Siem Reap, Cambodia: More than Just a Gateway to the Famed Angkor Ruins

Angkor Wat by pixabay.com/KJBennett2017

Siem Reap is Cambodia’s major tourist hub as it serves as the gateway to the glorious Angkor temples. It is a resort town located to the northwest of Cambodia and known to be a city of contrasts.

On one hand, Siem Reap has the look of a modern metropolitan, complete with luxury hotels, fine dining, chic bars, and a rich creative scene. But on the other hand and only 10 minutes from the city center, you can find the countryside, where farmers still till their land and poverty still reign.

Siem Reap, due to its proximity to the Angkor ruins, has everything to offer for every kind of traveler: from backpackers looking for party pads to signature hotels with world-class dining. But the real draw is the ruins, a vast complex of stone buildings, which is home to the world-famous Angkor Wat, the country’s pride and emblem.

About a million tourists from all over the world set their foot on the complex each year. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Angkor temples were built by the Khmer empire as devotional centers, and are remnants of an advanced civilization in Southeast Asia. They were constructed in the 12th century but were later abandoned by Khmer kings in the 15th century until they were later discovered many years later.

The temples are incredibly still well-preserved, and the lotus-blossom towers, dancing girls, and Buddha images show incredible artistry and skill of Cambodia’s ancient past.

Aside from the Angkor ruins, there are plenty of things to do and see in Siem Reap. For the best time to visit, the months of November to February are the best since the weather is cool and dry, making it the peak season to travel.

Great shopping, local tours in and around the city, amazing spas, and an eclectic mix of culinary offerings is at your disposal. For some of the best dining in Siem Reap, head over to Le Malraux, set in an art-deco building where they serve a unique fusion of Khmer and French cuisine. The Aspara Terrace, located inside the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, is another fantastic dining option, where traditional Khmer dancers entertain guests as they indulge in the restaurant’s pan-Asian buffet.

For luxury hotels, the Park Hyatt Siem Reap is considered as one of the top 100 hotels in the world, while the Amansara is a marvelous resort hotel that allows you to have a glimpse of what it’s like to detach from the world and live like royalty in Cambodia. A former royal guesthouse, the hotel was reconstructed to its former glory, and now offers luxurious suites with private plunge pools.

While the city has become much of a hip and chic metropolitan, much of the locals are still conservative as about 95% still practice Theravada Buddhism. It is essential to dress modestly, especially when visiting temples and religious sites, as well as to learn and practice proper etiquette, such as respecting elders and not touching anyone’s head, including those of children’s, as locals consider the head the most sacred part of a person’s body.

There’s great shopping, street food, sumptuous eats, luxury accommodation, budget hotels, a hip creative scene, and of course, the magnificent Angkor ruins, all within easy reach in Siem Reap, Cambodia’s chic tourist hub that has it all for everyone.