Siem Reap is a busy town and popular destination for tourists coming from all around the world to see the worlds famous Angkor Wat temple complex.
Hundreds of years ago, the asian south east was part of the mighty Siam Empire and this is reflected in the towns current name, Siem Reap, which means literally “defeating the Siam” which describes the war which is depicted on the temples of the Angkor Wat Temple Complex.
The first mention of Angkor Wat and is its surrounding temples in modern literature was by Antonio da Magdalena, a Portuguese monk who traveled through the region in 1586. He described the temples as having “Extraordinary construction, impossible to describe with a pen” remarking that they were like “no other building in the world” with “towers and decoration” which are as refined as the human imagination would think possible.
The best way to get around Siem Reap is either with a hired bike, or a Tuk Tuk. Following many foreigns having accidents, it is no longer possible to rent motorcycles and the alternative, the human powered bicycle, can be rented for around $4-5 per day. There are many bicycle rental shops around town, and you can also ask your hotel or guest house if they have any bicycles available for rent. The other option, a Tuk Tuk, is better in warm weather.
There are many Tuk Tuk’s around town in Siem Reap and its impossible to go without transport. You can hire a Tuk Tuk for short trips which will cost you $1-$2 within town, or you can hire a Tuk Tuk for the entire day, from before sunrise, until after sun-set. This will cost you $15/day, however if you decide to visit the far out temples such as “bantey srey” you will need to give your Tuk Tuk driver an additional $10. Tuk Tuk drivers in Siem Reap are required to register for a Tuk Tuk license and wear a numbered vest at all times. Remember your Tuk Tuk drivers number or you may not be able to identify which driver is yours.
Souvenirs popular with tourists, inluding paintings, carvings, silks and other fabrics, silver items, clothing, DVD’s and CD’s as well as pottery can be bought at the Old Market which lies in the middle of the most happening part of town. Vendors expect you to drive a hard bargain, so if you pay more than 2/3rds the initial price, you aren’t bargaining hard enough. Always halve the price first quoted, and play hard ball. This is a cultural thing and is considered a necessary part of trade.
The district surrounding the old market is full of restaurants, bars, hotels and cafes, some of which offer internet service. Many tourists make this a fun place to spend an afternoon, but this part of town definitely transforms into a party paradise at night.
“Pub Street” is a central street in Siem Reap which is made available to pedestrians at night, which provides a fun street atmosphere with souvenir shops, restaurants, bars and many of the most popular clubs in Siem Reap. As there is no traffic, many of the parties spill out into the street, where vendors and beggars are at a minimum. The most popular clubs in this street include the Temple Club for drinks, music and other entertainment, or the Angkor What? bar which caters to the backpacker crowd. Both are full every night of the week. Pub street is definitely worth a visit and no trip is complete without a night on the town in Siem Reap.
If you enjoy siem reap, there are many other attractions around cambodia, with the beach party scene of Sihanoukville, and the riverside restaurants in Phnom Penh.