Unique Asia Travel & Tours
Visit Cambodia, Kingdom of Wonders
Siem Reap, major tourist destination in Cambodia

Siem Reap is much more than a capital of a province of the same name in northwestern Cambodia. Siem Reap is the tourist hub of Cambodia. It is the city at the Angkor Wat. The town centre is only seven kilometres away from Cambodia's landmark monument. Siem Reap is the town with the largest number of hotels and guesthouses in Cambodia. Almost every tourist visiting Cambodia will come to Siem Reap. You can imagine Siem Reap's significance for travellers by comparing the arrival numbers at the four international airports in Cambodia. Siem Reap International Airport is No.1 in the country, the airport of the capital Phnom Penh is only No.2. The reason, of course, is the force of attraction of the world-famous Angkor temples.

But Siem Reap is an attraction in itself, with some colonial flair, many tourist and leisure facilities, cultural institutions and craft industry, local and international cuisine, busy markets and nightlife, tranquil pagoda compounds and green spaces along the Siem Reap river, it is a city well-looked-after compared to other towns in developing countries. The vicinity offers, besides those main attraction Angkor temples, paddy cultivation and marshlands and the Great Lake, with fishing villages, bird sanctuaries, crocodile farms, silk farms.

The name Siem Reap means the "defeat of the Siamese", it refers to one battle lost by a Siamese army in the 16th century. Nevertheless, this western area of Cambodia once was occupied by the Siamese kingdom and administered as "Inner Cambodia" from 1795 until 1907, when the French colonial period began in Siem Reap.

The National Road No. 6 from Phnom Penh to Sisophon crosses the northern part of Siem Reap in east-west direction. Most of the hotels of international standards are located along the western half of this street. In this area, the Cambodian Cultural Village at the National Road 6 assembles all famous historical buildings of Cambodia en miniature. First and foremost, there are 11 villages representing different regional and ethnicl traditions.

Local markets and shops, not much frequented by tourists, dominate the eastern half of the NR6 in Siem Reap. Tourists cross this eastern area on their way to the "central bus stand" 3 km outside town or to the Roluos temple group or to the lavish Apsara dance show called "Smile of Angkor".

The NR6 crosses the Siem Reap river close to the former colonial Grand Hotel. In front of it, there is a park area with a small pagoda frequently visited by locals.

Here, right in the centre of the NR6 in Siem Reap, there are 2 junctions with two parallel access roads to the Angkor Wat to the north, and to Siem Reap's town centre to the south. The eastern street runs along the Siem Reap river, the western one is Siem Reap's main street called Sivatha Road. It leads to the area of the Old market, "Psar Chas" in Khmer. The nearby Angkor Night Market, on the other side of Shivata Road, was established in 2007. It was the first night market in Cambodia. Now there are 240 shops and massage salons opened till midnight. In 2011, a Handicraft Night Market was opened even closer to the Old Market, just on the other side of the Siem Reap river. Two illuminated wooden bridges provide easy access. They can be considered to be the new emblems of Siem Reap city. Some 3- and 4-star hotels are located in the centre as well as many guesthouses and budget accommodations.

Siem Reap Wat Po and Pub Street

Siem Reap pagodas

Historically, Siem Reap is a agglomarate of villages along the Siem Reap River, and of a French colonial village, too. The names of the villages are still in use in Siem Reap's addresses. The centre of each Khmer village was Buddhist monastery. They are called "Wats" as in Thailand, their main buildings are called "pagodas" in Indochina.

Wat Preah An Kao Sai is the northernmost and most remarkable of those Pagodas, as it includes a small ancient temple in the core of its compound. The two remaining Angkorian Prasats are well worth a visit. There are two more Pagodas only few hundreds metres to the south, without ancient structures. They are called Wat An Kao Saa and Wat Po Lanka. They are without ancient structures. All three monasteries are located along the Siem Reap river, at its eastern bank, north to the through road NR6 mentioned above.

Three more Buddhist pagodas of former villages are noteworthy, each of them close to the town centre at the Old Market (Psar Chas), but two of them on the other (again eastern) side of the river.  

The Wat Bo compound is remarkable for its abundance in commemorial stupas of deceaced dignitaries and others whose family can afford to construct such sepulcher shrines. Wat Bo street, running parallel to the Siem Reap river, is an area now crowded with budget guesthouses and restaurants.

At the southern end of the Wat Bo road there is another pagoda compound. Wat Damnak is not only a place of worship. It is an educational centre, an example of socially engaged Buddhism. It houses a primary school, a language school, a library, a weaving center, and offices for Khmer studies and charity administration.  

The most splendid pagoda is right in the town centre, Wat Preah Prom Rath, very close to the Old Market. When you enter Siem Reap's famous touristic nightlife centre called Pub Street, you will see the pagoda surmounting the other roofs of the houses at the opposite end of pub street. The compound of Wat Preah Prom Rath is extraordinarily colourful. The glittering pagoda is surrounded by well maintained gardens and decorative sculptures. The monastery is said to have been founded already 500 years ago by a monk landing ashore on a piece of his sinking boat. However, the buildings and sculptures are from the 20th century. Strangely, the main Vihar, a prayer hall from 1945, is flanked by two cannons, which are said to have belonged to a Cambodian warlord called Dap Chhoun.

There are morning and evening chanting times. The chanting of the monks lasts about 30 minutes.

As a reminder: Kindly remove headgear before entering a pagoda compound, additionally leave shoes in front of inner rooms.

Last, not least, there is must-see for Angkor enthusiasts inside Siem Reap. The Angkor National Museum is a modern building opened in 2007. It exhibits Pre-Angkorian and Angkorian art in eight galleries, each of which has an own subject. For example, the first hall called "1000 Buddhas" explains different art styles of Buddha statues, in this case pre-Angkorian works of art, too. The last room is dedicated to different styles of lintel decoration.


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 Unique Asia Travel and Tours

is an independent travel agency and tour operator registered in Cambodia, based in Siem Reap near Angkor.
We are not part of an international holding, we help to develop local tourist business.
Our company is run by locals and 100% owned by Cambodians.
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