A beautiful resort town and one of the fastest growing cities in Cambodia. Siem Reap is a charming hub for backpackers seeking incredible, authentic and affordable experiences. From delicious street food delicacies, bustling bars to ancient monuments and vibrant villages, Siem Reap never ceases to amaze us!
Population: 1 million
Vibe: Siem Reap is quiet during the day as visitors spend their days at the temple complex, taking Khmer cooking classes, or relaxing by the pool. As the sun goes down, Siem Reap comes alive with buzzing night markets, flavoursome street food and pumping bars that spill out into the street.
Known for: Being the home of Angkor Wat. Siem Reap and the Angkor temple complex were the centre of the Khmer Empire, which lasted from the 9th to the 15th centuries CE and the most powerful empire in Southeast Asia. Before the ‘rediscovery’ of this temple complex in the 19th century, Siem Reap had been a quiet village for centuries. After the Angkor temple complex was opened to tourists in the beginning of the 20th century, Siem Reap’s popularity grew by leaps and bounds, and is now the heartland for exploring the ancient Khmer Empire.
Must Do: If you only do one thing in Siem Reap you have to spend a day exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Temples, the largest temple complex in the world.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO
UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Temples
A sprawling, overgrown temple complex of 400 km2, the Angkor site in Siem Reap is rightly considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia.
Its most famous temple, Angkor Wat, is famous for being the largest religious monument in the world, while the Bayon Temple is better known as the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple, where Lara Croft crept through dark temple courtyards overgrown with tree roots. You can choose to explore the Angkor temples by renting a bike, hiring a tuk tuk, or going with a guide.
Explore Downtown Siem Reap
The heart of the city is easy to explore by foot or bicycle, with most of the action centred around Pub Street. Check out the Chinese and colonial style architecture around the Old Market and the Old French Quarter, relax and get a foot massage, walk alongside the river or enjoy a fresh beer at one of the sidewalk cafes.
Les Artisans d’Angkor
Visit Les Artisans d’Angkor to watch artists create skilled traditional Cambodian handicrafts. There are silversmiths, wood and stone sculptors, lacquer artisans, weavers and silk painters who you can watch at work in their studios, and free guides to take you around.
Morning Yoga at Peace Cafe
Peace cafe is a community hub with beautiful gardens, a vegetarian cafe and smoothie bar, yoga & meditation classes and opportunities to speak with Buddhist monks. Pop in to revitalise your mind, body and soul.
Take a Khmer Cooking Class
Learn the secrets of creating delicious Khmer food. The class starts with a trip to a local rural family home to learn about how Cambodian families grow the herbs, spices and vegetables you'll be cooking with. Then under the watchful eye of their friendly chefs you'll create a typical Khmer entree, main and dessert which you get to devour afterwards.
Phare the Cambodian Circus
Phare, the Cambodian Circus, is a modern take on ancient Khmer performance forms, with an artistic direction that rivals Cirque du Soleil. You can expect a combination of high-flying acrobatics, dance, music and theatre combined with an inspirational storyline embedded in Cambodian history and culture. An authentic and moving artistic piece of entertainment that’s more than just a circus.
Angkor Night Markets
The Angkor Night Market takes place every night with over 200 stalls selling souvenirs, clothing, jewellery, accessories and crafts. Check out the various cafes and bars like the Island Bar located next to the entrance and grab a refreshing cocktail and a yummy cheap eat and soak up the vibrant ambience of the markets.
Watch an Apsara Dance Performance
Apsara Dance is the indigenous ballet-like performance art of Cambodia and several restaurants and hotels in Siem Reap host Apsara Dance Shows, often with a buffet dinner option for a reasonable price.
Phnom Kulen Mountain Trek
Phnom Kulen is considered a holy mountain of religious significance by the Khmer people. Trek on nature trails through lush forest, see the river of 1000 Lingas and Cambodia's largest reclining Buddha. Continue towards the gorgeous Kulen Waterfalls for a refreshing swim.
EATING AND DRINKING
In the evenings, head to the Pub Street area just north of the Old Market, where you’ll have your dinner choices of everything from street food to fine dining.
If you want to try an authentic Cambodian dish, try the Fish Amok from Le Tigre de Papier (where you can also take a cooking class during the day), or if you're feeling adventurous get a group together and head to Bugs Café and order the "discovery platter" complete with Insect Skewers, Tarantula Donuts, Scorpion Salad and Mixed Insects Wok!
Nightlife abounds around Pub Street, with bars and clubs around every corner, and a fair number of backpackers heading to the iconic Angkor What? club. If you’re not looking to suffer from neon-overload, there are plenty of other options to get out and enjoy a night in Siem Reap such as the Apsara Theatre and Phare: The Cambodian Circus.
WHERE STRAY STAYS
Lub d Hostel
Freestyle Tours (Dorm rooms)
7 Makara Street
Wat Bo Village,
Sangat Sala Kemreuk City,
View in Google Maps
Tel: +855 63 968 900
Definitely one of the main hotspots to stay for travellers in Siem Reap! Lub d is a super clean, trendy hostel with a range of facilities. Grab a delicious bite from the in-house restaurant and refresh yourself in the pool after a long sightseeing day! Located only 10 minutes away from city attractions such as the Siem Reap Art Centre Night Market, Pub Street and the Old Market, it is the ideal place to sit back and relax whilst immersing in the local culture.
Facilities: Free WiFi, swimming pool, restaurant, poolside bar, bicycle rental, laundry service, luggage storage, 24 hour front desk, games area, air-conditioned rooms.