Siem Reap is located in northwest Cambodia and is a major tourist destination that acts as the main gateway to Angkor Archaeological Park. Aside from the wonders of the magnificent temples that make up this site, there are many other reasons why a holiday to Siem Reap comes highly recommended.
The main reason for visiting this wonderful destination is of course the Angkor Archaeological Park. Covering over 400km² and boasting some of the most important archaeological sites in southeast Asia, over a million visitors from all over the world flock here each year to explore the temples, ruins and monuments that make up this park. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, this national park features hundreds of structures that date back to between the 9th and 14th centuries and is home to Angkor Wat, easily one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world. As well as this astounding temple, the last capital city of the Khmer Empire, Angkor Thom, can be found here. Explore the Bayon Temple and gaze in wonder at the huge stone faces that adorn its 54 towers. Hiring a tour guide to walk you around the site will give you the opportunity to gain some insight into the rise and fall of the Khmer Empire.
Siem Reap itself offers tourists a vast selection of smaller temples to explore, including Wat Preah Prom Rath, Wat Prohm Rath and Wat Preah Enkosei. The jungle temple of Beng Mealea is particularly interesting as very little restoration has been carried out, leaving it untouched and for the most part left to nature. This is a very hands-on excursion as there are mossy boulders and huge stones littering the floor. Choosing the right holiday insurance policy will ensure that you’re always covered should any unfortunate incidents occur whilst scrambling through ruins.
For an in-depth history lesson on the wonders of the Angkor Archaeological Site, visit the Angkor National Museum. Housing a gallery of 1,000 Buddhas, this museum is a great way to spend an afternoon out of the sun and away from the crowds. The McDermott Gallery is another museum that shouldn’t be missed as it contains a vast collection of photographs taken by legendary photographer John McDermott that show the temples of Angkor in their solitary splendour. This exhibition is free to explore and offers a valuable insight into what the site looked like before tourism became so rife.
Exploring Siem Reap is an easy feat, as there are many opportunities available to hire a bike or a tuk-tuk. With a vibrant shopping scene, fabulous restaurants offering traditional Khmer cuisine and an abundance of bars, pubs and nightclubs, visitors can get lost in the backpackers paradise that surrounds the Pub Street region. Bars such as the Red Piano, Angkor What? and Miss Wong are great places to go for something to eat or drink and there are many venues in the vicinity that have live Aspara dance performances for guests to enjoy. Take a stroll around the Old Market and pick up some stone or wood carvings, Cambodian souvenirs, handmade clothing or for the more adventurous, try some crispy fried tarantulas. The Angkor Night Market is also ideal for a spot of haggling with the locals and is made up of over 250 different stalls, selling everything from clothing and jewellery to souvenirs and Khmer street food.