Siem Reap (see-em ree-ep) is the gateway to Cambodia’s spiritual and cultural heartbeat, the temples of Angkor. The town was a quiet, sleepy backwater until a few years ago, but it’s quickly reinventing itself as a sophisticated centre for the new wave of visitors passing through each year. If Cambodia is hot right now, then Siem Reap Is at bolting over, the one place everyone coming to Cambodia will hit during their visit.
Around the centre, it remains a charming town with rural qualities. Old French shop houses, shady tree-lined boulevards and a gentle winding river are remnants of the past, while five-star hotels, air-con buses and International restaurants are pointers lo the future. The gold rush of recent years continues unabated in Siem Reap: hotels and guesthouses going up every month, restaurants and bars every week. Tourism is the lifeblood of Siem Reap and without careful management it could become Siem Reapolinos, the not so Costa-del-Culture of Southeast Asia. However, there are promising signs that developers are learning from the mistakes that have blighted other regional hot spots, with restrictions on the height of hotels and bus sizes. Either way, Angkor is centre stage on the world travel map right now and there is no going back for its supply line, Siem Reap.
Siem Reap is just north of the western extent of Tonlé Sap Lake. It’s the perfect place to relax for several days and many visitors end up staying a week, thanks to a good range of facilities, friendly and fun-loving locals, and the world’s most magnificent temples being slap-bang on the doorstep. Angkor is a place to be savored, not rushed, and Siem Reap the perfect place from which to plan your adventures.
- See some of the world’s rarest large wafer birds at the sanctuary of Prek Toal
- Float through the flooded forest of Kompong Phhluk, an incredible village of bamboo skyscrapers
- See the forgotten temples of Angkor, hiding in town behind the modern pagodas of Wat Athvea and Wat Preah Inkosei
- Discover the secrets of Bar St, Siem Reap’s quaffing capital where the action goes on all night
- Relax with a massage or spa the perfect medicine for weary bodies
Tonle Sap Lake