular sandstone wall measuring 425 by 125 metres (1394 by 410 feet) encloses the temple (1). A long sandstone elevated approach (200 metres, 656 feet) at the east entrance (3) forms a bridge to the main temple. It is supported by three rows of short columns.
Tip: Before walking down the approach turn left at the east entry tower (2) and walk to the end of the gallery for a superb view of a four-faced tower of the Bayuon framed by a doorway of Baphuon. The approach is intercepted by a pavilion in the shape of a cross (4) with terraces on the left and right sides. Turn left and walk to the opening the approach. Continue to the view of the arrangement of the imposing pillars under the approach. Continue to the end of the gallery to see a rectangular paved pool (5).
The temple stands on a rectangular sandstone base with five levels that are approximately the same size, rather than the more common form of successively smaller levels. The first, second and third levels are surrounded by sandstone galleries. Baphuon is the first structure in which stone galleries with a central tower appear. Two libraries (6) in the shape of a cross with four porches stand in the courtyard. They were originally connected by an elevated walkway supported by columns.
The gallery of the enclosure collapsed and, at a later date , the stones from it were modeled into the shape of a reclining Buddha (7) that spans the length of the west wall ( the head is on the left, facing the temple) . It is an abstract form and the outline of this Buddha is difficult to distinguish. A stairway (8) leading to the summit begins in the middle of the Buddha.
The top level is in poor condition due to several collapses. Originally there was a Central Sanctuary with two wings. Each side of the entrance to the Central Sanctuary is carved with fine animated figures. If you look carefully you can see these from the ground on the west side.
Tip: The view from the top with Phnom Bakheng in the south and Phimeanakas in the north is magnificent.
Civil War Museum
The guy that runs this small and very new place was forced to join the Khmer Rouge as a boy and trained to make as lay landmines, something they were all too good at. The Vietnamese-installed government rescued him in 1985-so his story goes-and thereafter he helped the government in clearing areas where landmines have been laid. His name is Akira and he is a friendly guy that speaks English and Japanese ad is happy to visit with people that come by.
He has a lot of the weaponry on hand that has been used over these past few decades, during Cambodia’s civil war and the long struggle against the Khmer Rouge that followed. It’s worth a look. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. To get there, go past the Hotel Grande de Angkor (on the road to the Angkor ticket checkpoint) about 1 km to a small sign on the right for the Civil War Museum. Turn right, and follow this road to a four-way intersection and turn left.
There is a sign for the place here. Go about 1 km and you will see it on the right.
Phnom Krom Hilltop Temple
This is the big hill that you see near the landing if you head to Siem Reap by bullet boat. The hilltop area provides magnificent panoramic views of the Great Lake Tonle Sap, the surrounding countryside and Siem Reap town. The commanding view of the lake was used for a more practical, albeit more deadly, purpose in the fairly recent past as evidenced by a big gun mounted on the side of the hill and pointing toward the landing part of the Great Lake
A modern-era active temple shares the hilltop with the temple ruins of Phnom Krom. Thee are seven crumbling towers among the ruins in two lines, with four towers east and three towers a bit higher up nearby and west. The 11th – century ruins are definitely in need of a facelift and it looks like they may get one at s0om e point as a sign in front states that a project is underway. Unfortunately, the same sign has made the same announcement with no results apparent since a year ago when I last visited the site.
To get here, just follow Sivutha Street south out of Siem Reap. The road follows the river for much of the way and road is in good shape for most of the short journey. You will arrive at the base of the hill after just fifteen minutes and there is an archway and stairway that you take up about halfway, which leads to the spot near the big gun. From there you follow a small road to the temple area. You can actually ride all the way up by going past the stairway, beyond the house and tree area, where you will see a long out-building off on the right side. Follow the small road that runs along side of the building and stay on this winding road to the temple area. There are drink and food stands at the base of the stairway to re-hydrate after the trip.
The Great Lake Tonle Sap & Floating Village
Continuing about ten minutes beyond the hilltop temple, on the same road that you took from Siem Reap, are a land based fishing village and the bullet boat-landing site. Just hope for a good wind when you come as the combination of dead fish and raw sewage from the village can be a bit overwhelming. Just pass by this area to get to the water.
There are small motorboats for rent and a few locals that speak English will probably greet you when you approach the water. They will take you out for a tour of the floating fishing village area nearby (most structures are actually built on stilts), charging you US$5-6 for a one-hour tour. The village has its own “street” grid system and seems to have just about everything that a village should have. It’s an interesting and scenic journey with plenty of photo ops on hand.
Where to Eat & Drink
There is no shortage of restaurants in Siem Reap. They have been opening steadily over the past couple of years. Siem Reap offers an excellent variety of restaurants. Shinta Mani and Hotel Grand D’Angkor lead the fine dining category though there are several places offering excellent cuisine in a stylish, refined atmosphere. There are also plenty of moderately priced Cambodian and international restaurants. Almost every restaurant offers Cambodian food. For the budget minded, check out the inexpensive Chinese places at the south end of Sivatha Blvd. or the local food stalls and noodle cookshops next to Phsar Char (Old Market).
Attending a traditional dance performance is a must when visiting Cambodia. Several restaurants offer dinner performances. Nightly performances: Grand Hotel D’Angkor, Apsara Theater, Kulen II, Angkor Mondial, Chao Pra Ya, Tonle Mekong, and Tonle Sap. Some restaurants, such as the Dead Fish Tower, offer traditional music during the dinner hour. Shadow puppetry can be seen at Bayon 1 and La Noria Hotel.
Pubs, Bars & After Dark:
A traditional dance performance at one of the dinner theatres is a perfect place to begin the evening. If you’re looking for something a bit more conventional, there are a variety of places from which to choose. The piano bar at Grand D’Angkor, and the live traditional music at Dead Fish Tower make for pleasant venues to begin the evening. Buddha Lounge, Ivy Bar, The Red Piano, Temple Bar, Linga Bar, Molly Malone’s, Angkor What and not to forget the bars of the ‘Pub Street’ where you can find popular early evening pubs, drawing tourists and expats alike, and getting more crowded as the evening progresses. ‘Pub Street’ in the Old Market area is the happening place to be in the evening these days offering several bars and restaurants, not only on ‘Pub Street’, but on nearby streets and allies. Things get going in the late afternoon and some places stay open quite late.
Getting There & Away
The majority of visitors to Siem Reap arrive by air from Phnom Penh and Bangkok. There are also regular flights from Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City and Vientiane. See the airline list below. Visas are available on arrival at the Siem Reap and Phnom Penh airports. From Phnom Penh, there are also daily boats and buses going to Siem Reap. Some visitors make their way to Siem Reap overland from Thailand via the Aranyaprathet/Poipet border crossing.
Siem Reap Airport Tax
Airport Departure and Arrival Tax: Domestic: US$6. International: US$25
Siem Reap Airport:
The airport sits 6km from town, close to the temples, occasionally affording spectacular views of Angkor Wat during landings and take offs. Outside the terminal is a ticket booth for registered taxis into town. Independent taxis and motorcycles wait just outside the airport. The price is the same for both: motorcycles are $2 and cars are $6-7 into town. Most hotels offer free transportation from the airport but you must notify them in advance of your arrival.
Siem Reap Ferry Dock:
The ferry to Siem Reap arrives at Chong Khneas near Phnom Krom, 12km south of Siem Reap. There is always transportation waiting at the dock. Mototaxis charge about $2-$3 and cars $6-$7 for the 20-30 minute ride into town.
Siem Reap Airways offer several daily flights to/from Phnom Penh. http://www.siemreapair.com; another cheap opportunity is http://www.airasia.com; or www.laoairlines.com
Daily ferries ply the Tonle Sap river and lake between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. The end of the trip is marked by a hill, Phnom Krom, near the ferry dock at Chong Khneas 12 km south of Siem Reap. During the dry season, the ferry stops short of the dock and passengers transfer to smaller boats to traverse the final few hundred meters.
Ferries depart 7am daily from the Phnom Penh Port on Sisowath Quay. Ferries depart Siem Reap daily at 7am from the dock at Chong Khneas. Passage is around $18-$25 and should be purchased a day in advance (251km, 4-6 hours). Drinks are sometimes available. Tickets can be purchased through hotels and travel agencies cheaper than at the ferry offices. Though generally safe, these ferries are ‘local transport’ and have experienced breakdowns, groundings and other difficulties. Travel is best during the wet season (June-November). Dry season low waters can mean smaller, less comfortable boats and occasional groundings.
Several guesthouses, travel agencies and bus companies offer daily bus transport between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. It is a smooth 314 km, 5-7 hour trip. The bus makes usually two stops along the way (at Skun and Kampong Thom). All charge the same, $3.50 (14,000R) one-way. The earliest buses depart starting at 6:30am and the last buses between noon and 1pm.
GST: Phnom Penh bus station near the southwest corner of Phsar Thmey (Central Market).
Phnom Penh Public Transport Co.: Phnom Penh bus station near the southwest corner of Phsar Thmey (Central Market).
Local share taxi depart from southwest corner of Central Market in Phnom Penh for 25,000 riel per person (5-8 hours). A private taxi costs you US$38-$45 for the whole car. 5-6 hours. (Due to rising fuel costs, prices are in flux.)
Motorbike Info to Siem Reap:
The road to Siem Reap is in good condition, but driving in Cambodia is still challenging in the extreme, and should be attempted only by experienced riders. Speeding taxis, slow cows, and oblivious children are the norm. The trip calls for a dirt or road bike, no smaller than 250cc. It can be made in a day, but two days with a layover in Kampong Thom is a more relaxed alternative and allows time to visit the pre-Angkorian ruins of Sambor Prei Kuk.
Leave Phnom Penh via the ‘Japanese Bridge’ and follow National Highway No 6 north 75km to the Skun intersection. (Skun is known for its exotic foods – check out the fried spiders, turtle eggs and more at the roadside stands.) Bear left and follow the NH No 6 to Kampong Thom – about 2-3 hours. In Kampong Thom, the Arunras Hotel (062-961294), Stung Sen Royal Hotel (012-309495) and Mittapheap Hotel are all decent mid-range places. Arunras Guesthouses and Restaurant next to the hotel is the place to eat cheaply. From Kampong Thom to Siem Reap the trip takes another 2-3 hours