Until the early 1990s, Siem Reap was a quiet, dusty, unremarkable market town. But then the hitherto unknown Angkor Wat temple complex gained UNESCO World Heritage listing and the tourists began arriving - from just 8,000 in 1993 to over 2.5 million in 2018. Siem Reap’s fortunes have been transformed and it’s now a busy, booming tourism destination with luxury hotels, a wide range of museums and other attractions, and a fun, lively nightlife scene centered around the famous Pub Street.
Obviously Angkor Wat is the main draw here, one of the wonders of the world and a simply staggering experience; but there is much more to Siem Reap than Angkor Wat. Outlying temples such as Beng Mealea, Banteay Srei and Koh Ker offer a similar experience but without as many crowds, while the floating villages of Tonle Sap Lake and the idyllic Phnom Kulen National Park are also unique must-sees, so don’t make the mistake of visiting only the temples during your visit to Siem Reap! The city has many sides and you will want to experience them all, so allow yourself enough time to do so.
Within the heart of the city, pieces of old French-style architecture now housing quaint shops and restaurants are crammed in next to up-and-coming resorts and hotels. A wander around the city will reveal its resilience and creativity as you explore the humble nooks and crannies, the world-class restaurants, the river banks, and even Cambodia’s leading contemporary circus. Siem Reap itself has grown into a busy but charming town with plenty of quiet spots to escape the crowds among its little alleyways and tree-lined thoroughfares, and of course, there are the Cambodian people themselves — friendly, warm and welcoming, they are sure to make any visit to the country a delight.