Lotus in Cambodia

Siem Reap’s Permanent Chill

Siem Reap, Cambodia is perhaps most famous as the closest Cambodian city to Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and arguably Cambodia’s most famous brand worldwide. Located less five kilometers from Siem Reap’s city center, the Wat is one of many temples close enough to Siem Reap to visit as a day trip.

If you plan to visit Angkor Wat, arrange to spend at least a complete day and evening exploring the town of Siem Reap, a perfect antidote to the hustle-bustle you endure getting to and through ancient cities and temples that surround it.

>Why I Love Siem Reap

If you read this blog regularly, it’s no secret that Southeast Asia is my favorite region of the world to travel. Between the beautiful landscapes and people, incredible culinary and cultural delights and uniformly low prices, there is absolutely nowhere else you get as much value for your money and your time.

Siem Reap stands out among the cities of Southeast Asia first and foremost because it seems almost empty: Compared to Bangkok’s 10 million and Saigon’s nine million, Siem Reap seems like a university town with its lowly 200,000 residents.

Unlike sprawling Bangkok or Saigon, Siem Reap is laid out simply, a grid-pattern city that expands outward in basically equal lengths from the aptly-named Siem Reap river that runs through its center. It’s well-shaded, quiet and clean — and in addition to being extremely warm and accommodating, people here don’t generally try to take advantage of you as their Thai, Vietnamese or Indian counterparts might do.

Practically-speaking, this translates to Siem Reap being the absolute perfect place to chill and unwind, particularly after the over-touristed circus that is Angkor Wat. The pace of life in Siem Reap is extremely slow and commands everyone who visits to take on a relaxed demeanor, to become completely present in the moment, to let go of all stress and worry.

Sounds good, right?

Where to Stay in Siem Reap

Two main clusters of hotels and guest houses exist in Siem Reap: Wart Bo, the city’s de-facto downtown, which comprises the eastern bank of the Siem Reap river; and the part of the city approximately half a mile down National Road #6 from the river. For reference, taxis from the border drop you off in a lot about a mile west of the river on National Road #6, approximately mid-way between the Siem Reap Airport and the town center.

There are plenty of hotels at every price point in Siem Reap. Some of my favorites include Siem Reap Riverside Homestay for budget travelers, the mid-range Sumeru Boutique Hotel & Spa and Phum Baitang Villas for travelers who don’t have a maximum price in mind.

 
 
 
 
 

Getting to Siem Reap

As I detailed in a previous post on getting from Bangkok to Cambodia, only one option currency exists from traveling from the Thai-Cambodian border at Aranyaprathet/Poipet. Namely, taking a share taxi the approximately 90 minutes from the border to the center of Siem Reap.

This might sound expensive, extravagant or just plain obnoxious — but it is none of these things. Cost-wise, you can expect to spend just $10-$50 for a cab, depending on whether you travel alone or in a group and with how many people. If you’re a solo traveler, finding a car that needs an extra body to lower each person’s cost is simple. Although the car you take will likely be old and less than comfortable, the formerly treacherous dirt road that connects Siem Reap to the frontier has been replaced by a partially-paved “highway” (by Cambodian standards) that afford a smooth ride the whole way.

Prefer to fly? Hop a non-stop from Bangkok, Hanoi or Saigon, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore on Thai AirAsia, Vietnam Airlines, AirAsia or Tiger Airways, respectively.

Getting Around in Siem Reap

When you go to Angkor Wat, Ta Phrom or any of the other temples and other sites surrounding Siem Reap, it’s advisable to take a taxi or tuk-tuk — or, at the very least, to rent a bicycle and ride there. At about 5 kilometers outside the city center, Angkor Wat is the closest to Siem Reap of all its outlying attractions, but still a bitch to get to if you walk.

Thankfully, getting around within Siem Reap itself is very doable on foot — I wouldn’t even dream of getting a tuk-tuk. For starters, the city is small — from end-to-end, it’s less than five miles horizontally or vertically. Morever, it’s flat and mostly shaded, which spares you from both overexertion and the brutal Cambodian sun.

If you don’t walk in Siem Reap, it’s easy to miss out on the city’s chill vibe entirely. From the sleepy river that approximately bisects the city to the sugar cane juice vendors that sling super-sweet nectar for quarters on the dollar to the friendly local children and monks you encounter as you stroll through on foot, I encountered nearly everything I love about Siem Reap because of the fact that I was walking.

Siem Reap Pub Street

Strolling aimless through Siem Reap — and making a stop at the Preah Ang Chorn shrine in the center of the city — is satisfying enough, but no visit to Cambodia’s second-largest city is completely without an evening on Pub Street.

This aptly-named artery is home not only to a plethora of drinking establishments, such as the kitschy “Angkor What?” and Cambodia’s only gay bars, but also to a wide range of restaurants, shops and massage parlors. There’s even this thing called “Fish Massage” which involves little fish with sorta-sharp teeth eating all the dead skin off your feet.

Pub Street is located about as far west from the riverbanks as the Wat Bo area is located to the east. In other words, it shouldn’t take you more than 15-20 minutes to walk in either direction. If you do decide to take a tuk-tuk — if it’s nighttime and you’re too drunk to trust yourself to walk home, for example — the ride takes but five minutes at most, and less than $1 in payment.

About The Author

is the author of 772 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 

informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Missy April 25, 2012 at 12:27 am

I’m ashamed to say that the last time I was in Siem Reap, I took a tuk-tuk everywhere. It was so f’ing hot though. I couldn’t take it. Definitely recommend going in January or February. It was perfect. April…not so much. I seriously think I sweated my entire ass off. 🙂 xo

emma becker March 13, 2013 at 9:40 am

I am going to Cambodia on September this year. Besides Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam are also listed to be visited. But still I have a question about a hotel you might have seen during your visit in Siem Reap. I booked the following hotel: Tara Angkor Hotel. You know if it is a good hotel? I heard good stories about it. What are the best attractions to visit in Siem Reap and in the surrounding?

Robert Schrader March 13, 2013 at 3:07 pm

Hi Emma:

I have never personally heard of this hotel, but I’m sure it is fine if it has good reviews. If you don’t like it, there are many others in the area to choose from.

Siem Reap’s most famous tourist attraction is Angkor Wat temple, but it is also home to a number of other temples, and Siem Reap is a cool town as well.

Alicia May 15, 2013 at 11:00 am

Hello Emma,

I read your message and wanted to help you, because I have
been in Siem Reap a lot of times. The Tara Angkor hotel is a beautiful hotel
and is ideally and conveniently located, Tara Angkor Hotel is situated only 6
km from the Angkor Wat Temples, 15 min drive from the Siem Reap International
Airport, a few minutes stroll to the Angkor National Museum and a short ride to
the city town center with an array of Cambodian souvenirs, shopping and
culture. They have a few promotions that you can make use of if you haven’t
booked already: Last minute bookings, summer sales, early bird promotion or
Angkor temptations. Of course there are a lot more, but have a look at their
website. It is not that far to the Angkor temples that I would advise you to
see for sure. I would say, grab yourself a 3 day
pass and find yourself a decent tuk tuk driver to take you to the farther ruins
and for a drive in some of the outlying villages. If you’re up for it consider
renting a bike and checking out Angkor Wat on your own. There’s a lot to see
and do so a lot depends on your time and budget. A few temples I would strongly
suggest you check out besides Angkor Wat itself are Bayon Temple, Angkor Thom
and of course Ta Prohm just to see the amazing tree. The Banteay Srei temple is
farther out of Siem Reap but has a very different feel than a lot of the
others. If you want to do something else as well, you can visit the day and
night market. I can really recommend these attractions. If you need to know
more, let me know.

Chocolate December 17, 2014 at 3:27 am

I’m in Siem Reap right now, and I must say, my experience differs radically from yours. Whereas in Thailand, nobody tried to con me, here in Siem Reap, it is a daily (read: every meal) event. I could be standing just behind a local and buying the exact same food, but I will get a different price and portion. I know to expect it, but still, the reality sours my perception of Siem Reap.

Getting around in Siem Reap is also not a cheap or easy business if you happen to live outside Old Market. A stay in nearby Psa Leu could mean $2 in tuk-tuk transport each way, at the least. Walking is next to impossible due to the awful traffic, pervasive sand, lack of pedestrian-crossings or pavements. And that is only talking about day-time. At night, don’t expect to even cross a road without a mini-heart-attack!

Angkor Wat was impressive but that was about it. Oh, and the Cambodian coffee is excellent, but truly, that is about it. Perhaps a day more will give me a kinder perspective.

Robert Schrader December 17, 2014 at 9:07 am

Eeek, I definitely hope another day changes your experience. Siem Reap truly is an awesome place!

Dave January 24, 2015 at 8:01 pm

When was this written? Prices are now higher than in Thailand for food etc. Fruit shakes run at a dollar and tuk tuk from pub street to Golden Mango 3 dollars if you talk them down. Plenty of scams and the constant offers of “tuk tuk” “weed” or “massage” make it not so relaxing. It’s a great place don’t get me wrong, but I’m imagening this article was written good few years ago.

Robert Schrader January 26, 2015 at 9:52 am

This was written four years ago 🙂 Thanks for providing an update

jgrif96229 January 28, 2015 at 2:03 am

Our only reason we came to Siem Reap was for the UNESCO Heritage Site Angkor Wat and other temples. Lots of great places to stay in all price ranges. Pick wisely as where you stay will become your quiet oasis after visiting the temples. Where we stayed everything was excellent. NO DOUBT ABOUT IT! PUB STREET IS A CIRCUS. I love a circus but not everyone does. We flew in from Singapore. Compared to Singapore the prices on all levels were much cheaper. Than again not so cheap compared to Thailand and other Asian destinations.. . If you are flying into Siem Reap airport you might want to consider combinging your arrival or return to the airport with a tour and saving yourself a few dollars.. First it will cost you considerably less than booking through your hotel. It will also stop some of the Tuk Tuk driver chatter when they see someone already has your business. Follow Robert’s suggestion of going to Angkor Wat at Sunset. Your ticket at sunset will allow you to return the next day. The sunset ticket purchase will have your picture on it. Nice to keep as a souveniere. The admission is $20 each USD. Cheap admission means hordes of folks plan to go to the temples. Good suggestion is to visit this area mid week to avoid the free and easy weekend tripers from all over Asia. The people and food were great. COME FOR THE TEMPLES NOT FOR BARGAIN SHOPPING. There are some high end quality galleries of all art medium. Great arts to look at but Statesude Gallery prices. The reason we came to Siem Reap was Roberts take on the experience. We were not dissapointed. Thanks for the insights Robert.

bianca February 2, 2015 at 2:13 am

after reading your article and the comments below, I must say i dont know now what to expect in siem reap hehehe will be traveling tomorrow. fingers crossed that i will an experience close to yours. cheers to more adventures. 🙂

Major Raja January 2, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Siem Reap is magic, spent 4 days there – amazing, pay the negative comments below no mind, you’ll love it and Angkor Wat.

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