What To Do in Siem Reap
Siem Reap is where you go to see Angkor Wat and it is incredible. But there are more things to do in Siem Reap than just seeing Angkor Wat but since it’s the main attraction let’s begin with that:
Oh where to even start with Angkor Wat. It’s like walking through a time warp and into a magical lost world. If you go for a day with a tuk-tuk driver they will take you on a set route starting from sunrise at one of the biggest temples, the beauty of which is akin to that of the Taj Mahal and Bagan in Myanmar. You can even cycle to Angkor Wat if you’re feeling adventurous.
At each stop you can explore the many nooks and crannies of each temple.
A part of one of the tomb raider films was shot in one of the temples and you can see why as it is like you’re in something from a fantasy novel. It’s so incredible, it doesn’t feel real.
Pro Tip: Want to see some secret temples? Check out Preah Khan de Kompong Svay not far outside of Siem Reap.
Why Does Angkor Wat Exist?
Angkor Wat was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II in the 12th Century. It was built to be his state temple and capital city. The temple was dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu in a break from Tradition as most were dedicated to Shiva at the time.
It is one of the seven wonders of the world and the oldest religious monuments in the world. The temple complex is huge and spectacular, not that surprising given “Angkor Wat” literally means “Temple City” in Khmer.
A French naturalist called Henri Mouhot visted the site in 1860 and his travel memoirs published in 1863 have his credited with the discovery of the “lost city of Angkor” (writing about your travels is important!).
By the end of the 12th Century Angkor Wat actually became a Buddhist temple and still is to this day. As you walk around you will see Buddhist monks walking around the complex too.
Since it is a religious site there is a strict dress code and you won’t be allowed to go up the steps of a number of the monuments unless you abide by the rules. That means shoulders and knees covered, even though it might be hot.
How Much Does it Cost to Enter Angkor Wat
Unfortunately they raised the price a couple of years ago so it now costs $37 for a day pass, $62 for a three day pass and $72 for a 7 day pass.
There are set routes of the temples you’re usually taken on depending on how many days you have your pass for. I say “taken on” as the distances between some of the temples are far so your tuk-tuk driver drops you at one, you explore, then go back to an agreed meeting place where there will be hundreds of tuk-tuks waiting, search around for your guy (make sure you remember his face and what his tuk-tuk looks like) and then he takes you to the next spot.
I was really happy with having one day there. Of course there were still a huge number of other temples we didn’t explore and could have done but if you’re pushed for time one day will be enough.
Unless you’re on a religious pilgrimage I am unsure as to what you would do there everyday for 7 days.
The price for even just a day pass is expensive on a backpacker budget but if paying that cuts your trip a day or even a week shorter it is 100% worth it to see the magical lost city.
Angkor Wat Opening Hours
Ankor Wat opens really early at 5am and closes at 6pm. It opens so early as then that allows you to go there for sunrise. And the sunrise at Angkor Wat over the outside of the temples is really quite incredible. It’s worth the early morning wake up. We got there literally as the gates opened so although it meant standing around in the dark for a while waiting for the sun to rise we were at the front of the view point when the sun did rise rather than having to take photos over hundred of heads (it gets busy).
What To Do in Siem Reap
As I mentioned at the start there are things to do in Siem Reap besides just seeing Angkor Wat.
The town is great to walk around and explore. We found ourself wandering into a Buddist Monestary at one point not far from Pub Street, more on that below, and near the river where we had a really interesting long chat with a Buddist Monk. We weren’t the ones to stop him or interegate him, we assumed the monks were busy and didn’t want to interput but this Monk came over and just started explaining about the temple and his religion. It was fascinating.
Looking at the map of Siem Reap I’m 99% sure it must have been Wat Preah Prom Rath we were in. That’s the only Wat that matches the location I remember on the map. It was about 6 years ago I went but I have a weirdly good memory for odd little details hence my confidence level!
Pub Street In Siem Reap
It has a lively night scene with a street that’s even called “Pub Street” although it you’re not spending that long there and the main reason is because you want to go see Angkor Wat, which involves leaving at 4am to make sunrise, you may not be so up for a late one.
If you have the time though I hear there is a good pub crawl there now.
We had a couple of nights in Siem Reap so explored pub street a little bit on our second night and Angkor What? Bar is definitely worth checking out with its crazy writing all over the walls.
Where to Stay in Siem Reap
The first time I went to Siem Reap, my friend and I stayed at Garden Village Guesthouse and Pool bar that was super cheap for a private room but it’s gotten fancier since we stayed, even now having a pool. And it now has dorm rooms too. If I was going back now, as there is a Mad Monkey Hostel there, I would stay at Mad Monkey without a doubt.
How Long to Stay in Siem Reap
If you’ve just gone to see Angkor Wat you could technically spend just a night and a day in Siem Reap seeing the temples early morning then moving on. But much nicer to give yourself a couple of days especially in case you decided you want to do more than a one day tour of Angkot Wat (if you go back another day you’ll be shown a completely different set of temples there are so many to explore).
Getting from Siem Reap to Battambang
It’s a 3 hour bus ride from Siem Reap to Battambang. You can also get to Battambang from Koh Kong as I did although that is a long bus ride and takes you via Phnom Penh.
Getting from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap
This wasn’t part of my route on this trip but since I’ve done it here’s a word of warning, the fast boat is not fun. A friend and I took it when away on a three week trip as we’d read lots of advice online saying if you have the money to do it pay the extra and get the fast boat rather than the bus. DO NOT GET THE FAST BOAT, GET THE BUS. The fast boat, is a little floating torpedo and has about as much space inside as you’d expect in a torpedo. It is so cramped and sweaty it’s unbelievable. The only way to alleviate the discomfort of the 7 hours below deck is to go above and sit on the rounded roof of the torpedo whilst it flies at jet speeds through the water, not the safest of plans if so much as a bump in the water comes along. It was so uncomfortable I’d choose the bus any day over doing that again. It is cool to see the floating villages though.