Siem Reap - Gateway To The Ancient Angkor Wat

Are you planning a trip to Cambodia and searching for a useful travel guide for Siem Reap? Look no further! This article will provide you with an overview of this World Heritage site. Be sure to check it out.

Located in northwestern Cambodia, Siem Reap city is the city of Siem Reap Province.

Typical architecture in this city is a mixture between colonial and Chinese-style architecture, which appear mostly in the Old French Quarter and around the Old Market. Siem Reap city has lot of things to see: Museums, traditional Apsara dance performances, souvenir and handicraft shops, silk farms, rice paddies in the countryside, fishing villages and a bird sanctuary near the Tonle Sap Lake, and a vibrant, cosmopolitan drinking and dining scene.

Today, Siem Reap, being a popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia —has many hotels, resorts, restaurants, and businesses closely related to tourism.

Some information refers to Siem Reap’s history

Ancient Siem Reap land was always infighting among the Khmer nobilities.

From the 16th to the 19th centuries, Vietnam and Siam, both of Cambodia's more powerful neighbors, alternatively intervented and dominated this land.

During the 18th century, under the rule of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, it was known as Nakhon Siam (Thai’s language), meaning Siam's city.

In 1907, after a Franco-Siamese treaty, Siem Reap began to grow and already welcome first European guests to visit Bayon and other Angkor temples.

During years between 1975-1979, under the brutal Khmer Rouge regim (lead by Pol Pot), like all other Cambodian cities and towns, the population of Siem Reap, were endured the darkest years in history.

Since the 1998s, after the death of Pol Pot, Siem Reap city was revived, along with the rejuvenate and development of tourism industry.

Siem Reap nowadays, well-known as a gateway town to the world heritage site of Angkor Wat, is a vibrant city with modern hotels and restaurants, aslo attaching importance to sustainable tourism development, by preserve many of its culture and traditions. Its becomes one of top sites must-see on over the world.

Best time to visit Siem Reap

Siem Reap has a humid and dry tropical climate. The city is usually hot throughout the year, with average high temperatures never falling below 30℃ in any month.

Siem Reap has a relatively long rainy season starting in April and ending in November. The dry season includes the remaining four months.

Best time to visit Siem Reap is from December to March next year.

Top highlights of Siem Reap

Siem Reap has lot of things to see and you can't visit it in only one day. You'll need at least three days to cover the huge expanse of the Angkor temples and other attractions in the area. Below is the list of sites are recommended for you:

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, is a temple at the heart of Angkor, is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Cambodia. It is also said to be the largest religious monument in the world with an area of 162 ha and one of the seven wonders of the world recognized by UNESCO.

Being the prime example of the high classical style of Khmer temple architecture with “Angkor Wat style”, this Temple is designed to represent Mount Meru, the home of the gods, according to tenets of both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths.

Cambodia, Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat

Unlike most religious monuments in Cambodia, this is the only temple oriented to the West. Built with high endurance, Angkor Wat is admired for the grandeur and harmony of the architecture. This vibrant temple image appeared on its national flag and was considered as a symbol of Cambodia.

Beside visiting Angkor Wat on tour, you can enjoy a memorable sunrise or sunset with a spectacular view at Angkor Wat.

Cambodia, Angkor_Wat
Angkor Wat at sunset

Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple

Besides vibrant Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom is also a mysterious and attractive destination. This is the last great capital of Khmer Empire which is one of the most beautiful places is also the pride of Cambodia people.

Established 100 years after Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom was built as the capital of Jayavarman VII's empire and center of his massive buildings.

Angkor Thom is considered as a miniature universe with 4 parts and Bayon temple is center where connects heaven and earth. The highlight is the city gate with a tower-shaped architecture and 4 portraits like Buddha’s face on the roof.

The entrance to Angkor Thom is very impressive: the two sides are the god statues hugging the seven-headed snake. The center is the Bayon temple with four gates in four directions. Moreover, Angkor Thom is also known as the Temple of trees because there are many kinds of trees along the way to the temple. Here visitors can enjoy the music playing by the locals with the traditional instruments of this country.

Cambodia, Victory_Gate
Angkor Thom Victory Gate

Bayon temple has been known as one of the most im pressive and mysterious temples in the beautiful country – Cambodia.

Late 12th century - early 13th century, King Jayavarman VII built Angkor Thom capital and Bayon temple was located in the center of this capital. There is 54 large and small towers and each tower with 4 faces of Lokesvara god in 4 directions, a total of 216 faces on all towers.

Probably the tallest tower is also the most impressive to the visitors. It’s in the center of the temple, carved into four faces looking in four directions. It’s said that this faces as the observation, looking towards the people and bless the people in this country.

Cambodia, Angkor_Thom
Faces of Bayon Temple

Nowadays, the Bayon temple is a part of the Angkor Archaeological Park and World Heritage Site recognizing by UNESCO. Along with other temples, the Bayon Temple brings visitors a special insight about the glorious civilization and religious, political and literary history of Cambodia.

Apsara Dancing

Apsara Dance is a classical style Khmer dance played by a woman (also called is Apsara fairies), sewn into tight-fitting traditional dress, whose graceful, sinuous gestures are codified to narrate classical myths or religious stories. The Apsara dance is famous because of not only its beauty but also its invisible enchant and magical appeal.

In 2003, this attractive dance was recognized as World’s Intangible culture heritage in 2003 by UNESCO.

Nowadays, you can enjoy the Apsara show at many restaurants, hotels or theaters. Most of tourists choose to enjoy the performances with dinner at Khmer restaurants in Siem Reap.

Cambodia, Apsara dancers and tourists
Apsara dancers

Siem Reap Pub street

Pub Street is at the heart of this city and also the most attractive place after sunset. Most visitors who come to Siem Reap will visit Pub Street at least once.

Situated next to the Night Market, Pub Street (officially Street 8), has grown to become the centre of all nightlife in Siem Reap. The area is full of Western & Khmer restaurants, bars, nightclubs, street food, shops, market stalls, and just about everything else you could imagine.

Pub Street, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Pub Street in Siem Reap

Everyday, the street is opened from 17h00 to 24h00, but some places are opened 24/7.

Located in the center of Siem Reap town, so you can get there easily. You just need to say to the receptionist of your hotel “pub street”, they will show you the best directions to Pub Street.

Phnom Kulen National Park

Phnom Kulen National park is a national park in Cambodia, located in the Phnom Kulen moutain massif in Siem Reap province, is 48km from Siem Reap. Kulen is considered by Khmers to be the most sacred moutain and it’s a popular place for visitors.

Phnom Kulen National park covers 373.76 km2. There are several nature features, histotical places and other sights make Kulen National park an interesting place to visit: Phnom Kulen Waterfalls and picnic area, Thousand Lingas (Kbal Spean), Terrace of Sdach Kamlung, Preah Ang Thom Temple and Srah Damrei.

Cambodia, Siem Reap, Phnom Kulen waterfall
Phnom Kulen Waterfall

Banteay Srei

On a trip to Cambodia, there are many temples bring to the tourist the feeling of historical power. However, if you want to find another aspect of the temple’s beauty, Banteay Srei Temple will be your great choice. This temple in Siem Reap is known as a temple area with extremely sophisticated architecture and sculpture.

Banteay Srei temple is situated nearby Phnom Dei hill, just over 20km from the main Angkor complex and about 32km from Siem Reap town.

It was built largely of a hard red sandstone. This sandstone is very special because it can be carved like wood all decorative wall carvings which are still observable today. It makes Banteay Srei, although being one of the smallest temples at Angkor Wat, but really different from many of the other Angkorian temples, a must-see in Siem Reap.

cambodia, siam_reap, banteay_srei
Banteay Srei

Ta Prohm Temple

Dubbed the Tomb Raider temple after the 2001 Hollywood famous film that Angelina Jolie starred, Ta Prohm temple attracts more and more visitors. Unlike the other monuments of Angkor, the temple is cloaked in dappled shadow, its crumbling towers and walls locked in the slow muscular embrace of vast root systems. Therefore, if you are looking for somewherre which is less-touristic and still fascinatingly and mysteriously beautiful, besides the main Angkor temples, let’s explore the secrets Ta Prohm.

Located in the East of Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm is one of the largest of the monuments in the Angkor complex. Not too far from Siem Reap city (about 12km from the city center), it can be said that this is a favorable position for travelers to visit.

Shrouded in dense jungle and under the impacts of wars and nature over years, the temple getting old and ruinous covered with green moss creating a mysterious space. Specially, the trees growing out of the ruins are perhaps the most distinctive feature of Ta Prohm. The combination of trees growing out of the ruins and the jungle surroundings have made Ta Prohm one of Angkor's most popular temples with visitors.

cambodia, siem_reap, ta_prohm
Ta Prohm Temple  

Angkor Silk Farm

If you ever had a trip to Siem Reap with the historical temples and now you wish to explore a new place with the beauty of Cambodia’s countryside, the Angkor Silk Farm is the best choice for your experience.

The Angkor Silk Farm is about 16km west of Siem Reap, just off the road to Sisophon in the village of Puok. At the Angkor Silk Farm, you will feel comfortable because a quiet atmosphere surrounded by five hectares of mulberry trees plantations where the whole traditional process which gives birth to silk is displayed and explained.

On the way to the farm, you can enjoy the view of the vast and green paddy fields, the traditional stilted wooden houses…

Prek Toal – Bird Sanctuary

Located at the edge of Tonle Sap Lake, Prek Toal bird sanctuary is the largest one in South-East Asia and is also one of the best places for birdwatching from Siem Reap.

This Ramsar site is a part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It covers 31,282 hectares and is covered mostly by freshwater swamp forest. The reserve nourishes many species of fish, birds, amphibians and plants. This is home to the area’s rare waterbirds, particularly abundant during the dry season. Over 150 bird species have been recorded in this protected area that we can observe such as: Greater and Lesser Adjuncts, Milky Stork, Black-headed Ibis, Spot-billed Pelican, Painted Stork, Grey-Headed Fish Eagle and many more. You will have an impression on this stunning bird sanctuary as the variety of bird species and these birds have a huge wingspan and build enormous nests.

The best time to explore this sanctuary is the dry season from December to February because at that time, the water recedes, flocks of migratory birds will congregate and breed at Prek Toal.

However, due to being covered mostly by freshwater swamp forest, visiting Prek Toal bird sanctuary requires a small motorboat to drive along the stream for one hour to the bird tower.

cambodia, Siem Reap, Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary
Prek Toal Bird Sanctuary  

Chong Kneas Floating Village

After the temple tour in Siem Riep, if you want find a bit more peaceful place, try exploring to one of the other Tonle Sap villages further afield - Chong Khneas, approximately 16 km from Siem Reap. This village, located at the edge of the Tonle Sap Lake closest and and most accessible to Siem Reap, it is very convenient for visitors to visit in a day.

As in the other floating villages, people in Chong Khneas village deeply tied to the seasonal rise and fall of water. They live in house boats that need to be moved with the changing level of the Tonle Sap Lake and create pockets of floating villages throughout this 1,042 sq mile lake.

So if you want to visit, you will need to get a boat. Tour guide and the boatman will probably show you the features of Khmer floating households and the floating markets, clinics, schools and other boatloads of tourists.

The best time to visit here is early morning and late afternoon because at that time it is very scenic in the warm light or it can be combined with a view of the sunset from the hilltop temple of Phnom Krom, very amazing shot for you.

cambodia, Chong Kneas Floating Village on Tonle Sap
Chong Kneas Floating Village on Tonle Sap

Kompong Phluk Floating Village

Kompong Phluk is a one collection of three villages built within the floodplain in Siem Reap.  Located 16km southeast from Siem Reap but it is about 31 km from Siem Reap city when traveling by road and about 25 kilometers east of Chong Khneas.

If you are interested in adventuring off the beaten path, Kompong Phluk will surely be a taste of local culture and visit when you arrive Siem Reap. You can see it’s comparatively less touristy and offers a close look at the submerged forest and lakeside village life.

Most people and tourists called Kampong Phluk village a “floating village”, but that actually depends on what month you go. The hand-made houses are built by 16-foot stilts like some wild act in a circus. The villages are primarily Khmer and have about 3000 residents. Their life largely depends on fishing for survival, spending Cambodia's rainy season (May - October) fishing and shrimp harvesting. During the dry season (November - April) as the river is low, many turn to farming to supplement their income.

cambodia, Siem Reap, Kompong Phluk Floating Village on Tonle Sap
Kompong Phluk Floating Village  

The best time to visit here is in December or January when the water level drops and you witness temples and schools balancing on thick, wooden trunks.

Visiting Kampong Phluk village is a unique experience and your trip to the village will certainly help you get a little bit closer to understanding the life in this beautiful country.

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