Siem Reap is rapidly growing, with plenty of new hotels, restaurants and nightlife spots. The center has always been a rural old town, with European style shops. The mostly likely reason Siem Reap will be added to your itinerary will be the amazingly well preserved ancient temples. Other than going to see Angkor Wat, there isn’t a great deal to do in the town itself. While the city (and the food) has become more popular recently, I can’t see any reason to spend a great deal of time here.
Money saving tips
Work for a hostel – This is a trick you can use anywhere in the world in order to extend your trip. Expect to work around 20 hours a week for free accommodation and possibly food, depending on your negotiating skills.
Walk, or use a bike – Walking is of course free! Renting a bicycle is about $5 dollars a day. Be aware of rainy weather conditions, which inevitably is followed by sludge.
Get friendly with your tuk-tuk driver – Use the rapport you build, possibly from the airport tuk-tuk, to strike up a deal — Be fair to your driver, and 99% of them will be fair to you.
Things to do
Angkor Wat – The utter size of the temple is astonishing. Although some parts of the temple have been restored, the history is amazing but to fully understand it, purchase a guide or buy a tour book. Sunset seen from the adjacent hill is awesome, but get there quick as they only allow 300 people to see the sunset from the temple complex on the hill. Even if you have been on the town the night before, wake up and be at the lake for 5am. The view is simply magnificent; don’t forget your camera here.
Bayon temple – Striking temple with superb carvings and countless smiling faces on each Gopura. A little change from Angkor Wat, it portrays bayon architecture. You unearth something mind-blowing every step you take in this vast complex. Watch out for the smiling Buddha welcoming you at the entrance … nice touch!
Backstreet Academy – In Siem Reap, Backstreet Academy to provides tourists with the chance to discover the hidden treasures of the local craftsmen and just how much skill goes into creating authentic handicrafts. You can make soooooooo many interesting products with this innovative company ….. From cooking spices to crossbows!
Wildlife and nature tours – Many establishments in Siem Reap offer exceptional Wildlife and Nature Trips & Tours. They are expert locals with the wit and knowledge to enable you to have a change from all the temples and museums.
Where to stay?
The Siem Reap Hostel – The Siem Reap Hostel was intended to provide accommodation for a range of budgets – guaranteeing the staff are well trained, and given a decent salary (a rarity in Cambodia). The hostel employs children from rural locations, a nice touch!
Golden Temple Residence – After outrageously inconstant hotel experiences across Asia, the Golden Temple Residence stood out for its service and class. The breakfast buffet was distinct and delectable. The location is central, steps from the night market and 5 minutes from the central market.
Shinta Mani Resort – This hotel picked up 2nd place in Trip advisors ‘best hotels of 2015’. Once I stayed here I could see why. What separates this hotel from many in Siem reap is pleasant & courteous staff. Everyone seemed happy and was glad to be of service. Excellent location and tasty food are added bonuses for this luxury and marvelous hotel.
Where to eat?
Cheap & cheerful
Khmer Grill Restaurant – Not going to lie, so happy I found this place! So delicious (and cheap). The Staff were appropriately chatty with us and taught us a few things about traditional Khmer cuisine. The whole meal for 2 cost £11. A great option for veggies, Khmer grill has a huge separate menu!
Georges Rhumerie Restaurant – I would definitely eat here again (and again!). Georges, the owner will frequently take the time to make sure the food is enjoyable. The homemade chutneys here are unreal, and you can buy to take home (great pressie!). Enjoy the air-con on a particularly humid day, or the terrace on one of the many gorgeous days in Siem Reap.
Break the bank
Damnak Lounge Fine Dining – The service at Damnak is hard to beat. They have a rare skill of making you feel satisfied every second that you’re in the restaurant. Details such as a live violin playing in the background along with amazing food is where you justify paying these prices, but it’s kind of worth it.