Robert Schrader in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap is More Than Angkor Wat

After my flight to Siem Reap flight landed, I headed toward to town center with one thought in mind: Why, after nearly a decade and with hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism revenue gained, had the standard of living for locals changed so little since my last Siem Reap itinerary?

The man who picked me up at Siem Reap airport, as if to read my mind, asked my opinion as we turned onto a bumpy side street off the not-much-of-a-main road. “Is it very different from how you remember it?”

Need help planning your trip to Southeast Asia? Hire me as your Travel Coach!

Where to Stay in Siem Reap

I’d wanted to come back to Cambodia’s most-visited city since last November, when I took an illuminating return trip to Phnom Penh, also for the first time in many years. So, when Siem Reap hotel Tresor d’Angkor Suite invited me to review their property, I eagerly jumped at the opportunity. (The property was lovely, in case you’re wondering, and certainly better than the place I stayed during my previous Siem Reap itinerary, though I’m not sure I can go so far as to recommend it, on account of its awkward location and some other minor issues.) By the way, if you’re wondering is Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, the answer is yes—you can sleep in the city center and travel to the Wat on a day trip!

Siem Reap’s Surprising Culinary Accolade

I’m neither a foodie nor a nightlife person, but I can appreciate Siem Reap’s Pub Street and the area around it for what it is. While it’s true that this Siem Reap walking street is full of tourists, some of which are the very worst kind of people who visit Southeast Asia, it’s also where you find Siem Reap restaurants that feature some of the best food I’ve eaten anywhere in this region. Plus, walking around Siem Reap will make you hungry, thanks to the heat!

Most specifically, Viva is home to the best Mexican food I’ve had in Asia, hands down—I literally felt like I was back in Texas as I devoured a plate of crispy flautas and washed it down with several different flavors of margarita. The Pub Street/Old Market area is also home to dozens of other types of cuisine, including (of course) Khmer food, and is probably my favorite thing about Siem Reap even though I don’t usually enjoy places like this.

Local Tourism

Though I wanted to dig deeper into Siem Reap Angkor Wat was still high on my list of priorities, in spite of the fact that I’ve already written an Angkor Wat travel blog (now deleted), but I decided in advance of my trip that I’d devote day two to temple-related activities. As a result, when a Cambodian man I met on Grindr just after lunch on day one of my Siem Reap itinerary offered to take me to a nearby lotus pond to watch the sunset with him, I didn’t hesitate.

The somewhat bad news, if you want to follow in my footsteps, is that this pond seemingly doesn’t have a name, and certainly isn’t on any list of Siem Reap attractions. On the other hand, I do know that Siem Reap’s branch of the Lub D Hostel franchise runs bike tours there, to say nothing of the adventures you can come upon if you also meet a local (on Grindr or elsewhere).

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Old Market in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Frangipani in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Tresor d'Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Mexican Food in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Monk in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Bridge over river in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Sunrise Sorrows

Another piece of bad news is that my second Angkor Wat sunrise proved even more underwhelming than my first back in 2010, though that didn’t surprise me. One of the most sobering conclusions I’ve come to, traveling around the world for the better part of a decade, is that most of the planet’s sunrises and sunsets are grey and colorless. (Before you go accusing me of being cynical, keep in mind that I still watch both almost every day!)

To be sure, after my disappointing Siem Reap to Angkor Wat expedition, I didn’t have much of an appetite to explore iconic Siem Reap temples (such as Ta Phrom, Bayon and Angkor Thom) after the disappointing result of my decision to wake up at 4:30, so I decided to wait until late afternoon to head out again. This proved to be the right choice, even if watching sunset from atop Phnom Bakheng didn’t yield pictures as iconic a proper sunrise at the foot of Angkor Wat would’ve. I ended up finishing my second Siem Reap itinerary by having dinner with my local friend one last time.

The Bottom Line

I still don’t get fully “get” Siem Reap, and therefore haven’t fully made up my mind about it, but I can say one thing definitively. If you come to Siem Reap solely to see Angkor Wat, you will almost certainly be disappointed. If you have an open mind and free spirit—and my Siem Reap itinerary—the city quickly transcends tourist trap status.

About The Author

is the author of 936 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!


Get Email Updates

Like what you're reading? Sign up to receive my weekly email newsletter – it's like a trip around the world to end every week!

Upcoming Trips

  • Hong Kong January 3-6
  • Tohoku, Japan January 26-February 5
  • Mumbai, India March 8-11
  • South Korea April 3-10

Previous post:

Next post: