Known as the ‘Great Gate to Angkor’, Siem Reap is capital of the province of the same name and a popular tourist destination in northwest Cambodia. A country with a war torn past, the former French colony of Cambodia is now rebuilding and reconstructing. Siem Reap is the base to explore the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, the Angkor Wat temples dating back to the 12th century.
Siem Reap means ‘Defeat of Siam’ and refers to when it was claimed from Siam (Thailand) after centuries of warfare. There has been a rebuild and rejuvenation of the country, to which this city has been central.
Formerly a colony of France, you can see remnants of that in the streets, buildings and cuisine. Siem Reap is a colourful city where the grand Chinese and French architecture plays a powerful setting to what is a vibrant culture and growing economy.
There are a cluster of small villages along the river that were originally Buddhist pagodas but the main tourist areas are the Wat Bo area where you can find restaurants and hotels and the Psar Leu area where there are plenty of shops to visit.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is why so many people flock to Cambodia. Built in the 12th century, it wasn’t until the French came in the 1800s that it was discovered by the Western world. The beautiful five towers are impressive reminders of the Khmer civilisation, and are covered with elaborate Hindu carvings. Its iconic central tower is a symbol to the mythical five peaked Mount Meru.
Translated as the ‘Great Lake’, this is the largest freshwater river in southeast Asia. A UNESCO biosphere, it is unusual for changing flow direction based on dramatic seasons. In the dry season (November to May) it goes into the Mekong River but once the rains begin it forms the great lake.
Built at the end of the 12th century, this is a stunning royal city but it’s the Bayon Temple that you simply have to see. This unique temple represents the intersection of heaven and earth and is known for the faces on its walls. Make sure to also see the Terrace of the Leper King and Baphuon Temple.
An atmospheric location, this temple complex has hundred year old trees growing inside with branches weaving through the ruin. It’s a unique, ancient ruin that has to be seen during a trip to Siem Reap.
Khmer cuisine holds many similarities to China and is known for being flavoured with coriander and lemon grass herbs. A charcoal stove with a single wok tends to be the foundation on which traditional food is cooked and although it can be greasy, it is also delicious. Look out for sweet and sour dishes, curries and Cambodian stews.
Cambodia is a tropical country and, as such, warm all the time. The rainy seasons between June and October should be avoided and it’s the cool season between November and February that is ideal for tourism.
Flight time from the UK is usually 15 hours, with a stopover in Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore.
An incredibly popular tourist destination in southeast Asia, Siem Reap is the ‘Great Gate to Angkor’ bursting with Parisian heritage and brilliant temples. It has a great history and is enchanting to all who pass through.
Work your way through the Old Market as you witness the hustle and bustle of the downtown area. It is a city that has been transformed by tourism, so much so that there is a wonderful mix of bars and restaurants.
While the Angkor Wat is the main attraction, the vibrant city is filled with colours. Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom are stunning places to see and there isn’t a photo or any words that can do justice to the wonder of Siem Reap.
Things to do in Siem Reap
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Siem Reap is known as the gateway to the ‘eighth wonder of the world’ and many people who visit here come so to explore and experience the Angkor Wat temples.
If you plan on exploring these beautiful monuments yourself you’ll want to pack a selection of sensible footwear for the trip (flip-flops aren’t a great idea!) and also lots of light layers that will help keep you cool during the hot days. If you can pack purely natural fabrics (such as cotton and linen), you’ll definitely feel the benefit.
It’s also advisable to take your own small medical kit with you, as well as anti-bacterial hand wash – as some things may be hard to come by in local towns and villages.
The weather in Siem Reap tends to split into two distinct seasons, the wet season (May – October) and the dry season (November – April). Most people tend to visit during the dry season as it makes exploring the surroundings much easier and much more pleasant. Expect temperatures to range from mid-twenties all the way up to mid thirties.
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