Siem Reap is easily to mistake as the capital of Cambodia. This little sleepy town transformed into one of the most famous places in the world because of its main attraction: Angkor Wat.
Getting In: You can either fly in to Siem Reap airport, or take a bus from one of the neighbouring countries like Thailand. Note that if you get in from Thailand, you may be charged an inflated amount for a visa to get into Cambodia. If you’re taking a bus from Phnom Penh, note that the bus station is just outside the city, and you’ll need a tuk tuk to take you to Siem Reap itself.
Where to Stay: The backpacker heart of Siem Reap is located within Pub Street, a block filled with bars, pubs, stores, and massage parlors where you can get your feet massaged by fish (amazing experience and something you must do). Some hostels are a basic $1 mattress on the ground type, but if you want something else, dorm beds can vary from $5-$10 per night.
What to Do:
Tuk-tuks can take you on a day tour for as low as $25 for a maximum of 4 people. That’s quite a deal. The best and most crowded time of Angkor Wat is during sunrise, waiting for the sun to peek out of the ancient site is quite something.
1) Angkor Wat – this is the main draw of Siem Reap. You must purchase a pass to the Angkor compound for $20/day, $40 for three days, $60 for seven days. They are very strict with the pass and guards at checkpoints do check it. They actually take your photo so you can’t really transfer the pass from one person to another. Angkor Wat gets very busy during sunrise – it’s pretty much the first stop of every Angkor tour. Climb up and down the historic building as you can, while you can
2) Angkor Thom – while bigger than Angkor Wat, this compound is amazing. Here, you can find Bayon, a temple that features multi-facing faces carved in stone and the level of detail is just outstanding. This is not as well maintained as Angkor Wat, so you may find a lot of fallen walls and structures. You can also see Baphuon, a temple with a reclining Buddha that is still being recreated as it first collapsed in the early 20th century. There’s also the Terrace of the Leper King – where you’re walking underneath the ancient walls (feels like a maze), and the Terrace of the Elephants.
3) Pub Street – the party central of Siem Reap where you can try local cuisine (and maybe a happy pizza or two), and hang out with your new friends at Angkor What, drinking buckets and getting a t-shirt or two. When the sun sets, this is where everyone goes to shop, hang out, or get a fish spa (highly recommended)!
4) See the sunset at Phnom Bakheng – it gets crowded, but worth it. It is a tall complex, and you can also ride an elephant at the bottom part of the temple complex. Easily accessible on the big loop Angkor tour.