Welcome to SIEM REAP
Step foot in this prosperous Cambodian region with a rich ancient history and contemporary culture to match.
Siem Reap is the most prosperous region of contemporary Cambodia, and it literally translates to “defeat of Siam”. Siem Reap is a popular resort town and is a gateway to the Angkor region. It has Chinese-style and colonial architecture in the Old French Quarter, and around the Old Market. It is an island set in a rice paddy countryside. And provides a nice compromise between observing Cambodian life and enjoying amenities of modern services and entertainment.
1 USD = 4000 Cambodian Riel
It is worth noting however that USD is the de facto currency in Cambodia so not having any Riel won’t be much of an issue either.
Time zone is UTC+07:00.
Official language is Khmer. Cambodia uses metric system (kilograms, centimeters, °C).
Dial exit code then 855, then area code and the local number. For local calls within Cambodia, start with the area code (with the initial 0).
Things to do
Angkor Wat is a UNESCO World Heritage site that remains one of the most well preserved parts of the archeological park. Largest religious monument and is listed as one of the seven modern wonders of the world.
The massive complex was built during the 12th century and it is believed that it took almost 30 years to complete the construction. The temple is dedicated to Hindu god Vishnu.
The temples of Angkor are highly symbolic structures. The foremost Hindu concept is the temple-mountain, where the temple is built as a representation of the mythical Mount Meru.
Foreigners need a permit to enter. A 1-day pass is $37 USD, 3-day is $62 USD, and 7-day is $72 USD.
Best way is to rent a tuk-tuk for an entire day to get around. They know best routes for the complex. It will let you see more places in a day and is very affordable, generally around $25 USD for the day.
Make sure you get to the temples early. Entry to the park begins at 5 am. There is lesser crowd in the morning and it’s not so sunny so getting around won’t be much of a hassle.
Travel Hack – Buy ticket after 5pm as you can legally/technically enter the park and explore before it closes, and still have your 1-, 3-, or 7-days remaining. The best way to spend this extra time is to watch the sunset, saving the temples for the following day(s).
There are 3 floating villages to choose from in the country.The Tonle Sap lake is quite unique as the lake changes direction twice per year. The houses are built on bamboo stilts, and there are always boats filled with people selling trinkets, food, and hanging out.
For those that just want a quick and easy look at the floating village of Chong Khneas as it is nearest to the city But if you’ve come to see an undisturbed community and way of life preserved for generations, Kompong Khleang is by far your best choice.
An opportunity to understand the direction and pace of life in this part of the world.
Kompong Khleang is both the largest and furthest floating village in Siem Reap province. It is a bit off the beaten track and takes about an hour to reach by car.
Home of about 1800 families, more or less 6000 people altogether, stilt houses as far as the eye can see. More than a village, Kampong Khleang is a small town with its schools, its 3 pagodas, its clinics and everything such a large community requires to function. For those of you who have never seen such things before, it is a truly mind-boggling experience.
This is the only floating village in Siem Reap whose rights are owned by residents of the village. A little over 70 individuals participate in the ecotourism boat cooperative and they share profits from the boat tickets and tourism tax. The tour costs 35 USD.
Travel Advise -Many of the floating villages in Siem Reap have become rife with scams and, unfortunately, some people actually leave Siem Reap with a bad taste in their mouth. Fortunately, that’s not the case in Kompong Khleang – there is simply not the level of scam infrastructure that you’ll find elsewhere. You should still do your research ahead of time though and, when traveling on your own.
The Old Market area, including the nearby Pub Street, Pub Street alleys and the Night Markets, are favourites when visiting Siem Reap. The entire area is now the dining, shopping and nightlife center of town.
Angkor Night Market in Siem Reap opened in 2007 , is said to be the first night market in Cambodia. What sets it apart from the other night markets in other Asian cities like Hong Kong, Malacca, and Bangkok is that it features and highlights not just the goods being sold but also the place itself — a series of stylish traditional huts built Khmer style.
This fosters a very Cambodian atmosphere, adding to a genuinely delightful experience walking around the labyrinth of over 240 shops. Most of the items available are paintings, wood carvings, silk, and local delicacies. There are also a few massage and spa bars for those who need a little more pampering after a day of exploring the city.
After the sun goes down, the focus shifts to Pub Street. Named for the numerous pubs that line Street 8, it all began in 1998 when Angkor What?opened its doors – the lone pub on a lonely street. Pub Street’s narrow connecting alleys and passages offer a relaxed, pedestrians-only alternative to the main street, each alley offering something of it own character.
Alley West is a particularly quaint little alley with an artsy, Old World atmosphere. The original Pub Street Alley, now called The Passage, is busiest of the bunch, but still comparatively tranquil and pedestrian only. The Lane on the other side of Pub Street has a more varied and eclectic places.
Join the mob, start dancing, vanish in between the phosphorescent lights, and lose yourself in the beat of the pumping music that almost make the building explode.
Fun Fact – The table service includes endless top-ups of your glass and one thing you’ll learn is that Cambodians tend to drink their beer with lots of ice. It’s actually very nice, and helps to mitigate the morning horrors of course.
What to Eat | Where to Eat | How to Party
known as a distinctive feature of Cambodia cuisine. Locals have to prepare well processed fish, salt, sugar, pepper, garlic and cold rice. First of all they will process the fish and expose fish to the sun for a day then mix with all of the spice and keep this mixture in a jar for several months. Prahok is able to eat when it become pasty and the color turn gray with a specific smell. This food is a traditional food of Cambodian as well as a spice to put into broth of some noodles soup.
Chilli Fried Insects
Walk down the streets in Siem Reap you will can’t help being at fault when there are too many fried insects sold at the roadside food stalls. It’s said that this is a popular food of the poor Cambodians in the past. Because insects are not only very cheap but also have a high nutrition content. There is a market that specializes in selling fried insects in Siem Reap where you can see many kinds of insect like spiders, wasps, crickets or silkworms. The locals season the insects with salt, sugar, herbs and chili then fry them into deep oil pan. Fired insects taste really good and so crispy.
Bamboo sticky rice
Absolutely cooked in bamboo sections so first of all the locals have to collect the bamboo then process cleanly and chop bamboo into sections that about 30 cm in length. Then mix sticky rice-a special rice grown in Cambodia with black eye peas and a little bit of salt then they stuff up those bamboo sections with this mixture. Finally they add the coconut water in these bamboo sections and grill it directly on the coal for an hour. You will never forget the fresh taste of coconut together with the savory taste of sticky rice, peas and salt in this dish.
Stir-fried ants with beef
You can find various dishes made from insects in Cambodia. The name of the dish speaks all enough the main ingredients. Food made from ants is not so strange to visitors who used to travel to Southeast Asia. But ants in association with beef can only be found in Cambodia. Ants of all sizes are stir-fried with a bunch of spices -lemongrass, ginger, garlic, shallots and thinly sliced beef. This is a aromatic dish with sour flavor which the ants impart to the beef during marination.
Jaggery sweet soup
After all spicy and hot food you have tried in Siem Reap, this is an ideal balance to satisfy your taste. It is a concentrated product of date, cane juice, or palm sugar. It’s colors vary from golden brown to dark brown, which will make the typical color in a bowl of jaggery sweet soup. Jaggery is a rich source of iron. It also contains many minerals salts not found in ordinary sugar. Jaggery sweet soup is a sweet thick soup with potato cubes and green beans and best served in cool or with some ice.
Exquisite French restaurant with a white table cloth and wine glass atmosphere in a tranquil garden setting. Elegant, a/c seating as well as pleasant garden terrace dining. Fine imported cigars available.
Just off Route #6 (Airport Road)
Cuisine Wat Damnak
A modern, creative take on traditional Khmer cuisine. Guests can choose between two set menus each week that feature locally-sourced ingredients, Cambodian seafood and vegetables and fresh native herbs served in comfortably elegant surrounds–a traditional Khmer house with stylish decor and seating.
Behind Wat Damnak Pagoda
Running since 2011 and now in a new location on the increasingly popular Sok San Road. Father Restaurant serves up a a wide range of cuisines from Khmer to international favourites at very reasonable prices.
Sok San Road
L’Annexe French Cuisine Siem Reap
When you step in , one can feel the passion, and it starts with the atmosphere. Not your usual French restaurant, it’s more like plush dining in a small jungle. “Buried in their yard you’ll find parts of the Cambodian jungle and it creates an ambiance that is unique and is like a French paradise.” L’Annexe is a top destination for French cuisine in Siem Reap. Warm atmosphere, excellent French food and wonderful signature desserts.
2nd block of Sok San Road
Nice, cozy, little red brick restaurant offering finely prepared home cooking featuring traditional French and Vietnamese cuisines. Best Pho in Siem Reap and also traditional French dish such as boeuf bourguignon. Refined yet convivial atmosphere. Perfect place for a romantic dinner for two or a gathering of friends. Cocktails. Excellent selection of French wines.
Wat Bo area
Angkor What? Bar
The Angkor What? started it all – the very first bar to open on Pub Street back in 1998 and still going strong. Very popular, reasonable prices, music, dancing, often busy well into the early morning hours. Open very late, one of the last bars in town to close.
Location – Pub Street
Hard Rock Café Angkor
Cambodia’s first Hard Rock Café, Situated in an old colonial-style building next to King’s Road Angkor, overlooking the river. Food, full bar and live performances from all over the world.
Location – Corner of the Old Market Bridge
Way way laid back late night bar on Sok San. Mellow vibes, relaxed people, something of a haven. English pub grub. Full bar with very reasonably priced drives. Open 24 hours
Location – Sok San road
Siem Reap’s original gay bar, operating since 2004. Lounge atmosphere “with a little sophistication and elegance,” perfect for socializing. Still located on the Pub Street Alley but on the opposite side of the alley next to Steakhouse.
Location – The Passage
Miss Wong Cocktail Bar
Comfortable, stylish cocktail bar on The Lane, very tastefully decorated in old China chic. Nice selection of well prepared cocktails as well as beers and wines, including some unique choices. Dim sum and snacks. Attention to detail. Good people. Interesting conversation
Location – The Lane
Village cooking class
Are you eager to learn traditional Cambodian cuisines and delicacies? Get a hands-on, interactive cooking lesson with morning and afternoon options. From mango salad to fish amok, you’ll learn the works here. Prices start from USD 24.
There are daily bike rentals offered by local shops and honestly, there isn’t a better way to explore Siem Reap than biking around town. For as little as USD 2 a day, you can get to the Angkor temple complex, and you have the freedom to explore on your own with leisure.
Try pottery making
The Angkor Pottery Center offers daily lessons for beginners and professionals. You get to learn how the process works by making your own glazed pot and taking it home. You don’t need any prior experience in pottery for this. Prices begin at $7.50 USD per person.
Happy Ranch Horse Farm
Countryside trail rides by horseback—you can take rides that last anywhere from 1-4 hours. Wander in and out of the various villages, rice fields, and Buddhist pagodas during sunrise or sunset. An awesome adventure. Prices begin at $28 USD.
How to get around
Best described as a motorcycle towing a chariot, remorque-motos, or tuk tuks, can be found on just about every street corner. Short hops around town shouldn’t cost more than $1.50 to $2 depending on the number of passengers, but if you’re planning on using these frequently, hire one for the day at the universal price of $15. They can comfortably seat two people and three or four at a squeeze.
You can rent bicycles for as little as $2 a day, including from the White Bicycle Project, which uses the rental fee to support local clean water and education programmes, as well as the Giant Puppet Project. Serviceable town bikes are available in town for between $1 and $3. These can sometimes make your day seem substantially longer if you’re planning on hiring one for touring the temples, so test it before agreeing to take it
More expensive but more comfortable than other options, figure on US$25-30 per day for a Toyota Camry, more for a minibus. If you’re planning on visiting outlying ruins and have a few people to split the fare with, this can be a smart way to get there. Travel agents will be able to sort out a car for you, or just ask a moto and he’ll find you one.
A new concept in Cambodia, these are electric bicycles that motor along at an optimum speed of 20km/h, perfect for getting around the temples, though less ideal for getting around town where the traffic moves according to arcane laws designed to weed out the unwary, and anyone else who just happens to be in the way. The bicycles cost $10 to rent for 24 hours, and you will need to bring your passport, which they will keep as a deposit. The bikes have a range of about 40 kilometres, though there are three recharge points around the temples and 10 recharge points in town.
Health & Wellness
Travel is incredibly fun but also very random and chaotic. A fitness routine can be the one absolute in your life — a way to maintain structure and consistency and not lose focus, no matter where you are. It’s this structure that actually makes the rest of the travel adventure more fun and rewarding.
For us, fitness is super important. We prioritise it and make it part of our daily schedule.
Here’s how you can implement it during our travels.
Ahimsa Yoga studio
Studio offers 3 drop in yoga classes each day. The classes are open to all and no booking are required.
Angkor Inter Fitness
With the option of a month’s or week’s membership, choose how often you’d go in to lift or catch a class.
Angkor Muscle Gym
The entry fee is 1$ but treadmill use is charged extra. 10-15 min from Pub street.
Angkor Fight Club
Beat the dull monotony of treadmill & machines with the weekly Crossfit class here.
Know Siem Reap
- Siem Reap was just a village when the French explorers discovered Angkor in the 19th century.
- Siem Reap began to grow, attracting tourists once it was under French control in 1907.
- The Grand Hotel d’Angkor opened in 1929 and the temples of Angkor were one of the most famous Asian tourist spots until the late 1960s, with visitors such as Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Kennedy to name a few.
- But with war and the Khmer rouge, Siem Reap was put into a long slumber from which it begun to wake in the mid-1990s.
- The Vietnamese reinstated the city and soon enough, it began the showings of a modern township. It began flourishing and growing economically. And it was put on the tourist map once again.
- The six century rule of the Khmer Empire defined the Cambodia’s Angkor Period.
- King Jayavarman II was the impetus for unified Khmer people. He was known as the universal monarch of Cambodia.
- Cambodian people are friendly and helpful but communication can be a problem as most of them don’t speak english, so picking up on some basic Khmer words and phrases (find our glossary below) will be helpful.
- The people around here are very honest, so you will not be scammed or cheated on. And Siem Reap is very tourist friendly!
- With a predominantly Buddhist population, the locals here prefer non-violence and peaceful atmospheres as opposed to too much hustle and stress.
- Respect is very important to the Cambodian people, and must be given at all times.
- If you are ever invited to a local’s home in Siem Reap – be sure to remove your shoes, even if you are not asked to do so by your host, remove your hat when you are indoors.
- It’s polite to bring small gifts (like fruits, flowers, or candy for your host) and hand them with both your hands, wait for the eldest person to sit down (even while eating, this applies).
- Avoid conversations about business or war when you are at the table. It’s good to keep these basic etiquettes in mind when you’re visiting.
Few things to keep in mind
- Siem Reap is predominantly Buddhist, so violence in all forms is frowned upon. Even showing aggression and talking in loud voices is considered rude.
- Dressing modestly is advised. Short skirts/short shorts should be avoided.
- Take your shoes off before entering a private house.
- Public displays of affection are considered impolite.
- Don’t give children gifts as it encourages begging.
- Don’t take a photograph of anyone without their consent.
- Never touch a Cambodian person on the head, not even children.
- Never raise your feet higher than somebody’s head. It’s found extremely disrespectful. Don’t place feet on chairs or tables either.
- If you’re sitting on the ground, tuck your feet in so they aren’t pointing at anyone.
- Don’t use your left hand to eat, touch, or hand someone something.
- Don’t point with your index finger — it is considered rude. Gesture with your right hand palm-up instead.
It is helpful to note that the traditional Cambodian greeting – Som Pas – is made by putting both the hands together (with fingertips near the chin) and slightly bowing the head. The hands are held higher for elders and monks as a mark of respect.
Language – Khmer
chah female – baht male
leah sin houwy
chewy khñom pawng
Knowing a few Khmer words will help you earn some respect while in Cambodia.
- If you are male the word for ‘yes’ is pronounced ‘baht’ as in the sound of a sheep followed by a hard T.
- If you are female the word for ‘yes’ is pronounced ‘jah’ as in the first part of ‘jar’.
- The word for ‘no’ is pronounced ‘Awt Tay’.
- The word for ‘thank you’ is pronounced ‘aw-koon’ sounds a little like raccoon.
- To express greater thanks (thank you very much), use the word ‘aw-koon ch’ran’
- The word for ‘hello’ is pronounced ‘Sues-Day” Sues is pronounced exactly like author Dr. Seuss
- The word for ‘sorry’ is pronounced ‘somtoh’.
- The word for ‘toilet’ is pronounced ‘dakuhn’ or ‘pahkuhn’ Similarly to how you would pronounce the kunh in thank you, but with a short ‘ba’ in front.
- Scooter/mopeds with carriages pulled behind are called a ‘tuk-tuk’ better pronounced with the U sound from the back of your throat, like tulk-tulk.
- Scooter/mopeds by themselves are pronounced ‘moto’ with an emphasis on ‘mo’.
- Rickshaws are called ‘cyclo’. The cy is pronounced like the word see.
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