The provincial capital Siem Reap is located in the northern region of Cambodia. It is probably the most important tourist destination in the country. This due to the World Heritage listed temple complex of Angkor Wat.
The city has about 70,000 inhabitants and is actually more a merger of several villages. Besides the many historical highlights in the area, the city itself offers some great highlights. There are magnificent colonial-style buildings, fantastic Buddhist temples and colorful photogenic markets.
Furthermore, the huge Tonle Sap Lake with the impressive floating village lies on the southern outskirts.
Accommodations are available in every price category, as well as culinary delights from near and far.
The name Siem Reap means 'place of the Siamese defeat '. In the 17th century the Khmer have achieved a significant victory over the Siamese army of the Thai kingdom of Ayutthaya.
After the fall of the mighty Khmer Empire, the area of Siem Reap belonged with interruptions for centuries to the Kingdom of Siam or was at least a tributary. During the French colonial period, the region was part of French Indochina which included Vietnam and Laos.
During a French expedition in 1901, the ruins of Angkor were discovered. In the same year the first tourists arrived to see these world wonders. At this time, Siem Reap was little more than a small village. Due to the ever-growing number of tourists, the place grew rapidly. Personalities such as Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Kennedy visited the place.
In 1975, the Khmer Rouge came to power and expelled the inhabitants of the city. Only with the death of the head of the brutal regime, Pol Pot, the situation stabilized. By the end of the 90's, the visitors came slowly back to Siem Reap. Today it is, thanks to tourism, a vibrant and thriving city.
The fastest way to reach Siem Reap is by plane. All surrounding countries have direct flights to Siem Reap as well as from Phnom Phen of course.
There are bus services from various major cities in Cambodia such as Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham, Battambang, etc. Other buses connect to border destinations Poipet and Anlong Veng.
There are as well international bus connections from Bangkok, Pakse, Don Det, Vientiane (Laos) and from Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) available. However, according to reports the bus to Vientiane is not recommended.
Another way is by taxi; especially from the border town of Poipet it is very convenient. Travel expenses can be split with other travellers.
There are also boat connections from/to Phnom Penh and Battabang. The trip takes longer and is more expensive than the bus. However, if one has enough time and financial resources, it is an extremely interesting and varied travel method and recommended.
With lots of money you can also travel by helicopter from Phnom Penh and Battabang.
The city center can be easily explored on foot. Otherwise, there are shops and guest houses which rent bicycles. For tourists it is forbidden to hire motorbikes! Tuk tuks and motorcycle taxis are placed on every street corner. But the price must be clearly agreed upon before the ride! There are also taxis with licensed tour guides who speak good English.
Colonial houses and markets
In the center, the area of the 'Old Market', are numerous remarkable colonial buildings. The market itself invites for an attractive stroll, as well as the 'Central Market'.
Temples in town
The Wat Bo is the oldest Buddhist temple in the city and wonderfully decorated. The Wat Preah Prom Rath is in contrast only 500 years old and well worth a visit.
Angkor National Museum
The museum is also known under the name Artisan D'Angkor. The exhibition points to the Golden Age of the Khmer Kingdom and very interesting.
Outside the center, in the direction of Tonle Sap Lake, many small communities along the Siem Reap River are lined up to Wat Phnom Krom. This beautiful area can be easy explored with a bicycle.
The three hills
From the top of the three neighbouring hills Phnom Krom, Phnom Bakheng or Phnom Bok a fantastic sunrise or sunset can be enjoyed.
This village, also called Sugar Palm Village, is 6 kilometes from the city away and is a special attraction. Eleven different Cambodian villages have been rebuilt, each in a different style. Besides, the theatre hosts classical dance performances.
The world famous Angkor Wat temple complex is the real highlight of a trip to Siem Reap. It is the world's largest temple compound and was developed during the heyday of the Khmer Empire. The five temple towers with the central temple symbolize the mysterious mountain Meru. The area is surrounded by a 3-kilometer moat. The walls of the buildings are full of carved reliefs depicting scenes from the Hindu mythology. Angkor Wat is located 5 kilometers north of Siem Reap and is since 1993 a UNSESCO World Heritage Site.
One kilometer further away from Angkor Wat is the Angkor Thom complex. It was the last royal capital of the Angkor Empire and is surrounded by a 3 km long wall. The city was built in the late 12th century. The main highlights of the compound include the majestic South Gate, the Bayon temple complex, the Elephant- and Leper King-Terrace and the northern and southern Khleang temples.
Other nearby temple
In the vicinity of Siem Reap are more than 40 historic temples. These include the Pre Rup, Preah Khan, Ta Prohm, Preah Baphun and Pithu. Those temples should not be missed.
The ancient capital of the Khmer kingdom, Rolous is located 13 kilometers south-east of Siem Reap and is another important highlight. Inside the compound arethe interesting Lolei, Bakong and Preah Ko temples.
Banteay Srei & Beng Melea
Two important and not to be omitted temples are a little further away. These are the Banteay Srei and Beng Melea temple.
The Banteay Srei is built of pink sandstone. It represents the citadel of the women and is decorated with beautiful stone carvings.
This archaeological site is beautifully situated in a dense jungle area and another worthwhile place to visit. The Hindu Khmer ruins with thousands of carved stone Linga are placed by the river bed.
Phnom Kulen National Park
The park is located about 50 kilometers from Siem Reap in the same named mountain range. According to a legend King Jayavarman II declared himself as King of Kings. He is considered the founder of the Khmer Kingdom. There are several historical sites and scenic waterfalls with natural pools that invite visitors for a swim.
Tonle Sap Lake
A boat trip to the floating village on the Tonle Sap lake should not be missed. It is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia.
During a longer stay the crocodile farm and the butterfly garden are ideal places to visit.
A ride on the back of an elephant or a helicopter sightseeing flight is possible as well. Another attraction is a flight in a hot-air balloon over the temple complex of Angkor Wat.
For several years Siem Reap has some excellent 18-hole par-72 golf courses. The course of Angkor Golf Resort was designed by the internationally best-known golfer and golf course architect Nick Faldo.
The Phokeethra Country Club is probably the most outstanding Golf Club of Cambodia and created by the renowned golf course architect team Weeyos Golf Design.
The Siem Reap Booyoung Country Club owns the masterfully designed course by the well known Japanese golf course experts Kentaro Sato.
The surroundings of Sieam Reap is tropical humid. During the dry season, from December to March, it is most convenient to explore the city and surrounding areas. The rainy season begins in April and ends in November. During June - July and September - October it can rain for hours.
The temperatures are between 31-33 ° C throughout the year. During March and Mai it is the hottest time of up to 35 degrees.