Siem Reap – Gateway to the Temples

Andrew Leeson


Cambodia - Siem Reap

Its proximity to Angkor Wat makes the bustling town of Siem Reap a fantastic base from which to explore the nearby World UNESCO Heritage Site, but the town itself has plenty to offer, with a great range of restaurants, cafe’s, bars and shopping, plus an excellent mix of accommodation, spa’s and entertainment. It’s no surprise Siem Reap was recently voted number two in Trip Advisors “Travellers Choice Awards” of Top Global Destinations


Siem Reap literally means “Defeat of Siam” which perhaps gives you a hint that this region has seen its share of conflict in the past. The region is dripping with history stretching back over a thousand years, telling the stories about the rise and fall of the Khmer empire. Today however the only invaders are the tourists which use Siem Reap as a gateway to the magnificent temples that surround the town.

Siem Reap was little more than a small village when French explorers re-discovered the temples in the 19th century. The Grand Hotel d’Angkor opened in 1932 as Angkor Wat became one of Asia’s top attractions up until the 1960’s when civil war erupted. Following the end of the brutal Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1990’s tourist numbers have grown rapidly. Today Siem Reap welcomes over 1 million visitors annually, and over half the resident population is directly employed in the tourism industry.

Things to do (other than the temples)

The heart of Siem Reap’s tourist district is known as the Old Market or Psah Chas. Its here you’ll find a vast array of restaurants, cafe’s, bars, nightclubs and countless shops. It’s lively, bustling and full of colour, with a melting pot of languages enjoying the friendly Cambodian atmosphere. On the World famous Pub Street you can grab a beer for 50 cents, sample cuisine from almost anywhere on the planet and listen to sounds whilst soothing your legs after a long day exploring the temples.

Cambodia - Pub Street

Pub Street, Siem Reap

Cambodia - East Gate

East Gate, Angkor Thom

The Angkor National Museum is home to a breathtaking gallery of 1,000 Buddha’s and offers a multitude of displays to feed your mind with the rich history of the region.

There are also museums which provide a stark and confronting reminder of the country’s recent brutal history, namely the Cambodia Landmine Museum and Relief Centre, and War Museum Cambodia.

Surrounding Siem Reap are other wonderful attractions such as; 

Phnom Kulen, which is a National Park about 48 kms from the town. Here you’ll find two glorious waterfalls (the largest of which appeared in the Tomb Raider movie), together with the Kbal Spean “River of 1000 Linga’s”. On week-ends and public holidays many Cambodian families come to the park for picnics and relax in the river.

The Floating Villages of Kompong Khleang, Kompong Phluk and Chong Kneas provide a fascinating insight into the local life of the Cambodian people.

Tonle Sap is Khmer for ‘Vast Body of Fresh Water’ and more commonly translated as ‘Great Lake’. This lake and river system is the life blood of the Nation, providing essential water supplies to millions of people, not only for drinking, but fishing, recreation and agriculture.

Getting there and getting around.

As per last week’s blog, Siem Reap has an International Airport which is modern, efficient and only 20 mins or so from the town centre. The airport has direct flights to most of Asia’s major cities, such as, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong and Manila.

The town itself is very compact and easy to walk around (although sign posts are few and far between). However should be tired or lost you’ll have no difficulty finding a tuk tuk or taxi ready to take you wherever you want to go.

Fun town

Siem Reap is a great little town and an excellent gateway not only to the temples, but to the country as a whole. Many of the locals speak English, and because of the large number of tourists, many hotels and entertainment venues have an international flavour. As outlined in last weeks blog, Australian’s require a visa to visit Cambodia, and this can be obtained either on arrival or online beforehand. Once in Cambodia, expect to primarily use US Dollars (although of course the local Riel is also widely available).

Whether you’re on a brief holiday, a long stay visitor or a retiree in the region, Siem Reap is another wonderful location to explore and enjoy.

If you’d like more information or have any questions, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email in**@re**********.au and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.

Andrew Leeson

Andrew Leeson

Over 20 years of experience helping people live a better life in SE Asia. Having worked in financial services in Asia I understand the challenges when moving to and living in a new country. I have travelled extensively throughout the region and experienced what SE Asia has to offer to retirees.

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