Whenever I hear the country Cambodia, the first thing that comes to mind is the temples of Angkor Wat. This country in Southeast Asia is known for their ancient temples, which are scattered all over Siem Reap. Because of this, many foreign nationals visit this region to witness one of the wonders of the ancient civilization. So if you are planning to visit Southeast Asia, include Cambodia in your itinerary. The quaint town of Siem Reap shouldn’t be missed.
Siem Reap is located at the northwestern side of Cambodia and is considered as the gateway to the ruins of Angkor. The seat of the Khmer kingdom dating from way back to the 9th century lies here. What makes the temples special is that it gives you an idea of how it was like back in the old days.
Before you travel to Cambodia and dive deeper into exploring it, you have to make sure your passport and visa are ready too! Tourists planning to visit Cambodia needs to obtain a visa. One can get a visa upon arrival at the Siem Reap International Airport or at the Phnom Penh International Airport. One can also obtain a visa when doing inland border crossing from Thailand at Poipet and at Cham Yeam. For tourists who enter via Vietnam, one has to secure a visa prior to arrival. You can get a Cambodian visa through evisums.
Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations also known as ASEAN are exempt from getting a visa. Visa-free entry is allowed for the following ASEAN member countries: Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The following countries are also exempt from getting a visa: Bulgaria, Cuba, China, Hungary, India, Republic of Korea, Peru, Russia, Slovakia and Iran.
Once you’ve got your visa sorted out, it’s time to find out how to get to and around Siem Reap! You can fly in to get Siem Reap via the Siem Reap International Airport. You can also fly in via Phnom Penh International Airport and ride a bus or hire a taxi to get to SR. Travellers can also do inland border crossing from Thailand and Vietnam.
There are tuk-tuks for hire to take you around town and the temples. Bike rentals are also available and is the preferred mode of transportation by most tourists who want to wander around town on their own.
Finally, it’s time for sightseeing. Here are top things you can do in Siem Reap:
Head over to Pub Street
Once you have checked in on your hotel or hostel, and after you have settled in, you could start exploring the town. If you need to just chill and relax, the Pub Street is the perfect place to be. Different restaurants line up the street. All you need to do is choose where you want to dine or order a few cocktails or drinks before your meal.
Enjoy eating the delectable Cambodian cuisine
Don’t forget to order Cambodia’s national dish, the fish amok. This fish dish is cooked in coconut milk, curry and a few spices, and served in a steamed banana leaf. This coconut-based curry is flavorful and moist with the banana leaves adding a pleasant aroma to the dish.
The Khmer style BBQ is also a favourite and not to be missed. The salt pepper lemon sauce that goes with is a winner.
Watch an Apsara Dance
When visiting different countries, it is also a good idea to immerse with their culture. One way to do this is to witness Cambodia’s traditional Apsara Dance. This dance is a classical Khmer dance, considered as the centerpiece of Cambodia’s culture and heritage that dates back all the way to the 9th century as seen on the wall carvings of the ancient temples of Angkor.
Explore the Angkor temples
If you are pressed with time, you can quickly visit 2-3 temples in the morning or afternoon before you head to your next destination. But if you have all the time in the world, it is best to simply start the day early and get lost in the vast temple complex of Angkor. Angkor Wat is considered as the largest religious monument in the world and has become the symbol of Cambodia attracting visitors worldwide. The temple structure can even be seen on the country’s national flag. That’s how famous it is.
The best time to visit Angkor Wat is after lunch time since the sun’s overcast makes it difficult to capture photos of the entire temple structure in the morning.
Aside from Angkor Wat, another temple must-see is the Ta Prohm temple where Angelina Jolie filmed her movie Tomb Raider in 2001. What makes this temple unique is the presence of trees growing out of the temple ruins. This is one of the favorite temples tourist have their photos taken because it is so photogenic.
The Bayon Temple structure is also not to be missed. Also, some tourists even go as far as joining sunset or sunrise tours to witness the splash of colors around the temples when the sun sets or rises.
Visit the Angkor Night Markets
The culture of Cambodia is quite interesting and fascinating that you’d want to take a piece of it back to your country. There are different night markets around town where you can shop for souvenir items that showcases the Khmer’s rich heritage. From wood and stone carvings, to accessories, apparels, and more, you name it.
Just remember that when you buy these souvenir items, always be reasonable when you haggle. Yes, haggling is expected but too much is abuse already. Think about how much you are willing to pay for the sweat and labor involved in producing the item you fancy before you say your asking price. If you missed going to a night market, there are also day markets open where you can shop till you drop.
These are just the top things you can do in Siem Reap. Some travellers who are in a hurry take 1 day to explore the temples and leave early the next day. Others stay for a day or two to fully immerse in Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage. Those who plan to stay a bit longer in the country can also consider dropping by the capital, Phnom Penh for a day or two to explore the area. And if you want to get some tan, consider travelling south of the region to the beach towns of Cambodia – Sihanoukville, Koh Pos, Koh Ta Kiev, Koh Thmei, Koh Thonsáy, Koh Rong Samloem, Koh Trong and Kep.
For more useful tips when you travel to Siem Reap, check this out:
5 Useful Tips and More When You Travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia