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Siem Reap, Cambodia

Asia » Cambodia
Author: Koen

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Siem Reap is a small city, warm and dusty and activity is low between noon and 3 pm.   There's a small market, some banks, a cybercafé in a sidestreet of the main road (1 US$ per mail), 2 disco's, some very good restaurants.  

Something which will probably disturb you while visiting the temples in Siem Reap are all the people trying to sell you soft drinks, post cards etc... Also I was a bit annoyed by the way the Cambodians really tried to get as much money as possible from you. Imagine paying 10 US$ for an hour boattrip, while the average monthly income of a fisherman is just 20 US$!  

It is simply incredible how many new hotels are being built for the moment in Siem Reap. This inevitably means that any guidebook will be outdated by the time it gets off press (3/99). 

Getting to Siem Reap 

At the airport, there will be several drivers offering a taxi ride into town for 5 US$, but 3 US$ is more then enough. They will then probably propose to guide you around the ruins as well. 

Accommodation in Siem Reap

See remark above about new hotels being built.  

We stayed at the Freedom hotel which was OK. They have double rooms of 20, 25 and 30 US$, but only the 30 US$ have a good AC (not noisy). They also have TV and fridge, and the rooms are cleaned daily. We got the 30 US$ room for 25 US$ (3/99). Breakfast is extra. Their restaurant was quite good. They also have e-mail service at 1 US$ for 1 kb, receiving e-mail is free.  

Borey Angkor Villa was recommended by Lana Martens. It costs 20 US$ for a double, it's clean and service is excellent. It's owned by an influential military. This gives you the advantage of not having to bribe the military when visiting the temples if you hire their car with driver.  

Also recommended is Angkor Saphir Hotel (just over the bridge from the Hotel d' Angkor). They charge 30 US$ for very clean double rooms with AC, hot and cold water (Sandgroper 8/98).  

Cheaper and popular among backpackers is the Mom's guesthouse near the Angkor Saphir, 5 to 8 US$ for a private room with bath (1/99)..  

The Angkor Village Hotel is a top range hotel in Siem Reap. Their cheapest room is 50 US$ + tax.   

Recommended is the Freedom Hotel near the central market on the way to the Rolouos group of temples. Not too far from the river with excellent facilities including restaurant, AC, guides etc. Rooms cost 20-25 US$ a night.  

Happy Guesthouse is OK. It's centrally located. They have a verandah where they serve some very good Cambodian food.  

There was a report saying you should avoid Smiley's guesthouse, but then again I recieved a report strongly disagreeing with this saying it was one of the best places in Cambodia/Laos. "They have a nice courtyard, breakfast (for those who don't like the markets) and a separate building slightly back from the main road which is quieter (for those who don't like the whole traveler scene). the rooms are clean and reasonably priced".  

The Grand Hotel d'Angkor is recommended for those with a VERY healthy bank account. They offer dances every Wed. & Saturday. Floor show, buffet dinner cost $18.00.  

You can phone at the post office (5 US$ for a minute to Europe) or at a private company (3 US$ for a minute).  Visiting Angkor Wat  Entrance fees are 20 US$ for 1 day, 40 US$ for 2-3 days and 60 US$ for 4-7 days. In 1 day you can see the main temples, but it's better to take at least 2 days. The fee has to be payed in US$ cash.  

To visit the site you either need to hire a car and driver, or sit on the back of a motorbike
. This will cost about 8 US$ for the day, count on 10 US$ for Banteay Srei, 20 US$ for a car.  

Best thing to do is to start early in the morning (5 am), then have a break at noon (noon till 3.30 pm) and then go somewhere for a sunset.  

Banteay Srei has been declared safe as off 27/9/98. This means you don't need an expensive permit anymore to visit the place (used to be 20 US$). It's about 40 km from Siem Reap, but the carvings are very good there.  

Here are the "not to miss"-temples:  

Angkor Wat: fantastic temple, don't miss sunrise and sunset.  

Angkor Thom: remains of a big city with some marvellous pieces.  

Ta Prohm: palace overgrown by jungle.
Preah Khan: also overgrown, but needs more restoration.  

Banta Srei: further away but definitely worth it. 

Off the beaten track temples  These temples can be visited at your own risk. Be very careful for mines. Info provided by Oliver Green (4/99).  

Banteay Chhmar is a fine Bayon temple. To get there:  
- You can cross the border from Thailand at O Smach by bribing the guards to let you across and hire a moto from there.   
- Or you can do it in a day from Sisophon by taking two taxis up north. Make it clear where you're going and they'll put you in the right car. 
- Or you can hire a car from Sisiophon. The nephew of the local KR chief hangs out in the architecturally vomitous hotel on the Poipet road. He has a car and you'll get fewer security worries.   
- You'll get stopped often and there are half-hearted attempts to get bribes, which get more and more serious as they get drunker and drunker as the afternoon progresses. Take a guide who can ask the villagers if anyone's in looting because they don't like to be disturbed. watch out for biting spiders and fire ants. Don't worry about mines or you won't enjoy  yourself.   

Sambor Prei Kuk is accesible by moto from Kompong Thom. There are lots of red brick towers in a minefield. Watch your step and check out the battle damage around the modern-looking blue room. I left at dawn and was back at sunset. There were no roadblocks but remember Pol Pot was born in the area... Smile if you see soldiers with AK47s, worry if they have M16s.  

 Angkor Borei is a piece of piss to get to. Taxi to Takeo, Then ask for the boat to Vietnam that'll drop you off on the riverbank a short hike from the hilltop temple. There's a dig going on now so you should get some good info.   

All the ones around Angkor are secure but I wouyldn't go stomping into the undergrowth. Sambor north of Kratie was flattened by US bombing, I was  told, and now it's just a young forest with not even a  fragment of red brick to see.   

Kratie's great though. Check out the freshwater dolphins 10 k north.   

There's a few sites from Chenla across the river from Kompong Cham. Wat Preah Nokor, I think. There's a few with very similar names. There's only a few prasats standing, one a short walk from the modern Buddhist temple at the centre of the old city. Check out the size of the city walls... mindblowing... and the scenery and the little villages on this route are beautiful. I got very loved-up on that trip. You can hire a moto in Kompong Cham. Get across the ferry  and it's about 40 km due east.   There's another one in the swamps on the southern bank again about 40 km distant. You'd have to take a moto on a boat that you've hired, but nobody wants to go there because of a band of bandits.    

Go to Phnom Penh

Article Comments:
Duncan Stuart (4)
Sorry, I didn't get my rating right on the last entry. I meant 4, not 1.
Duncan Stuart (1)
Good budget accommodation is D&D Angkor Villa Guest House - friendly, clean, computers for emailing, good food and free transport. Best thing: some of the proceeds from D&D go to Savong's School - a volunteer language school 35 minutes into the countryside. My best memory of my Cambodian holiday was teaching at the school - better even than Angkor Wat which is nothing short of incredible. I think ethical places like D&D, or Seeing Hands (massage operated by blind people) help us get over the rip-off aspects that Koen talks about in the main article.
karin (1)
a very good guesthouse in siem reap is " the queen house villa" located in wat damnak area. just 2 minutes to the old market (pub-street). the rooms are big and really clean. they start with $ 6,-- incl. free breakfast and bicycles. the owner is from austria, very helpfully and can organise every tour in and around siem reap or cambodia. try it!! kisses karin
Kontkanen Eero (3)
Don?t forget Tonlesap lake. For me it was almost as fantatic sight as the temples. So big and shallow lake with lake people living on the lake. They have their houses build on lake on woody pillars and on rafts, there are living houses, stores, church,billiards saloon, even carousel raft, police station, and everything on water.Nearly as impressive as Titicaca lake floating islands. Road to the lake isn?t good, dusty, bumby, about 10km, better go by taxi than tuk-tuk.There are a lot of boats ready to take tourist to the lake.
sangchai s. (1)
How many visitor visit siem reap per year?

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