Siem Reap is a paragon of ancient glory and timeless grandeur. It is proudly the gateway to one of the most amazing architecture in world history – Angkor Wat. Although the main reason to stay in Siem Reap is to prepare to explore various ancient temples, the city itself does come with a surprise package of historical and modern mixes.
Siem Reap is seen primarily as a starting point for visiting Angkor Archaeological Park and other temple ruins by tourists. One of a kind, megastructures like these cannot be found anywhere else. The mysterious architectural techniques used to build the temples continue to amaze explorers.
The city of Khmers has faced difficult times in the recent past, but despite that, the locals are very warm, welcoming and friendly. Besides admiring the historical places like Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm, etc., you can take a walk around the city, go to Pub Street, explore the local markets or participate in adventure activities for a moment of adrenaline. Enjoy dining experiences with cuisines from around the world, buy some cheap souvenirs for your loved ones, talk to the locals, and take lots of photos. There is much to do in this city that is emerging as a red-hot tourist spot.
“Khmer” is a popularly spoken language in Siem Reap, but due to the emerging mass tourism, locals have managed to learn a decent level of English to interact with tourists. Therefore, you can make communication with Siem Reaper easily.
If folklore is to be believed, Siem Reap got its name from King Ang Chan, who took control of Siam (Siam in Khmer was Thailand) victoriously, the battle was fought in Siem Reap. The literal meaning of Siem Reap is said to be ‘Defeat over Siam’. In the past, Cambodia has suffered several times terrible tug of war, as a result of which is a nation stricken by poverty now strives for a better future. Siem Reap began to develop when the French acquired Angkor in 1907, but the 1975 civil war sent Angkor’s prestigious glory underground.
As if this were not enough, the Khmer Rouge regime made conditions worse. However, after the death of Pol Pot (leader of the Khmer Rouge) in 1998, Siem Reap has been revived and is now becoming a fashionable tourist spot.
Dress with modesty during the day to avoid the scorching heat and the possibility that the locals make comments, although revealing clothing is fine to wear when going to Pub Street late at night.
It is strictly mandatory to dress “decently” when visiting any temple. Cover your knees and shoulders, especially if you want to get to the top of Angkor Wat. People usually greet here in the traditional Cambodian way – bowing with joined hands closer to the chin.
Showing affection to your partner in public will not please the sexually conservative locals. It can be a nice gesture to tip for good service or food, although tipping is not common in Siem Reap.
Pub Street and Pub Street Alley are a must-see if you’re looking for incredible nightlife in Siem Reap. Some of them are built in a unique way, which instantly forces people to enter. Some of the exciting bars and pubs in and around Pub Street include:
Angkor What? (being a favorite among backpackers), Asana Bar (set up in a traditional Khmer wooden house), Miss Wong Cocktail Bar (Inspired from Shanghai) and Mezze Lounge and Night club.
The Old Market or Phsar Chas is one of the most popular markets in Siem Reap, where traveler can find everything from Khmer scarves and other clothing to jewellery and tourist souvenirs.
The Angkor Night Market is another great place to spend 2 to 3 hours in the evening exploring and buying cheap stuff. Also, look to Artisans d’Angkor for some beautiful handicrafts and a look at an adjoining masterpiece-crafting workshop.
Although the riel (KHR) is the official currency of Cambodia, US dollars are widely accepted everywhere in Siem Reap. You must bring some local currency to pay amounts to less than one dollar. Credit cards are accepted in several places with some additional charge.
There are many banks and ATMs available in the city that allow you to withdraw cash through debit and credit cards. Currency exchange is possible at almost all banks, but you can get better exchange rates at local money exchange stores.
For meals, transportation, and a beer or two, a budget traveler can get by on $20 – $30. Some expensive shopping and dining can add an extra $80 to this bill, while a luxurious day spent in Siem Reap can cost you $150 (or more).
Cambodian cuisine is fascinating as that of the other neighboring countries, Khmer food is undoubtedly an essential dish. The traditional Khmer dishes Amok (a steamed fish curry) and Lok Lak (fried beef) are the most popular.
The incredible prices for delicious food in the city are definitely going to surprise you. There are several restaurants offering international cuisine, so if the Khmer taste doesn’t appeal to your palate, you have plenty of other options!
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