Siem Reap is located north of Phnom Penh. It can be accessed through ferry, airplane (into Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport), or via bus. The latter is the cheapest, although it takes about six hours. This city has become a popular tourist destination since it is the gateway for the famous Angkor Wat temple. Compared to Phnom Penh, Siem Reap appears more spread out and laid back. Even in terms of traffic, Siem Reap is much less hectic and populated. It also retains much of the town’s original image, culture and traditions.
We only spent one night and one full day in Siem Reap after spending a week in Phnom Penh and just before departing for Bali. Supposedly, the main reason to come to Siem Reap is the visit Angkor Wat and Ta Prahm, so that is what we did.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site contains the remains of the ancient Khmer civilization and is characterized by its five towers and thousands of feet of wall carvings devoted to Hindu mythology. The best time to visit Angkor Wat is first thing in the morning. Arrange for a tuk tuk to take you there before sunrise (dozens, if not hundreds, of tourists do this), and head in early to stake out the perfect spot to watch the sun rise from behind Angkor Wat. Bring a camera, tripod, and a flashlight. Elephant rides are also rumored to be available, if that is your fancy.
Many smaller but impressive temples are located in the same region as Angkor Wat; buying a pass to see Angkor Wat will typically allow entrance into multiple temples. This temple was originally founded as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university, but was left in ruin and largely privated. It wasn’t until Angelina Jolie’s blockbuster Tomb Raider was filmed here that the temple opened to the public. Ta Prohm is currently one of the most popular temples in the area. It is still in ruins, but that is likely just part of its appeal. Spend at least an hour getting lost in the remains of this temple and its jungle surroundings. Also, look for the stegosaurus!