Siem Reap is the unofficial tourist capital of Cambodia. Every year over a million tourists descend on Cambodia and Siem Reap – all for pretty much one reason: Angkor Wat. The elaborate structures and temples make up what was the once the biggest city in the world and the seat of the Khmer Empire. We were forced to see Siem Reap in one day and we think we got a pretty good impression of the place. I’ll share with you what we did and how you can see the main parts of Siem Reap in one day.
It’s the main reason to visit Siem Reap and for many, the main reason to visit Cambodia. In a nutshell, it’s just as incredible as you might have hoped.
You can visit for 1 day for $37, 3 days for $62 or 7 days for $72. If you’re an Angkor Wat enthusiast, the 7 day option is a good deal – it’s the only way you can even nearly see it all. If you’re a fan of temples get the 3 day pass. Or, if you’re like us and not especially into temples (and you have to see Siem Reap in one day!), a one day pass is enough.
We hired a tuk tuk driver to take us around the short loop. We paid $23 for the day – I wouldn’t be surprised if you could get this cheaper by shopping around. Note that you can’t just walk around Angkor Wat, the place is huge. Your options are really a bicycle, a tour bus or a tuk tuk.
Get out of bed at 4am to catch the sunrise. It’s honestly worth it. The sight is really incredible – just hope it’s not cloudy like it was for us! The real advantage of a 4am start though, is that you see the best stuff when it’s still relatively cool.
The Angkor Wat temple really is something to see. It’s massive (we actually got a little lost inside it) and if you go to the top the views are incredible. Note that you’ll need sleeves on your shirt and something to go past your knees if you want to get in.
Ta Prohm was our favourite temple. It’s a temple built right in the middle jungle and the sight of a Lara Croft movie scene. The really fascinating thing is how nature is actually claiming back the area. In the 800 years since it was built, great big trees have sprouted up and cracked the walls of the temple. Now, you get this great effect of huge trees actually growing within the temple.
Get there early and walk around before the heat of the day. Climb the temples and imagine what this place would have been like 800 years ago. Honestly, I’m not the biggest history buff out there, but I was bowled over by this place.
Get back from Angkor Wat just after midday and walk around the markets and shops in Siem Reap. The only industry bigger than tourism here is garment manufacturing. Because of the low wages, many of the biggest clothing companies manufacture here.
We saw lots of authentic looking Under Armour and Nike clothing at the markets for a fraction of the price you would pay back home.
The aptly named street is a lot of fun. Bars, restaurants and pubs are the only things you’ll find here.
If you woke up at 4am, try to hold out as long as you can. We found a bar that did pints of beer for $0.25 – those will keep you going!
Free pool tables, good food and some of the cheapest beer in Asia mean this place is worth a visit.
If you’re considering Cambodia and Siem Reap in your travels around Thailand, Vietnam and the rest of South East Asia, I’d say go for it. If you want to take it leisurely, there’s enough to do here for 3-4 days, but you can see certainly see Siem Reap in one day if you need to.