Siem Reap is Cambodia’s tourist gem. Not only is it the gateway to visit the famous Angkor Wat temples but it’s also a stunning city in its own right.
Siem Reap has positioned itself as Cambodia’s go to spot, it has everything from backpacker hostels to, boutique hotels and fine dining.
There is something for everyone in the city, whether it be partying on pub street, visiting temples for a week or relaxing at luxury spa hotels.
Siem Reap is reachable by both plane and bus. There are regular buses arriving from Laos, Vietnam and within Cambodia, as well as flights from all over Asia.
Ordinarily we would have travelled by bus on the 6/7hour journey from Phnom Penh, however due to limited time with Morgan (read my blog on Phnom Penh) we decided to fly.
We booked our flights with Bayon Airlines as they were significantly cheaper than other airlines on the route. At the time we didn’t really think to much about why they were so cheap.
It was only after when we read the safety reviews and trip advisor reviews that we realised why they were so cheap…
We arrived at the airport slightly apprehensive for our flight, but were immediately put at ease by the crew.
The flight was smooth, well organised and nothing out the ordinary.
We have, and definitely would fly again with Bayon Airlines.
Funky flash packers
Wow, where to start. Funky Flashpackers is 100% a party hostel. There is a 24/7bar, pool parties and constant drink deals.
Annoyingly the pool doesn’t get the sun past 1pm, and the food is average at best.
You should only stay at this hostel if you want to party and hardly sleep. We like a drink and a party as much as the next person, but we also like to sleep.
I would recommend staying somewhere else and just going to funky’s to party!
Exploring Siem Reap
Angkor Wat temple
Angkor Wat is a temple complex, and the largest religious monument in the world. It covers 162.6 hectors, the equivalent to over 225 football pitches!
It was originally constructed as a Hindu temple, but later transformed to a Buddhist temple.
They say if you wanted to visit every temple it would take you at least 7 days.
For us, 1 day was plenty. We booked onto a tour with the hostel to see the temples at sunrise. It cost $12 and pick up time was 4:20am.
Frustratingly, the bus was over half an hour late, so it was rather rushed to get to Angkor Wat by sunrise especially as a stop at the ticket office is required.
Before going to the temple you must buy a temple ticket, a 1 day ticket costs a staggering $37, more than we wanted to pay but it’s your only option.
Angkor Wat at sunrise
Helloooo crowds! We knew it would be busy but we really were not prepared for how busy.
Hundreds of people gathered at the pool of water to get the reflection-shot of the temple at sunrise.
We hate crowds of people so decided to wonder around the temple grounds, only stopping by quickly at the water to snap a few shots.
Taken while crouched between 5 Chinese men’s legs… (I don’t think they even noticed).
Tomb raider temple
This was by far my favourite temple, it had an overgrown rustic feel and felt more undisturbed or tourist friendly than the others.
Saying that, it was still absolutely rammed with people.
4 faces temple
This was an interesting temple, it was also great to get a view of the temple from afar.
However, while inside the temple a lady actually slapped my belly and told me to move while she shoved her way through to the stairs.. this sort of behaviour somewhat ruins the experience.
As you have probably gathered I’m not some passionate religious temple goer. I appreciate them for their history, and importance to the people, but I wouldn’t want to visit every temple a place has to offer.
We did see a few others along the way, but for me 5/6 temples on a hot, sticky busy day after a 4am start was enough!
In hindsight we should have just hired a tuk tuk for the day, that way we could have done the temples at our own pace and decided which order suited us most to avoid the crowds.
It was great to see the temples, and I do not regret going, but if I was to return with more money I would have done a 3 day ticket and done a few temples early every morning whilst the crowds of people rushed to Angkor Wat.
The floating villages are situated on the Tonle Sap freshwater lake and river that connects to the Mekong Delta. Many families inhabit this area in small houses just above water level.
We got a tuk tuk from our hostel in town for the approx half an hour journey, it cost $5 there and back and he waits at the Village for you.
We hadn’t booked a tour prior to arriving, but were easily able to get a boat. It costs us $15 each and secured us a private boat.
We were able to sit at the front of the long boat whilst we meandered through the village, which made the experience that much more enjoyable.
Our guide was very knowledgable and informative during the tour, explaining what each hut was and the lives of people who lived there.
During the tour you stop at a ‘museum’ to see the crocodiles and snakes. To be honest I found this part of the tour a bit distrusting and cruel to animals.
There were lots of crocodiles trapped in a tiny area, all piled up on one an other and snakes used like circus equipment to entertain guests.
We didn’t stop long here before we asked the tour guide to move on.
Another thing to know before you come to the village is the scam that exists. Guides tell you of the poor children studying at the school and how they struggle to afford food to keep their tummies full. Then offer to take you to a rice retailer to buy rice for you to give directly to the children.
It all sounds great, you buy the rice, it goes directly to the children, all is good in the world.
Except that’s not the case, there are a few bags of rice which are constantly sold to tourists bought to the school and then returned to the rice shop for resale to the next tourist boat.
Our guide hinted at the rice shop during our journey but we made it clear we knew the ploy and he apologised and continued the tour in good spirit.
Riverside night market
At night the riverside area comes alive with stalls selling, jewellery, clothes, shoes, artwork and much more.
It’s a great spot to pick up some souvenirs and browse the local goods.
Remember to barter and don’t be put off by the persistent sales technique.
Not really a Siem Real specific thing, but still fun so why not. Plus it’s only $5!
Angkor central hotel
This is a rather luxurious hotel, with a massive swimming pool.
Seen as funky flash packers hostel pool was in the shade one afternoon we googled pools in Siem Reap and stumbled upon this place.
You are supposed to pay $8 to use the pool and fitness centre, but we just walked in sat down and they seemed pretty happy as long as you were buying drinks.
It was nice to spend a few hours lounging on a sun bed at the pool.
Eating in Siem Reap
The main nightlife scene is centred around pubstreet. There are many restaurants offering all sorts of cuisines as well as bars and tuk tuk cocktail bars. A few places we tried and like below.
Joe to go
A small traditional khmer restaurant located in town, serving up some scrummy dishes.
I loved both the Kerma and Amok curry, they had so much flavour and were really well presented.
This little cafe was the perfect spot for breakfast, the prices were good and the food amazing.
I loved the smashed avocado with poached eggs on toast. The coffee shake was tasty too.
A perfect casual restaurant, the tables and chairs were a relaxed lounge style making it an ideal spot to enjoy a bite to eat while watching the world go by.
I ordered the tapas, 3 plates as recommended by the menu but the portion sizes were massive!
I only managed to eat a third of what was on my plate, fortunately Morgan and Stephen helped me (what are friends for).
An aesthetically pleasing restaurant, with a small well thought out menu.
Our waitress spoke very little English, and sometimes the communication barrier was evident with a few wrong drinks orders arriving, despite pointing at the menu.
But as soon as we raised the issue, an English speaking manager came and rectified the problem even offering us free drinks.
The lady was very apologetic about her lack of English, which to me was not a problem at all. After all, we are in their country. It should be us apologising for our lack of Cambodian!
Tuk tuk cocktail bar
This was by far one of my favourite evenings. We found a tuk tuk cocktail bar with seats inside, cheap cocktails and a music system you could control.
We chose all our favourite songs and had a laugh with the owner dancing and singing away. I highly recommend finding a tuk tuk bar you can sit in, rather than just around.
Sunset at a skatepark bar
Strange I know. But X bar has a rooftop bar with a skate ramp making up the highest level.
It’s not the easiest of tasks getting up the ramp, but once your up it’s really nice to watch the sunset from a table and chairs at the top of a skate ramp…
I had a lot of fun in Siem Reap and would definitely return.
Don’t stay at funky flashpackers unless you want to party 24/7.
The temples were great to see and should not be missed, just be prepared for steep prices and crowds of rude tourists. Also don’t do a tour, hire a tuk tuk for the day.
A stop at the floating villages is very pleasant, just don’t get fooled by the rice scam.
There are so many places to eat and drink but make sure you stop at a tuk tuk cocktail bar.