Siem Reap, a resort town in North Western Cambodia, it’s the gateway to the ruins of Angkor and the seat of the Khmer kingdom from the 9th–15th centuries. Angkor’s vast complex of intricate stone buildings including the preserved Angkor Wat (the main temple), which is pictured on Cambodia’s flag. Giant, mysterious faces are also carved into the Bayon Temple at Angkor Thom. Siem Reap is full of surprises, everyone knows about the Angkor temples but Siem Reap has more to offer than that. I was expecting a quiet small town with little to do at night and few dining options but that wasn’t the case at all.
Pub Street is a boombox at night and there are plenty of interesting restaurants in town, most of which won’t break the bank. Check out our quick guide on where to stay, what to do and what attractions Siem Reap has to offer!
Where to stay – Popular/ Upbeat/ Happening Area
As the name suggests, Pub Street is “the” place to be in Siem Reap if you’re looking for a happening, upbeat place. It’s essentially the party hub of Siem Reap, Pub Street is extremely well known for its thriving nightlife and immensely diverse crowds.
A neon-lit network of streets and alleys teeming with restaurants, bars, and clubs, Pub Street is the heart of Siem Reap. It’s where all the action is so it can get pretty loud and boisterous. Many of the restaurants here feel touristy and a little “same same”, but it’s a great place to hang out and enjoy a few beers. Most activities around the area starts in the evening and can continue long into the night.
Pub Street was made popular during and after the filming of the Hollywood blockbuster “Tomb Raider” which starred Angelina Jolie. The Red Piano here was frequented by the stars of the movie and Angelina’s favourite concoction (Cointreau, tonic and lime) has made it into the menu, now known as the Tomb Raider. Anybody lucky enough to be the tenth buyer of the drink gets the drink for free.
There are a host of restaurants and bars in the area that caters to all kinds of taste buds and are pocket friendly. Many restaurants in the area offer Phnom Pleung which is similar to Korean BBQ. There is a small burner on the table where you cook the meat yourself and have a great time. Adventurous eaters can also opt for the most exotic set meal that consist of kangaroo, crocodile, snake, beef, and shrimp, all for under US$ 15.
The cheapest beer in whole of South Asia (or even Asia) can be found here. A beer might set you back by about US$ 0.15! Beat That!
Where to stay in Pub Street
Attractions in Siem Reap
Siem Reap is the perfect base to soak in the magnificence of the famous UNESCO world heritage site – Temples of Angkor Wat. Considered as one of the biggest temple complexes in the world, it is a sight to behold. Though it gets really crowded, there are ways around to get a few nice pictures without the crowds looming over. Sunrises are the biggest crowd puller and as such it is advisable to stick around after the sunrise. The massive temple complex offers a deep insight into the history of the amazing and thriving culture.
Originally built as a temple for the Hindu God of Destruction, Shiva, Banteay Srei is also known as the ‘city of women’. The whole setting of the area with water bodies around the intricate statues makes it a tantalizing experience in Cambodia. The spectacular red sandstone carved statues with minute detailing encapsulates the whole era into each of them. Although a stand-alone temple, Banteay Srei can be visited only utilizing an Angkor Wat pass.
Tonle Sap Lake
One of the biggest freshwater lakes in Southeast Asia, Tonle Sap Lake is very popular and a must visit for visitors and travellers in Siem Reap. One of the things about the lake is how it changes dramatically during the different seasons. During summer months the lake recedes quite a bit while during and after the monsoon, the amount of water is replenished pretty quickly. The lakes hold a historical significance as it was one of the main sources of freshwater though the country and still contributes to the agriculture of Siem Reap. The floating villages on the lake are beautiful and can be accessed by renting a local boat. A mere US$ 20 would get you a boat for a few hours along the lake to watch the fishermen and villagers at work.
The country of Cambodia has seen destruction in many forms, none bigger than the devastating landmines. Landmines had crippled the country, maiming and killing thousands over a long time. Even now there are a few recorded cases of injury due to landmines; every year more and more of these old land mines are being discovered. The Landmine Museum houses an exhibit which showcases the amount of destruction caused by landmines as well as live ones which are displayed to spread awareness. The museum has a dormitory residence for up to 30 amputee children, as well as a school. The museum can be overwhelming and is quite graphic in its exhibits but it does give a perspective to the devastation these mines caused.
The entry here can be garnered for US$ 5 per person and a tiny donation would go a long way in discovering and deactivating these deadly ordinances.
Angkor Silk Farm
A mere 20 minute drive from the centre of Siem Reap lies the Angkor silk farm where you can see the entire process end to end. A tiny little village farm where a lot of skilled workers and artists do some of the most beautiful and intricate silk related craftsmanship. Weaving intricate apparels to amazing silk artefacts, you can find pretty everything here. Lunch with the workers also provides an insight into their lives which they bear with a smile. Compared to western countries where silk is expensive, here it is dirt cheap.
The easiest way to reach the silk farm is to board a shuttle from the main centre on Thmey Street near Pub Street.
Things to Do in Siem Reap
Psah Chah (Old Market)
A trip to Siem Reap is incomplete without a visit to Psah Chah or better known as Old Market. The market is filled with shops and vendors selling exotic and invigorating things such as spices, dehydrated fruits, silver ware, silk-wear, etc. Although it is a full-fledged market, there are still spaces within the market where you can just sit and relax with a cup of coffee or a beer. Old market is undoubtedly the perfect place in Siem Reap to pick up trinkets as well as souvenirs.
A few minutes’ walk down the road from Old Market will in-evidently land you in the Siem Reap Night Market. This place is similar to the Old Market albeit a little upscale in terms of quality and brands. The market is known for shopping only as no eating joints can be found within the market.
The stalls and shops here are full of modern amenities such as trinkets, jewellery, electronic gadgets, art, etc. Please make sure that you are a judge of whatever you’re buying as most of the items sold here are replicas or fakes. Designer wear and accessories can be found here and they are dirt cheap. You may even find an iPhone Xs here – you never know!