If you are interested in the best places to see, the best foods to try, where to stay and how to get around Siem Reap then this is the ultimate guide for you. This energetic city that is most famous for being the closest to the famous Angkor religious complex is Siem Reap. Since the complex consists of so many temples even more sights you can visit (you could literally spend months exploring it without seeing everything), I am going to narrow things down and create a list of must see places, just for you.
What to see:
Angkor Wat is probably the (only) reason why you would want to visit Cambodia in the first place. This temple is one of the most (if not THE most) famous temples on our lovely planet. More than 1Million tourists visit Angkor Wat a year. This sounds unrealistic but easily proves itself to be true after spending a little time there. Watching the magical sunrise won’t feel half as magical when you have to share your picture-spot with roughly 5,000 other tourists. My advice: Don’t go there for the sunrise (because everyone does), try to enjoy the sights a little later during the day. Now for some facts. Approximately 300,000 labourers and 6,000 elephants were used to build this large complex a little over 900 years ago and their hard work made it possible to reach the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as one of the oldest remaining hindu temples. Best time to visit: 12:00- 13:00h (right after all the crowds are gone)
Bayon, the big gateway to Angkor Thom and the last capital city of the Khmer Empire. It is known for the many faces that decorate the entire temple. We arrived at around 9:00am and had to deal with huge groups of tourists. You will probably not be able to enjoy this temple all by yourself, but when you avoid the peak hours, you can definitely enjoy it without the biggest crowds. Best time to visit: 7:30am (right when it opens) or after 10:00am (just when all tour busses are leaving)
Ta Prohm is the famous temple where films like Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones were shot. This temple is known for its ancient and massive tree roots that cover most of the ruins. We arrived early in the morning and had this complex basically to ourselves. Best time to visit: 7:30am (right when it opens)
The east Gate to Angkor Thom (and probably my favourite picture spot) is located in right on the east border of the old center of Angkor Thom. We arrived around ten past seven and also had this place all to ourselves. If you are looking for a place to go where you can take pictures without any other tourists in it, this is it! The gate is very close to the Ta Prohm temple and the perfect place to start your Angkor Tour. Best time to visit: 7:00am
How to get around:
The most affordable and time efficient option is, by far, renting a bike. If you are not that sporty (or just lazy) then just rent a motorbike. You can also book a sightseeing tour where you get picked up by bus (filled with many, many tourists) or you can book a private driver in a tuk tuk or a car.
Where to stay:
Depending on your preference, you should either stay directly in the busy city centre or relax just outside of it. We stayed in the Tresor D’Angkor Suite Hotel, 7min bike ride to city centre. This hotel has beautiful big rooms, a pool (that we had to ourselves), free bicycles that we could use every day and the best fruits at breakfast. I had mangos, papayas, watermelons, passion and dragon-fruits every single day and always enjoyed a fresh coconut when chilling at the pool.
Best Foods to try and restaurants to go to:
Cambodia has the best fresh fruits I have had in Asia. Definitely try: jackfruit, papaya, dragon fruit, smoothies and fresh coconuts. The most well known meal in Cambodia is Fish Amok. A dish with eggs, fish and other ingredients steamed in a banana leaf. If you don’t like fish it also comes in many variation with meat (pork, beef, chicken) but I unfortunately couldn’t find a vegetarian one though. Also make sure to try Cambodian Curry. We had a couple of incredible curries made with sweet potatoes. Another typical Khmer dish is Kor Ko Soup (recommended by a local) that is served with rice and usually comes with seafood but is also possible to get with chicken. And as starters I recommend fresh spring rolls.
For the best vegetable curry, the best coffee and the best brownie in all of Siem Reap head for the Footprint Café. This sustainable and ethical enterprise invests a part of its profits in local communities, to help the locals get a better education. It is a vegan friendly restaurant with an incredibly cozy atmosphere.
You find the same ethical concept in the New Leaf Book Café. Another great company that donates parts of its profits to help the local communities and even offers to pay for their employees’s education. We had a delicious vegetable curry and tried the famous fish amok.
Pub Street and Night Market
When you are trying to find the best food in the city center (tourist area) without a doubt: check out the Pub Street which is full of great restaurants with great deals both during the day and at night. The pub street is filled with (like the name implies) bars, restaurants and pubs. We had a very good and astonishingly affordable curry as well as great drinks at night. For the best street foods and a chance to shop for souvenirs take a stroll through the Night Market and don’t forget to bring you A-game for some Asian style haggling.