The name of this quaint Cambodian city, ‘Siem Reap’ literally translates to ‘Defeat of Siam’ (Ancient Thailand), referring to the bloodshed battle that lasted for a century. In 1907, the Angkor was finally handed back to the Cambodians after having been under Thai control. Since then, tourists from all over the world have been pouring in to Siem Reap to catch a glimpse of the majestic Angkor Temples.
The influx of tourists unfortunately halted for a few decades when the Khmer Rouge Regime came into brutal force in 1975. With stability regained after the death of Khmer Rouge’s leader Pol Pot in 1998, Siem Reap took small steps towards recovery, and slowly came into the limelight in the modern world.
Due to its proximity, Siem Reap serves as a gateway town to the World Heritage site of the Angkor Temples. Its revitalized tourist industry has seen increasing amount of travelers flooding the small town once again, making Siem Reap a major tourist hub. Compared to other Cambodian cities, it is also the fastest growing city, with a booming art industry and tourism.
Upon arrival in the Siem Reap International Airport, the drive towards the city center will bring you through highways lined with grand hotels stretching kilometers and accommodating high-end visitors. The town center is however, is more humble and quaint, attracting travelers with its wide range of hand-crafted art, Colonial architecture and bustling Night Market. Despite substantial foreign influence, Siem Reap has managed to retain its original cultural flare and beauty.
Most travelers visit Siem Reap with the main aim of seeing the Angkor temples, but the city has more to offer. Other interesting experiences include a boat ride through the nearby Floating Village of Chong Krea, visits to the local craft workshop, and a drive out to the rice paddies of the countryside.
Siem Reap’s town center revolves around the Old Market area, where food stalls and colonial buildings line the streets. Culture vultures can indulge in the richly artistic handicraft shops and wooden carving antiquities stores in the Psar Leu area. Traditional Aspara dance performances are held in major hotels and restaurants, offering a peek into Cambodian’s heritage.
Several modern Khmer restaurants line the Pub Street, where hostels and pubs create a bustling scene in the otherwise tranquil city. Packed with backpackers, the Pub Street offers several up market restaurants and bars, as well as Aspara dance performances.