22.07.16 – 30.07.16
The sole reason to visit Siem Reap is to see the ancient ruins of Angkor. The city was the capital of the ancient Khmer Empire and was home to 1 million people at its peak. Today it is an amazing look back at Khmer architecture. Our time inside Angkor, was one of the most beautiful sights of our trip.
We got to Siem Reap by one of the best and cheapest travel options, the Postal Van. Each day the Cambodia Post van does one trip each way, holds about 8 passengers, along with the mail, and costs $7 each. Siem Reap is littered with tuk-tuk drivers, and you can get from the centre of town to the outskirts (where we were staying) for $2, anytime you want. We stayed in Siem Reap for 6 nights either side of a visit to Battambang. The final 2 nights we stayed at Angkor Orchid Hotel – highly recommend this place, great price and within walking distance of the town centre.
Day 1 in town we decided to leave Angkor Wat and hire bicycles ($1/bike/day) to ride around the town and explore life along the river. It’s always interesting coming across different villages and exploring local life. The centre of Siem Reap is filled with shops and restaurants and at night comes alive with Thai pancake and juice vendors, especially down Pub Street. The market is worth checking out and the best food options are all in town. You can get a curry and rice for less than $5.
Like we said earlier, the reason for Siem Reaps popularity is Angkor Wat. There are a few options for exploring the complex. You can get a 1, 3 or 7 day pass to enter Angkor, each is valid for longer that the allotted time. For example, our 3-day pass ($50) was valid for one month. Unless you’re pushed for time, the 3-day pass is perfect. It allows for 2 full days of sightseeing and the opportunity to use the third day to see a temple further off the beaten track or for another sunrise or sunset. We tried to see a sunrise on our second day, but it was too cloudy, so we tried again after we’d been to Battambang and it was perfect!
To get around Angkor, there are only two options as cars are not allowed. Cycling or hiring a tuk-tuk. You would have to be mad, stupid or a serious cyclist to hire bikes. The small tourist loop is 16km and don’t forget Angkor is almost 10km North of the town centre. Even though it’s cheaper, the pain of riding bikes in the South-East Asia heat would not be pleasant. For $18 (small loop) and $25 (large loop) we hired a tuk-tuk driver. You can either organise them the day before or walk the streets until you find one. They’re everywhere! He picked us up and dropped us off each day, became our personal photographer, took us to a few non-tourist places and we got to sit in the shade of the tuk-tuk when we weren’t exploring the ruins.
We can’t describe how beautiful Angkor is and Angkor Wat isn’t even the best temple of the bunch. However, after two 7-hour days exploring we were ‘templed out’ and happy to use the third day on a second attempt at a sunrise. Siem Reap is definitely worth visiting.
– Buy a 3-day pass to Angkor
– Make sure you try to see a sunrise or sunset. Not essential, but make for good photos
– Hire a tuk-tuk driver to get around the ancient city
– Try and stay within walking distance of Siem Reap town and Pub Street