Siem Reap is nestled between rice paddies and stretches along the Siem Reap River, the small provincial capital of Siem Reap serves as the gateway to millennium-old temple ruins of the Khmer Empire. Designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Angkor Archaeologial Park encompasses dozens of temple ruins including Bayon, Banteay Srey and the legendary Angkor Wat. Also be sure to view the excursions I went on in Chiang Mai. See more of my Cambodia photos on Instagram.
|What To Do In Siem Reap|
Best time of Year
There is a lot of discussion about the “high” season and “low” season, and many prefer the season when it is less rainy, between October and April. Weather during this period is mostly cool and pleasant with light breeze, but the vegetation isn’t as lush and green. I went during the low season when it was more humid, hot, lush and green and had far fewer tourists. I preferred this because there were better deals to be had and because I didn’t have to navigate mobs of tourists.
Recommended Number of Days
3-4 days is plenty of time to explore this small city and surrounding countryside. You will also have time to hire a tour guide for some trips in the vicinity.
Recommended Number of People
2 people is ideal in my opinion because it allows for nimble exploring and adventure, bike rides, and temple touring.
Cambodia Tipping Policy
Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated. It is customary, though not compulsory, to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Hotel and station porters should also be tipped a small amount.
Guide Tip: About $12-15 USD per group per day up to 6 people. More if greater than 6.
Driver Tip: About $8-18 USD per group per day.
Porters: $1 USD per person for luggage
Meals: $1-2 USD per person
Private Driver and Tours
EXO Travel is a wonderful tour company that will help set you up on many excursions with a private guide and air conditioned car to take you around. It is worth it.
Eat, Drink, Stay, See, Acquire
- Phum Baitang Resort is one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve stayed in — two wonderful restaurants, a Hemingway-esque bar, water buffalo working the rice patties, a breakfast fit for a queen, and a luxurious spa where you can get an excellent massage. You can even relax poolside at the infinity pool after a day exploring the city.
See + Do
- Take a guided tour of the famous Angkor Wat Temple. Built during the reign of King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, Angkor Wat is constructed following the model of the temple mountain symbolizing Mount Meru, the home of the gods. Inside the temple, the walls are covered with stone carvings and bas-reliefs depicting Hindi mythology and the wars Suryavarman II fought during his reign. Angkor Wat is well known for the more than 2,000 Aspara dancers decorating the temple. Construction is thought to have taken around thirty years of intensive labor. Today, Angkor Wat is figured on Cambodia’s national flag as the temple symbolizes the soul of the Khmer people. Continue the visit to small circuit the most famous among these is Ta Prohm Temple. This is the jungle overgrown temple which has been featured in several Hollywood movies such as Tomb Raider, Indiana Jones and Two Brothers. The large fig trees have merged with the ancient stones and have been left untouched by conservationists. It is truly an awe inspiring site to see how the vegetation keeps the temple walls “glued” together.
- After lunch, continue to tour the ancient city of Angkor Thom, the last capital of the Great Khmer Empire under the reign of Jayavarman VII. This city is surrounded by an 8m high wall, drawing a perfect square. Enter the city through the ancient South Gate, an impressive stone gate carved with Elephants and four giant faces. On each side the entrance path a row of 54 gods or demons is holding the sacred Naga snake.
- From here continue to Bayon Temple in the exact center of the city. This 12th century masterpiece is a study in grandeur and is well-known for its 54 towers with enigmatic faces representing the 54 provinces of the Great Khmer Empire. The Terrace of the Elephants and the Terrace of the Leper King are also must-visits as they are both known of their intricate bas-reliefs.
- Take a soft cycling tour over beautiful back roads to the early temples of the Roluos Group, about 15km outside of Siem Reap. Roluos is the site of an ancient center of Khmer civilization known as Hariharalaya. The surrounding countryside with its paddy fields and sugar palm trees is very typical for Cambodia. Enjoy the beauty and get in touch with rural Cambodia and its friendly people. In a small contemporary pagoda at the temple, Buddhist monks will celebrate a private blessing with you if you ask them.