Siem Reap (Angkor Wat)

Siem Reap Over View


Siem Reap is the capitol city of the NW province of Cambodia but it is better know as the gateway to Angkor Wat.  Siem Reap today, being a popular tourist destination, has a large number of hotels and restaurants. Most smaller establishments are concentrated around the Old Market area, while more expensive hotels are located between Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport and the town along National Road 6.  There are a variety of mid-range hotels and restaurants along Sivatha, and mid budget to mid-range hotels in the Phsar Leu area.

Getting there

By Air
The town is 7km from the Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (IATA code REP).  As far as I know there are no direct flight from the US or Europe, you will have to connect through one of these cities, Singapore, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Seoul, Pusan Kunming, Kaohsiung and Taipei.  There are also domestic flights from Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.30 day tourist visas upon arrival

visa information
By Road;
If you had been to Cambodia a few years ago, you would think it insane to drive anywhere by car, the main reason I say this is because of the road conditions, where it might take you an hour to get from point A to point B back home, back then in Cambodia that same distance would take you 6 hours and that is 6 hours on a dusty, bone jarring, meter deep pot hole laden roads.
But now a drive from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is no problem at all due to the construction of “National Route #6” it is for the most part a smooth paved road all the way to Siem Reap.
Bus travel is now the most popular means of overland transport between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. There are several regularly scheduled daily buses in both directions, taking only 5 or 6 hours to make the trip. Several bus companies, guesthouses and travel agencies offer a/c bus transport.  Generally speaking, it is easiest to buy tickets through your guesthouse or travel agency. Prices and level of service varies from comfortable, basic a/c buses to deluxe a/c buses with entertainment, snacks and on-board toilet. Most buses make at least two stops along the way – at Skun and Kampong Thom for a snack or lunch. Phnom Penh does not have a centralized bus station. Buses from different companies depart from different stations. See the individual bus company for the departure location.In Siem Reap the Chong Kov Sou bus station is located near  Phsar Leu (the ‘Upper Market’) a couple of kilometers west of the town center. For passengers departing Siem Reap, most bus companies offer a free shuttle service from the hotel/guesthouse to the bus station.
Hiring a Car/Taxi;
This actually is not a bad way to go and cheaper then you might think.  You can rent a car with driver for around 50$ a day. So if there are three of you are paying less then $17 each.  The price will of course vary and you will have to negotiate, the nicer/newer the car the more expensive.You can find the car and driver through your Hotel or Travel Agency.
Awhile ago a friend of mine hooked me up with a driver and he charged me 35$ a day 24/7.  He became way more then just a driver, he was my tour guide, translator, body guard even a drinking buddy.  We still keep in touch by e-mail and when ever I go back I drop him an e-mail with my flight details and he has never been late meeting me at the airport.  Great guy.  If your staying in Cambodia for a long time, finding a good driver is priceless.

Taking the river, going by Boat;
This by far is my favorite method of going up to Siem Reap, it is so Lonely Planet. I’ve done this twice, once by fast boat for an overnighter and once by a 3 day private slow boat.
Going by fast boat;
There is a daily ferry that goes between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, it departs daily at 7:30am from the Phnom Penh Port on Sisowath Quay near Street 104.  You can purchase tickets from you hotel or travel agents.  The tickets cost 25-35$ and the trip will take 4-5 hours.  These are local transport so the boats can get crowded and noisy.Note: During the dry season (Nov-May), service at times will shutdown, make sure you check before hand.
Going by slow boat;
A few companies now offer a high end 3 to 10 day trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap on large traditional wooden boats.  Lets me start off saying, it is not cheap, these are luxury trips and the boats are fully staffed with cooks, purser and hostesses, kind of like an Oriental Express on the water.  The one I went on, which is one of the smaller ones, had 10 cabins, my cabin was beautifully done in teak and brass, very high-end.  Information on the group I used is below, I know there are others which are cheaper, just don’t have details on them.

CF Mekong

Day Time;
I would say that 99.9% of everyone coming to Siem Reap is here to see Angkor wat, so lets start there.
Angkor Wat
Stretching over some 400 square kilometers, including forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire of the 9th to the 15th centuries, including the largest pre-industrial city in the world. The most famous are the Temple of  Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations.
Angkor Archaeological Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992. At the same time, it was also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to looting, a declining water table, and unsustainable tourism. UNESCO has now set up a wide-ranging program to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings
Getting there;
Angkor is located about 20 minutes to the north, by car or motorbike, from central Siem Reap.
There are several ways to get there from Siem Reap.

  1. Bus tours; air-conditioned comfort tours, cost normally is US$25-$70/day including driver and guide
  2. Rent a car with driver, cost around $50/day.  The drivers are not tour guides and most speak very little English, but you can also hire a tour guide to go with you for an additional $10/day (getting a tour guide inside Angkor Wat normally will cost around $20).
  3. Motorbike taxi, $6-$8/day, motorbike taxi drivers are required to wear a vest with there license number on it. Also it is prohibited to rent a motorbike to foreigners in Siem Reap.
  4. Bicycles, $2-3$/day, if your in shape, this is a great option. Bring lots and lots of water, its hotter then you think.
  5. Helicopter, expensive…. but damn cool as hell, and the view from overhead is a once in a life time experience.
You need to get a Pass;
Passes are required to enter the Angkor Wat area;

  • One (1) day pass $20
  • Three (3) day pass $40, good for any 3 days in a  week.
  • Seven (7) day pass $60, good for any 7 days in a month.

The Angkor Wat area is broken down into 4 groups and the out lying area;

  • Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, this is the big temple and water lake that most people will recognize from the photos.
  • The little circuit, taking in major sites to the east of Angkor Thom.
  • The big circuit, taking in major sites north and further out east.
  • Roluos group, 15 km east from Siem Reap along Highway 6.
  • The outlying areas, located over 20 km from Angkor Wat.
Show Respect;
Because these are still holy spaces for the Khmers (Cambodian people), it is best to follow the dress code of “long pants/skirt and covered shoulders.” This is the dress code that the Khmers follow when visiting any temple or holy space. Most Khmers are non-confrontational so this rule is not strictly enforced, but wearing inappropriate clothing sends a message of disrespect. A good rule of thumb is “Would I wear this to my own house of worship?” If not, it may be poor etiquette to wear it to someone else’s holy site.
Other things to do during the day;
Ok, your done with the whole Angkor Wat thing or just need a break for a day, well how about shooting an AK47 or throwing a real grenade?
Army Shooting Range;
This is the famous or infamous place where they allowed people to shot a Chinese made rocket launcher at a live cow, you had to buy the cow first of course.  I, in no way condone this behavior, just telling you its there.  And the cow thing, not an Urban legend.  What you can shoot is only limited by the amount of cash you are willing to part with.  You can shoot fully automatic machine guns, throw a live grenade and yes they do have real Soviet and Chinese made Rocket launchers.  I have no idea how much it cost to shoot a Rocket launcher, because I’m sure it would have been way more then I was willing to spend on this kind of entertainment, but I can tell you that a grenade will run you $35 per.  If you want to check this place out, just tell your driver “shoot gun” and he will know exactly what you mean.
Helicopter Flights;
Not the cheapest way to see Angkor, its about $100 per 10 minuets of flight time. But what an experience!  I only know of one operation right now, listed below;HeliStarCambodia
All kinds of “Khmer” massage parlors all over Siem Reap, unlike those in Bangkok which are just fronts for sexual services, these, for the most part are genuine massage shops.  The Khmers claim that Thai massage derived from Khmer massage (don’t say that to a Thai, them are fighting words).  I actually prefer the Khmer massage as it is more soothing, less pain, twisting and poking.  After a hot humid day exploring the temples there is nothing better then a massage and a cool shower before heading out for a night of parting.
Night time;
Doing the temple thing all day can take a lot out of you, so you might think that the night life in Siem Reap would consist of some restaurants and mellow beer gardens, boy would you be wrong. The night life here is absolutely booming especially on a street called…… wait for it…… Pub street.  It’s amazing how quickly thing develop, just a few years ago Siem Reap was kind of a sleepy backpackers hangout.  Now it resembles any party town in Thailand, with throbbing music, wandering crowds, hawkers, drunk middle aged men and hookers.  Now I’m not against any of that per say but being here 10 years ago and seeing what it is now, kind of made me sad.  Oh well things change and everyone wants to have a good time.
Pub Street;
The Angkor What? bar and the Temple Club are the busiest on Pub street, with ground shaking music going on well into the evening, or morning, and plenty of people shaking to the beat. Off of pub street the following places also see a fair bit of night time action.

  • The X Bar is now by far the post 3 AM venue of choice, rocking on through dawn virtually every night. Good food, movie nights regularly.
  • Abacus is known for its great food, but is also a nice bar, a bit more of a French crowd, but definitely one of the places to be in town.
  • The Laundry Bar maintains its hold on those looking for a more mellow experience, with fantastic lounge music and great atmosphere.
  • The Warehouse is the place to kick off a big night, and will often go late if the mood is right. Probably the best cocktails in town, and a variety of music depending on the evening and the bar tender’s urges. Also probably the best place to be for football viewing. Good food.
  • Aqua Sydney is a swimming pool/bar and a nice place to while away some hours morning, noon, or night. A bit off the beaten track but worth finding.
  • The Funky Munky has moved, but will likely retain the same midday and early evening mayhem they are famous for at their new location near Pub Street. Excellent English pub grub.
  • The Ivy Bar serves some of the best European food around. Not a late night bar, but an ex-pat favorite and a good place to sit for dinner and a few drinks with a chance to hear some of the local gossip.
  • Cafe Bar-Noir! Located in The Cockatoo Nature Resort, on the second floor of an elegantly restored/renovated Khmer house, this bar is unique – it holds movie nights for cineastes, with focus on film classics including Hollywood film-noir (hence the name). Cocktails are named after movies such as Gilda and Double Indemnity. Semi-open verandah overlooks beautiful pool and gardens, making a very romantic venue at night.
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