Siem Reap & Angkor Temples
Siem Reap is a province located in northwestern Cambodia, on the shores of the Tonle Sap Lake. The provincial capital is Siem Reap. The name literally means “Siamese defeated” referring to the victory of the Khmer Empire over the army of the Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya in the 17th Century. Today it is most widely known for being the closest city to the ruins of the temples of Angkor.
When the best time to visit Siem Reap
Siem Reap has a tropical climate with seasonal variations typical of all of Cambodia. The dry northeast monsoon season runs from December through April, while the southwest monsoon from May to November brings wet weather and high humidity.
The best time to visit Siem Reap is in December and January, when the days are assuredly sunny and dry. Just be aware that this is the peak tourist season, so you’ll find it more crowded everywhere and prices will be higher.
Getting There & Away
Siem Reap International Airport, a very modern facility 7km west of the Centre, is well connected to most neighboring Asian cities. There are plans to resume flights to Sihanoukville.
- Vietnam Airline
- Jetstar Asia
- Air Asia
- Bangkok Airway
Please contact us to book flight ticket.
Car & Motorbike
Most hotels and guesthouses can organise car hire for the day, with a going rate of US$25 and up. Upmarket hotels may charge more. Foreigners are forbidden to rent motorcycles in and around Siem Reap. If you want to get around on your own motorcycle, you need to hire one in Phnom Penh and ride it to Siem Reap.
There are direct international flights from Siem Reap to Bangkok in Thailand; Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Pakse in Laos; Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Hanoi and Danang in Vietnam; Hong Kong; Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia; Kunming in China; Seoul in South Korea; Singapore; Taipei in Taiwan; and Yangon in Myanmar.
Domestic links are currently limited to Phnom Penh (from US$90 one way) and, finally, Sihanoukville (from US$110 one way), and only Cambodia Angkor Airways currently operates these routes. Cheaper specials are sometimes offered, but these are usually restricted to Cambodian nationals. Demand for seats is high during peak season, so book as far in advance as possible.
- Mekong Express
- Phnom Penh Sorya
- Capital Tour
Remork-motos are sweet little motorcycles with carriages (commonly called túk-túks around town), and are a nice way for couples to get about Siem Reap, although drivers like to inflate the prices. Try for US$1 on trips around town, although drivers may charge US$2 for a trip to the edges of town at night. Prices rise when you add more people.
There are daily express boat services between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh (five to six hours) or Battambang (four to eight hours or more, depending on the season). The boat to Phnom Penh is rather overpriced these days, given it is just as fast by road and so much cheaper. The Battambang trip is seriously scenic, but breakdowns are very common.
Boats from Siem Reap leave from the floating village of Chong Kneas near Phnom Krom, about 11km south of Siem Reap. The boats dock in different places at different times of the year; when the lake recedes in the dry season, both the port and floating village move with it. An all-weather road has improved access around the lake area, but the main road out to the lake takes a pummeling in the annual October floods.
Most of the guesthouses in town sell boat tickets. Buying the ticket from a guesthouse usually includes a moto or minibus ride to the port. Otherwise, a moto out here costs about US$2, a remork-moto about US$5 and a taxi about US$10.
One of the guesthouses around town hires out bicycles, as do a few shops around Psar Chaa, usually for US$1 to US$2 a day. The White Bicycles project rents bicycles, with all proceeds going towards supporting local development projects around Siem Reap. Imported mountain bikes are available from cycling tour operators for around US$8 to US$10.
Sights & Activities
Angkor National Museum
Looming large on the road to Angkor is the Angkor National Museum, a state-of-the-art showpiece on the Khmer civilisation and the majesty of Angkor. Displays are themed by era, religion and royalty as visitors move through the impressive galleries.
After a short presentation, visitors enter the Zen-like ‘Gallery of a Thousand Buddhas’, which has a fine collection of images. Other collections include the pre-Angkorian periods of Funan and Chenla, the great Khmer kings, Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the inscriptions.
Temples of Angkor
Angkor is the earthly representation of Mt Meru, the Mt Olympus of the Hindu faith and the abode of ancient gods. The temples are the perfect fusion of creative ambition and spiritual devotion. The Cambodian ‘god-kings’ of old each strove to better their ancestors in size, scale and symmetry, culminating in the world’s largest religious building, Angkor Wat.
The temples of Angkor are a source of inspiration and national pride to all Khmers as they struggle to rebuild their lives after years of terror and trauma. Today, the temples are a point of pilgrimage for all Cambodians, and no traveller to the region will want to miss their extravagant beauty. Angkor is one of the world’s foremost ancient sites, with the epic proportions of the Great Wall of China, the detail and intricacy of the Taj Mahal and the symbolism and symmetry of the pyramids, all rolled into one.
Cambodian Cultural Village
It may be kitsch, it may be kooky, but it’s very popular with Cambodians and provides a diversion for families travelling with children. This is the Cambodian Cultural Village, which tries to represent all of Cambodia in a whirlwind tour of recreated houses and villages.
The visit begins with a wax museum and includes homes of the Cham, Chinese, Kreung and Khmer people, as well as miniature replicas of landmark buildings in Cambodia. There are dance shows and performances throughout the day, but it still doesn’t add up to a turn-on for most foreign visitors, unless they have the kids in tow. It’s located about midway between Siem Reap and the airport.
More memorable than Chong Kneas, but also harder to reach, is the friendly village of Kompong Pluk , an other-worldly place built on soaring stilts. Most of the houses are almost bamboo skyscrapers and the village looks as though it’s straight out of a film set. In the wet season you can explore the nearby flooded forest by canoe. To get here, either catch a boat at Chong Kneas or come via the small town of Roluos by a two-hour combination of road (about US$7 return by moto) and boat (US$8 per person). An all-weather elevated access road is under construction, which no doubt means a private company will start levying charges to visit Kompong Pluk.
This is one of the town’s oldest temples and has a collection of well-preserved wall paintings from the late 19th century depicting the Reamker, Cambodia’s interpretation of the Ramayana .
The creation of leather sbei tuoi (shadow puppets) is a traditional Khmer art form, and the figures make a memorable souvenir. Characters include gods and demons from the Reamker, as well as exquisite elephants with intricate armor. These are a very Cambodian keepsake.
The House of Peace Association, about 4km down NH6 on the way to the airport, makes these puppets; small pieces start at US$15, while larger ones can be as much as US$150. A second workshop is located at Wat Preah Inkosei. It’s possible to watch a shadow-puppet show at La Noria Restaurant.
Angkor Butterfly Centre
The Angkor Butterfly Centre is a worthwhile place to include on a trip to Banteay Srei and the Cambodia Landmine Museum. The largest fully enclosed butterfly Centre in Southeast Asia, it has more than 30 species of Cambodian butterflies fluttering about. It is a good experience for children, as they can see the whole process from egg to caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly.
Sala Bai Restaurant School: 155 Phum Tapoul, Siem Reap (Phone: +855 063963329)
Mie Café: 0085, Phum Treng, khum Slorgram, Siem Reap (Phone: +855 12791371)
The Sun: Corner Pub Street, Siem Reap (Phone: 0121814001)
Fathers Restaurant: Opposite Central Markets, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Khmer Taste: Sok San Road, Near Pub Street, Siem Reap