The Best Siem Reap Attractions To Maximize Your Holiday In Cambodia!
Few places are as beautiful as the city of Siem Reap which is right on the Siem Reap River. The city is known as a gateway to the ruins of the Khmer dynasty, the communist regime. For over a century, the city has been an exciting tourist attraction. Packed with a variety of recreational activities, dining and lodging accommodations for almost every budget, Siem Reap Province is able to satisfy the adventurist in anyone.
The city is composed of a set of several small villages built pagodas. Siem Reap architecture reflects the influence of France. Although the city is rural, there is no shortage of Western-style nightlife and good food. Restaurants also reflect many cultures. The city is designed around having something for everyone. As a result of this, Siem Reap has become a busy town and part of the list of popular holiday destinations for tourists coming from all around the world to see the worlds famous Angkor Wat temple complex.
Hundreds of years ago, the asian south east was part of the mighty Siam Empire and this is reflected in the towns current name, Siem Reap, which means literally “defeating the Siam” which describes the war which is depicted on the temples of the Angkor Wat Temple Complex.
The first mention of Angkor Wat and is its surrounding temples in modern literature was by Antonio da Magdalena, a Portuguese monk who traveled through the region in 1586. He described the temples as having “Extraordinary construction, impossible to describe with a pen” remarking that they were like “no other building in the world” with “towers and decoration” which are as refined as the human imagination would think possible. This temple is a major highlight of all Siem Reap attractions, something that most tourists talk about forever.
In addition to the Angkor Wat, here is a list that cover other Siem Reap attractions and activities that every tourist should not miss:
Make a trip to the Cambodian Cultural Village – This is one of fairly new Siem Reap attractions that was built primarily to promote Cambodian culture and history. It contains scale models of historical places, as well as full-size models of different Khmer, Chinese, and Cham huts and houses, pagodas, and mosques. The village also has a wax museum that shows scenes and prominent figures from Cambodia’s history.
Watch a performance of Cambodian Traditional Dance – As dance is an essential part of Cambodian culture, every tourist should take time to watch a performance of traditional Khmer dance. Apsara dance and shadow puppet shows are performed all over Siem Reap, with tickets at varying prices. Many hotel staff, like in Starry Angkor Hotel, will happily refer you to an Apsara show – all you need to do is ask. If you are looking to learn and at the same time enjoy Siem Reap attractions, then Cambodian tradition dance is the way to go.
Take a cruise on the Tonle Sap Lake – The largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, Tonle Sap Lake holds many sights and scenes. It is home to several floating villages such as following:
- Kampong Khleang – a fresh river shore – Kampong Khleang is placed along the northern lake-edge approximately 55 km east of Siem Reap town, less accessible and fewer holidaymaker than Kampong Pluk. Visitors to Kampong Khleang during the dry season are universally overawed by the woodland of artificial houses rearing to 10 meters in the air. In wet season the waters address one or two meters of the constructions. Like Kompong Pluk, Kompong Khleang is an ageless residential area inside the floodplain of the Lake, with an economic system supported by angling and enclosed by flooded forest. Only Kompong Khleang is importantly broader with almost 10 times the population of Kompong Pluk, pulling round the biggest community along the Lake.
The region can be got through by charter boat from the Chong Khneas pier needs around 2 and an one-half hours or by a compounding of road to Domdek on Route 6 needs one and a 30 minutes arrive at the pier then come across a waterman ride another one hour to the village, the finest way devolving on the season. During the dry season, boats can’t get all of the way to the intense villages.
- Chong Kneas (A well-constructed drifting settlement) – Chong Kneas is a drifting settlement at the border of the Tonle Sap Lake that’s more touristy than Kampung Phluk and Kampong Khleang. It’s among the outstanding Siem Reap attractions, approximately 20 – 30 minutes from the province’s heart. The path to this village is ran along with magnetic paddies, stilted houses and the Phnom Krom hill – which has an ancient temple at the top. As getting into the village, the initiative matter that strikes visitors will be quarrels of tourist boats tailed.
There’s a seemingly-most notable Cambodian school in that village. That pupils get to school by boat brings in humorous scenery. The school even owns a divided drifting hoops courtyard and emphatically, visitors can’t conceive of how it was capable of being constructed. The cautionary rails along the slopes of the courtyard restrain the ball and participants inwardly.
Also, don’t drop out on the catfish farm – plausibly the ‘spotlight’ of the Chong Kneas visit. Visitors hold the opportunity to fertilize them. There’s also a crocodile farm with around ten crocodile right adjacent to the fish farm. A tremendous eyeshot of the Tonle Sap Lake and the drifting settlement can be caught from the second or third floor of the farm.
The floating river villages are within the top must-see places whilst calling in Cambodia. In addition, through Tonle Sap Lake you can get to see the Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary, one of the most important bird reserves in Southeast Asia for globally endangered bird species. There are several tour operators that offer boat cruises on the Tonle Sap Lake for a price. For environment lovers, Tonle Sap lake should be number one pick on the list of Siem Reap attractions to be visited.
Sample local exotic dishes – Cambodians love to eat a variety of exotic food that may shock faint-hearted tourists. And by exotic, it means insects, animals, and plants that most people would not even think of eating. These include honey-dipped locusts, fried frogs and snakes, and stewed crocodiles, as well as tarantulas, crickets, and silkworms cooked in every possible way. For tourists with more adventurous palates, this is definitely a must-try. For the less adventurous, lok lak (marinated stir-fried beef) and amok (fish in coconut milk, egg and peanuts, wrapped in banana leaves) are two dishes worth a try. Overall, Siem Reap attractions is not only about temples and sites, food to is part of the fun.
Angkor Archaeological Park Ticket Fee – At the entrance of the park you can choose from the following:
1-day pass costs 20 USD
3-day pass, costs 40 USD (Tourists have 3 days access to the park. This does not have to be consecutive, as long the visits are completed within 1 week from ticket purchase date).
7-day, pass, costs 60 USD (Tourists have 7 days access to the park. This does not have to be consecutive, as long as visits are completed within 1 month from ticket purchase date).
For tourists who are spending at least 5 to 7 days in the city, it is highly recommended to get a 3-Day Pass. The Angkor Archaeological Park is huge. According to Wikipedia, it covers an area of 1,000 square kilometers, and within its boundaries are several ancient temples including the Angkor Wat. At a gradual pace, one will likely cover 3 to 4 temples a day. This is one of the must see Siem Reap attractions for sure.
Angkor National Museum – The Angkor National Museum is a great place to start your Siem Reap attractions adventure trip. There are many video documentaries and informative displays that will give tourists a better understanding of the symbolism, architecture, culture and history seen at the ancient temples. The admission fee is 12 USD.
Party at Pub Street – Pub Street is the main tourist nightlife hub of Siem Reap city. One can go there to shop at the markets surrounding the area, get a massage, party and dine. There is a wide variety of restaurants on Pub Street that serve Cambodian dishes, as well as a variety of International cuisine.
Angkor Balloon – The Angkor Balloon is a large helium balloon that flies up to 200 meters above the ground. From its base tourists can enjoy a panoramic view of Angkor Archaeological Park. The ticket fee is approximately 15 USD. The duration of the ride is roughly 10 to 15 minutes. Looking for aerial view of Siem Reap attractions, this is the way to go!
Elephant Rides – Elephant rides are offered at the entrance of the South Gate up to the Bayon Temple. It is a 20 minute ride and is only offered early in the morning at 7:00 am – 8:00 am. The elephant rides costs approximately 15 USD. Siem Reap attractions tour is not complete without experiencing Elephant rides.
Tonle Sap River Tours – There are several Siem Reap attractions tour coordinators that offer a variety of river tour packages to the floating villages along the Tonle Sap River. The tours range from 25 USD to 50 USD, depending on how many communities will be visited. The tour packages include shuttle services to and from the hotel and the Tonle Sap port, boat and guide fees and a meal at one of the floating restaurants.
Monkey Business – Monkeys wander freely around Angkor Archaeological Park, there are several of them at the Angkor Wat. They are adorable to watch and are comfortable in the presence of tourists. However, visitors should not leave knapsacks and bags unattended since monkeys tend to meddle with unattended tourist bags in search of food.
Cambodian Massage – There are countless Spas in the tourist hub of Pub Street. Tourists can enjoy a 1 – 2 hour massage before having dinner at one of the international restaurants in the area. Yep….it is not all about wandering around Siem Reap attractions, get a chance to rejuvenate, Cambodian style!
Money Matters – Transactions at tourist hubs are in typically in US dollars. The Cambodian Riel has a very small value and to avoid carrying multiple bills, it is convenient for tourists to convert their funds to US dollars. There are several money changers in the town. However, it is important to note that the US dollar is sold at a very high rate in Siem Reap City. Thus, it is highly recommended to have funds converted at one’s hometown prior to flying to Cambodia.
The best way to get around and fully enjoy Siem Reap attractions is either with a hired bike, or a Tuk Tuk. Following many foreigns having accidents, it is no longer possible to rent motorcycles and the alternative, the human powered bicycle, can be rented for around $4-5 per day. There are many bicycle rental shops around town, and you can also ask your hotel or guest house if they have any bicycles available for rent. The other option, a Tuk Tuk, is better in warm weather.
There are many Tuk Tuk’s around town in Siem Reap and its impossible to go without transport. You can hire a Tuk Tuk for short trips which will cost you $1-$2 within town, or you can hire a Tuk Tuk for the entire day, from before sunrise, until after sun-set. This will cost you $15/day, however if you decide to visit the far out temples such as “bantey srey” you will need to give your Tuk Tuk driver an additional $10. Tuk Tuk drivers in Siem Reap are required to register for a Tuk Tuk license and wear a numbered vest at all times. Remember your Tuk Tuk drivers number or you may not be able to identify which driver is yours.
Shopping, Food And Entertainment
Souvenirs popular with tourists, inluding paintings, carvings, silks and other fabrics, silver items, clothing, DVD’s and CD’s as well as pottery can be bought at the Old Market which lies in the middle of the most happening part of town. Vendors expect you to drive a hard bargain, so if you pay more than 2/3rds the initial price, you aren’t bargaining hard enough. Always halve the price first quoted, and play hard ball. This is a cultural thing and is considered a necessary part of trade.
The district surrounding the old market is full of restaurants, bars, hotels and cafes, some of which offer internet service. Many tourists make this a fun place to spend an afternoon, but this part of town definitely transforms into a party paradise at night.
“Pub Street” is a central street in Siem Reap which is made available to pedestrians at night, which provides a fun street atmosphere with souvenir shops, restaurants, bars and many of the most popular clubs in Siem Reap. As there is no traffic, many of the parties spill out into the street, where vendors and beggars are at a minimum. The most popular clubs in this street include the Temple Club for drinks, music and other entertainment, or the Angkor What? bar which caters to the backpacker crowd. Both are full every night of the week. Pub street is definitely worth a visit and no trip is complete without a night on the town in Siem Reap.
With so many things to do and so many sights to see, it is no wonder that Siem Reap attractions and tourism in general has continued to grow over the years. So why not head out to Cambodia and explore the numerous things to do in Siem Reap next time you take a well-deserved vacation?
Visit the Asia destinations category to learn more about other tourism opportunities available in Asia!