Siem Reap Info

 
Siem Reap, literally "Siam Defeated", commemorates a Khmer victory over the neighboring kingdom of Thailand. These days, however, the only rampaging hordes are the tourists heading to Angkor and this once quaint village has become the largest boomtown and construction site in Cambodia.
It's quite laid-back and all in all a pleasant place to stay while touring the temples. It's a nice compromise between observing Cambodian life and enjoying the amenities of modern services and entertainment, thanks to the large expatriate community in Siem Reap. As business has increased, so have the numbers of people wanting your custom, and so have the prices, which are often double or more what you would pay elsewhere in Cambodia. Expect to receive almost constant offers for motodop and tuk-tuk rides, along with everything else which drivers may be able to offer to you.
Siem Reap is the nearest town to Angkor Wat. The name Siem Reap actually means the "defeat of Siam" today is Thailand. It is quite a small town and you can walk around to see the city. It is reported to be safe enough to be out after dark. Siam Reap draws visitors for its world-famous monuments nearby: Angkor wat.
Visiting the hundred-or-so temples and studying the forests around Siem Reap is still the main reason for being in the city. If you are fed up with seeing more temples you can still spend a couple of extra days to relax here and findqrtyp some nice things to do in the area. The huge natural reservoir, Tonle Sap, is just to the south of Siem Reap and provides relaxing boat trips. Banteay Chhmar is located 30 km north of Angkor Wat and is a reasonable safe haven to visit.

Siem Reap History

Siem Reap was little more than a village when the first French explorers re-discovered Angkor in the 19th century. With the return of Angkor to Cambodian, or should that be French control in 1907, Siem Reap began to grow, absorbing the first wave of tourists.

The Grand Hotel d'Angkor opened its doors in 1929 and the temples of Angkor remained one of Asia's leading draws until the late 1960s, luring visitors like Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Kennedy. In 1975, Siem Reap, along with the rest of the cities and towns in Cambodia, its population was evacuated by the communist Khmer Rouge and driven into the countryside.
As with the rest of the country, Siem Reap's history (and the memories of its people) is coloured by spectre of the brutal Khmer Rouge Regime, though since Pol Pot's death in 1998, relative stability and a rejuvenated tourist industry have been important steps in an important, if tentative, journey forward to recovery. With the advent of war, Siem Reap entered a long slumber from which it only began to awake in the mid-1990s.

Today, Siem Reap is undoubtedly Cambodia's fastest growing city and serves as a small charming gateway town to the world famous heritage the Angkor temples. Thanks to those attractions, Siem Reap has transformed itself into a major tourist hub. Siem Reap nowadays is a vibrant town with modern hotels and architectures. Despite international influences, Siem Reap and its people have conserved much of the town's image, culture and traditions.

How To Get To Siem Reap

By Plane

Siem Reap - Angkor International Airport has frequent flights from Phnom Penh Internationally, there are direct flights to/from 
Low-cost carriers Air Asia and Jetstar Asia now fly to Siem Reap from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore respectively, but the popular route to Bangkok is still monopolized by Bangkok Airways, which charges accordingly (around $350 US per person, round-trip for the 1-hour flight). Thai Airways has begun service from Bangkok as of 2009.

The airport is less than 15 minutes from the town centre by car (US$7) or motodop (US$3 or less). If you have an advance booking in a hotel, you can ask them for a free airport pickup (in one of their tuk-tuks). This way you can avoid the monopolistic taxi service in Siem Reap.

There are separate terminals for international and domestic flights. International departure tax is a steep US$25 (children US$13), payable after check-in and before clearing immigration. Often this can only be paid in cash, as the credit card facility is unreliable. Airport fee upon departure on national flights, to Phnom Penh, is US$6.

 There are separate terminals for international and domestic flights. International departure tax is a steep US$25 (children US$13), payable after check-in and before clearing immigration. Often this can only be paid in cash, as the credit card facility is unreliable. Airport fee upon departure on national flights, to Phnom Penh, is US$6.

By Lane

From Thailand
New Road between Siem Reap and Poipet (August 2009)The most popular overland route from Thailand, and the most direct from Bangkok and Eastern Thailand, is via the Aranyaprathet/Poipet border crossing. To reach Aranyaprathet from elsewhere in Thailand, see the Aranyaprathet article. Paving of the infamous Poipet-Sisophon-Siem Reap road was finally completed in April 2009 and, for time being, it's a very smooth ride that can be covered in under three hours. How well the road will stand up, especially once the monsoon hits, is another story...
A newer option fast gaining popularity is via Hat Lek/Koh Kong border on the coast. As the crossing has less trafic, the time to clear immigration on both sides is much faster. This route offers a scenic trip trough one of the last old growth forests in Asia, passing through three different densely covered watersheds. The road is in excellent condition, and the time to Bangkok is nearly the same as the Poipet route, on regularly scheduled air con buses. You can also transfer and get to and from Sihanoukville, Cambodia's main beach city.

Whichever route you take, beware of scams, touts and pickpockets at border crossings, especially Poipet; see the Poipet article for information on the irritating Visa on Arrival process. Once you're through all of that, take the free shuttle bus from outside the entry stamp office in Poipet to the transportation depot about 1 km away or find a taxi driver close by to begin bargaining.

The fastest and most comfortable way to get from Poipet to Siem Reap is by taxi. The cost of this trip varies according to your own bargaining skills. Payment can often be made in Thai baht if US dollars are not available. The cost should not exceed 1000 baht or roughly just over US$35, but corrupt police deal directly with the taxi stand "officials," increasing the price by $25 (and ticketing drivers who do not comply with the corruption). The transport monopoly in Poipet will not allow more than four tourists in one of these cars, although they often carry 10 or more Khmers at a time.

An alternative is to take the official bus for US$10/person. The bus leaves when full - and only then, even if it takes a few hours - and can take about 15 people, with all the bags on the back seat. Extra people will be squeezed onto the back seat if necessary, which might not be so comfortable. Two fold down seats in the centre aisle are also not so comfortable. The trip is advertised as taking 3-5 hours, but in reality it takes at least 6 hours when the road is not too bad. An enforced stop after 2 hours at a restaurant can add to the time of the trip, depending on how long the driver wants to stay. There is the possibility of additional delays (e.g. "mechanical faults") and these are almost certainly due to the same reasons as the Khao San scam-bus: getting you to Siem Reap late, tired and ready to take whatever guesthouse you're delivered to. If you are sharing a taxi it will cost only a few dollars more than a bus and will be a lot better.

If even this is too much, you can try to hop on the back of a pick-up truck for a fraction of the price, but these are now hard to arrange from Poipet, due to the travel monopoly operating there. Also, the ride is a lot more uncomfortable, takes longer and may require a change of vehicle at Sisophon.

Alternatively, you could join the backpacking masses and pay a couple hundred baht for an uncomfortable bus ride directly from Khao San Road all the way to Siem Reap; any travel agent in Bangkok will be happy to sell you a ticket. Buses leave Khao San Road around 8 am and arrive in Siem Reap between 5 pm and 3 am. How long it takes exactly does not really depend on road conditions, but on the mood of the driver. Because he can "sell" you to a guesthouse in Siem Reap he will try to arrive there as late as possible, because if you are tired and afraid of walking around in Siem Reap late at night, his chances increase that you will stay at the guesthouse of his choice. (There is no obligation to stay, regardless of what the guesthouse owners tell you.) Even if you start in Bangkok on a big aircon bus, you will almost certainly find yourself in the back of a pickup or stuffed minibus for the Cambodian part of the journey. For the return trip, expect to pay around US$11.

If you arrive in Poipet the Khao San Road buses, you'll be swarmed by offers of extra help and assurances that you're better off paying 1000 baht (US$30) or even more for the visa - which should cost US$20. Stand your ground - the bus won't leave without you, because the driver wants the guesthouse commission you represent. As an alternative, you can always walk from the bus stops to the Thai border exit-just keep aware of your surroundings to avoid being pickpocketed or inadvertently walking into a fake border crossing.

Instead, take a bus to Aranyaprathet from Bangkok's Norther Bus Station (Morchit). First class and second class buses leave from the ground floor of the terminal approximately every half hour with ticket costing 207 Baht and 160 Baht respectively. If travelling in the other direction, the last bus to Bangkok leaves Aranyaprathet at around 6:00 pm. The trip takes four to five and a half hours but be mindful that the border crossing closes at 8:00 pm and if you arrive too close to closing time there is a chance you will be requested to provide extra american dollars before they will process your visa. Also be mindful that the shuttle bus to the transport depot ceases to run before the border crossing shuts; if you find that you have arrived too late you will need to find a taxi to drive you the 2 hours to Siem Reap

From Phnom Penh

There are several bus companies that you can take to get from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. The most popular bus companies with tourists include Capitol Transport, GST, and Mekong Express. Each bus company leaves from a different location, although there are many located around the Central Market. Nearly all of the bus companies have buses leaving at 7:30AM - 2:00PM, and the trip costs US$10-11. Expect to get to Siem Reap in 5-7 hours. In contrast to the Siem Reap-Poipet road, the entire road is paved, making for a much more comfortable ride. If you're driving yourself, watch out for the make-shift patrol petrol stations next to the road, selling petrol in old 2 litre Coke bottles. Much cheaper than the real thing, but who knows what the quality is... 
Most tour buses stop for a break half way between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh at Kompong Thom.

By boat

Fast, Soviet style Hydrofoils also make the journey from Phnom Penh across the Tonle Sap lake. Asking price for a "foreigner" ticket is typically US$35. There are also services between Siem Reap and Battambang (asking price US$15, pay US$10). These can be fantastic trips which give travelers the opportunity to view life on the lake, floating houses, fishermen going about their work, and to get a sun tan if you choose to sit on the roof of the boat. However if you travel on a windy day and you have not kept waterproofs and sunscreen out of your luggage you could be in trouble. These journeys take anywhere from five to eight hours and without waterproofs and sunscreen you will become incredibly cold and will be burned by the sun at the same time. As the boat is generally packed with travelers, those on the roof will have to stay up there, and once your bags are in the hold, they stay there.
If you are planning a week long trip in Siem Reap, the boat journey is fine, but if you are only planning two to three days, take the bus. If you are specifically taking the boat to see the floating village, don't. The floating village is at the very end of the boat journey. You could ride the bus from Phnom Penh, get a guest house, take a tuk-tuk to the port, tour the floating village, and be back in Siem Reap before your friends arrive from Phnom Penh by boat. 

A word of caution: If you find yourself taking the boat/bus and person asks for your name to have his friend pick you up, he is in actuality selling your name to a tuk-tuk driver in Siem Reap. This is a fairly convenient way to get from the port to Siem Reap, just be prepared for an extremely hard sell to one of his select guest houses, restaurants, etc. If you just "roll with it" he will take you to a guest house and you will quoted US$10 for a normally priced US$6-8 room. Since the tuk-tuk driver has now pinned you for a "sucker", he will try to sell you on his services to the temples for about US$15-20 a day. Be firm, and negotiate, they will bend towards the market rate. You'll never really be ripped off, but keep in mind that if you are staying for longer than four days, that tuk-tuk surplus would be much better served through a charitable donation.
TESTIMONIALS

Dear Hak,

Dr. D and myself are safely back in K.L.

We are very happy with the trip, especially with your service. You were always punctual and informative about the places you took us.

God bless you always. Will meet you again with my son next year November.

Regards.

andrew

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