Siem Reap is probably the most visited region out of Cambodia because Angkor Archaeological Park sits a couple minutes north of the city. Even if you are "templed out" from neighboring countries you have visited, you must visit the historical temples in Siem Reap for they are grand beyond imagining. If you are visiting for a few days it is highly recommended to use a tuk-tuk driver or taxi to see as much of Angkor and the outlying temples as you can fit in. You also have the option of renting a bicycle if you prefer, but some of the distances under the warm sun in high season require a lot of stamina.
A popular place to visit for locals is Kulen Mountain, which is yet to be overwhelmed with tourists. Visitors can only go before noon (unless they are traveling by motorbike, which is not recommended because of the muddy and arduous roads), and can only leave after noon because of one-way, muddy road conditions.
Siem Reap tends to have surprising multicultural elements. You will probably be directed to The Alley and Pub Street for a bite where you can find a diverse array of foods from fine French cuisine, Vietnamese noodles, Thai restaurants, and Indian curry. It's recommended to venture outside of Pub Street area and try the tasty local Khmer cuisine. International NGOs have long contributed volunteers and educators to improve Cambodia's poverty. Local children will try to sell you postcards, hats, scarves and books by selling to diverse tourists in their motherland tongue. Many locals can speak more than a few introductory words in English, French, Chinese, Korean, Spanish and more. Do your research before donating money or volunteering to make sure that an organization holds a reliable reputation.
Highlights from Siem Reap
- Try Khmer cuisine and eat Amok at a local restaurant
- Watch the Aspara dance while eating a buffet dinner or get tickets for the Aspara Theatre
- Buy goods from Centre Market or Old Market
- Try a fish massage to clean your feet or a nice Khmer massage which rivals Thai massages
- Visit the Senteurs d'Angkor workshop to learn about local spices and recipes and leave with spices as well as bath & body products
Hints and Tips for Siem Reap
- Some areas of Cambodia have higher incidences of Malaria, Dengue and Japanese Encephalitis, so use mosquito repellent.
- Landmines tend to be a non-threat to tourists travelling in well-known areas, but heed any warning signs and exercise caution in rural areas where landmines may still exist off the beaten path .
- If you arrive in Siem Reap through the international airport, you can grab a tuk-tuk or taxi (set at the taxi counter) to your accommodation. If you like your driver, then it is recommended to hire them for the number of days you want to go see temples unless you plan on bicycling.
- You will be haggled by children. This is unfortunately unavoidable. The books that are sold near the temples are usually of good quality and very informative if you are interested.
- Watch out for adults (even if they are authoritative figures) and children who attach themselves to you and act like guides without any previous arrangement. They will demand payment and though some can be quite helpful and are worth tipping, others are trying to scam you for money.