Siem Reap in Cambodia is not only the gateway to the world famous Angkor Wat temple. This city has a lot to offer, even though it is quite small. You can do heaps of activities, try out the best food you have probably ever eaten, visit small local markets and much, much more. Siem Reap in Cambodia will definitely be a place you gonna remember.
Before I start, I want to tell you a quick story. I spoke about how you get treated by Thai people, who work in the tourism industry, in a couple post like this one for example. They can be very forceful and outspoken. They put pressure on you to sell their products to you whereas Cambodian people have a way different approach.
When I arrived in Cambodia I was quite happy at first, because the guide, who brought us into the country was very, very friendly. Almost to friendly. It was not a problem for us to get in to the country, because they arranged everything relatively quick. But then he told us we should get as much cash in Thailand before we enter Cambodia, because we would be able to save a lot of money, if we change our money at the currency exchange at the border. So, I got almost 900$ out of the ATM.
Quick atmosphere change
Once we got to the currency exchange at the border, the Cambodian guide got way more serious. Why? Because he wanted us to change our money. You can imagine, that the exchange rate at the border’s currency exchange is reeeeally bad. I would have lost 350$ instantly. Most people don’t know the rates, so they fall for this trap. And, because the Cambodian people are very friendly, you start to trust them pretty quick. But you shouldn’t in this case (generally they are very friendly!).
My tip: Don’t change money before you enter the country. Get money out of a normal ATM once you entered the country. Doesn’t matter what the Cambodian tour guides, bus drivers or whoever might tell you.
That said, let’s get straight to the actual topic now…
Siem Reap in Cambodia – General information
After this awkward situation, we finally have been brought to Siem Reap in Cambodia. This city is very old but really pretty even though you can see straight away, that Cambodia is one of the poorest countries on earth. This leads me straight to the first point.
History & general stuff
Siem Reap is a relatively small city in the northwest of the country. The province it belongs to is called Siem Reap as well. 30$ is the general income per person, which is a joke. The city has been built in the 17th century after the Khmer won a war against the Thai kingdom. Translated Siem Reap in Cambodia actually means “place from the defeat of the Siamese”.
The city has about 175.000 citizens and it lies next to biggest lake (Tonle Sap) of Southeast Asia, which is also one of the most fishful inland waters on the planet. Today Siem Reap in Cambodia is mainly used for tourism purposes. Back in the days farming and fishing have been the main income ressources. Since the end of the 20th century the size of the city almost tripled, because of the tourism industry. Siem Reap in Cambodia now even has its own international airport and is the fastest growing city in the country besides Phnom Penh (capital).
Siem Reap in Cambodia has such a moving history. Especially in the 1970s this city and the whole country had to go through a lot during the sovereignty of the red Khmer. But I talk about that more detailed in another post.
How to get there
There are various ways to get to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Here are a couple:
- Mini bus
- Own vehicle (motorbike, etc.)
Certainly taking a flight would be the easiest way to get there. But, because of the fact that I came from Thailand, I took a bus, because it is cheaper. Don’t get me wrong, short flights within Southeast Asia are really cheap in general (Bangkok to Siem Reap can be less than 50$), but they can’t be compared to the prices of bus rides. I only payed 600 Baht (20$) for the transportation. Usually it costs 750 Baht (25$).
You can even get it way cheaper, if you take a mini bus, which can cost less than 300 Baht (10$), but I promise you: You don’t want to do that.
Transportation in Southeast Asia is way different than in the western world. The journey suppose to take 9-10 hours. Ours took 16 hours. It’s never what they tell you. And, if you would have to sit in an uncomfortable and overloaded mini bus for 16 hours, you would probably have a hard time 😉
Even the normal bus ride was not the most comfortable joruney I ever had, I have to admit. The train takes way to long in my opinion. You have to stop at the Cambodian border and get another bus from there. The ride from Bangkok to the border already takes 6 hours. If you have a lot of time, then you should take the train, because it is very scenic. To have your own vehicle is always good and one of the best ways to travel around anyway in my opinion.
At the end of the day I recommend you to take a flight (if you are willing to spend a little more) or a normal bus. But plan with a little more time.
Short tip: Don’t forget, that you need to pay for your Visa, if you want to get into the country (30 $) – bring your own photo
How to get around
Once you have arrived in Siem Reap in Cambodia, you easily get around with a bike or a Tuk Tuk. They don’t cost a lot of money. You can rent a bike or a scooter at every corner or at your accommodation. And Tuk Tuk’s can also be found every 5 meters. So, don’t worry about that.
Weather conditions in Siem Reap in Cambodia are not any different to most other parts of Southeast Asia. It is quite warm all year long. Temperature sets between 20°C – 36°C. Wet season lasts from Mai to October. The rest is dry season. I recommend to visit during dry season. Otherwise you probably won’t have a good time. At least not as good as it could be.
The food in Siem Reap in Cambodia is absolutely great. Of course, you get all types of food that you can get anywhere else in the world like Italian, Indian, French, etc. But you also obviously get typical Southeast Asian/ Cambodian food everywhere you go.
First of all it is very fresh. Most Cambodian food does not have any chemicals or additives. Most of it comes from organic cultivation. Every dish is made with all different kind of herbs and spices. Even the fish/ meat is always completely fresh and some of it gets killed in front of you, right before you eat them.
Additionally all kind of food you can find in Siem Reap in Cambodia is pretty cheap. Especially the dishes at the local markets. You will definitely fall in love with them. Promised!
Short tip: Try out the food at the old market in the centre. Incredible dishes for less than 1,50$ 😀
Siem Reap in Cambodia has all types of accommodation. To name a couple:
- Hotel (high and middle class)
- Homestay/ guest house
I leave this up to you, because it depends on what you want. I would recommend to go for a cheap hostel. Why? Because you won’t stay in Siem Reap in Cambodia for to long I reckon. Most people only want to visit Angkor Wat and then head off to the next beautiful destination, which is fair enough. And staying in a cheap hostel will save you a lot of money.
I stayed at Garden Village Guest House. You can get a bed in a dorm room with 32 people for a low price. This was the biggest dorm room I have ever slept in, but it was still pretty quiet. This hostel has decent food, a bar and a pool. So, basically everything you need for a short stay.
Don’t waste any thought on the prices. Cambodia is one of the poorest countries on earth and you can easily see that. The prices in Siem Reap in Cambodia are a joke as well. Even, if you compare the prices to other Southeast Asian countries, they are still one of the cheapest. A night in Garden Village Hostel only costs about 4$. A Tuk Tuk driver for a whole day Angkor Wat tour costs 20$. This low price standard continues, doesn’t matter where you go in this country.
Siem Reap in Cambodia – Highlights
Siem Reap in Cambodia has one big highlight and some smaller ones. Still, all of them are worth having a look at. There is something to see and do in this city for everyone. For younger and older people. It doesn’t really matter. I will not tell you about all cool things you can see, but only the stuff that I have been to as well. I want to keep it as authentic as possible. Just like always…
As said, Siem Reap in Cambodia is the gateway to Angkor Wat. The headline of this post says it all 😉 Angkor Wat/ Angkor City is one of the most famous temple areas in the world. It has been built about a thousend years ago. The whole areal is full of different temples, built by different kings of the Khmer empire. Each and everyone has a different meaning and they are all incredibly detailed.
Angkor Wat’s architectural condition is fascinating and the historical value is priceless. It is also a holy place for many Cambodian people. Lots of citizens come here to pray and show their affinity to Shiva. Definitely one of the most spectecular attractions I have seen on any of my travels so far!
Kampong Phluk is a small fisherman village 13 km outside of Siem Reap in Cambodia. It is the perfect example for the typical Cambodian lifestyle. It basically sybolizes the way of living in the whole region. Not many toruists have a look at this special village, because almost noone knows it, which helps to maintain the authenticity.
This one is about a 45 minute ride away from Siem Reap in Cambodia. I know, not everyone likes to go to a shooting range and try out deadly weapons. Neither do I. Nevertheless I think you should try out everything in your life once. Same for the shooting range. You can try out a AK-47 or even hand grenades. It will be shown to you by retired Cambodian soldiers. It’s not cheap, but definitely a unique experience.
Bicycle ride through town
Also get your ass on a bicycle and explore the town on your own. Along your way you will see some nice restaurants, cafès, museums, art shops and much more. Ride along the river and stop at every old bridge to get a glimpse of what Siem Reap in Cambodia is all about.
I loved this place! The old market in the city centre is absolutely great. You can get all kind of products. From fancy carpets and unique jewelry to all types of spices and toys. Everything is really cheap and the quality is pretty decent. Furthermore the whole style of the market is just fascinating and the food is absolutely delicious. I had some of the best dishes of my life there for only 1$ and 1,50$. Make sure to check it out!
Party & shop at Pub Street & Night Market
Siem Reap in Cambodia even has a small nightlife scene. At night the city becomes alive. You can go for a midnight shopping tour at the Night Market. All kind of stuff is waiting for you. It’s very vibrant and variable. Also check out Pub Street where you find a couple bars and clubs at nights. You’ll meet many backpackers from all over the world as well as locals. It’s good fun!
Siem Reap in Cambodia – What I have learned
My time in Siem Reap in Cambodia showed me something quite valuable again. I don’t want you get me wrong, so I try to keep this as neutral as possible. The following should not sound negative or judging at all. It’s more of a “warning”. It’s a learning you can adapt to any place on our globe, because it doesn’t have anything to do with nationalities. I have just experienced it in Southeast Asia a couple times, which might just be misfortune.
The thing I want to talk about is “getting screwed over” by people from the tourism industry. I have been robbed 3 times in Southeast Asia and one time on the way to Siem Reap in Cambodia the tourism salesman tried to screw me over (start of this post). Every country seems to have their own kind of style on how to trick tourists. Some are very pushy, others are extremly friendly. This doesn’t mean that every person in the tourism industry is like this. But many of them are. They wanna make money and I get that. But what they don’t see is, that they hurt themselves and their country in the long term. Less people will come to visit…
I just want to give a short advise for travellers/ tourist:
When you enter a country you have never been before,
be open minded, but also be aware
of bad people, because eventually you will meet someone, who wants to hurt you, steal from you or do you bad in some kind of way. And you need to be mentally prepared for that. Otherwise you will be very sad, angry or even afraid. And that is definitely not what you want when you travel. Especially not in such a beautiful country like Cambodia…
Want to know more about the 5 best highlights in Cambodia? Read here
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