Cambodia’s Siem Reap is one of those destinations on any student backapacker’s to-do-list. And if it’s not on yours (it totally should be), it’s most probably on your friend’s list. It’s the gateway city to the ancient Angkor Wat temples, but that’s not all: it’s also a city full of great restaurants, friendly locals and unique hotels and hostels. And if you don’t believe us yet, here are 7 reasons why you must visit Siem Reap on your next trip.
1. Angkor Archaeological Park
Siem Reap was pretty much put on the map for travellers because of the incredible Angkor Wat temple complex. This UNESCO World Heritage site is the largest religious monument in the world and it’s a not-to-be-missed experience. Watching the sunrise, from across the water, as the temple silhouettes itself against the pastel coloured sky, is one of those moments you’ll remember forever. But hiding in Angkor Wat’s shadow is the equally beautiful Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm (which you may recognise from Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft in Tomb Raider). To ensure you see all the major sites, plan at least three days to explore the complex.
2. Angkor National Museum
If all the temple-hopping wasn’t enough, Siem Reap is also home to the Ankor Narional Museum. Where you can learn more about the Buddhist and Hundu artifacts found at the nearby Angkor sites.
3. The Markets
Siem Reap has a pretty great market scene. Head there for low-priced souvenirs, ornaments, jewelery and painting created by local stall holders and and a great bite to eat. Some of the top markets in Siem Reap include the Psar Chha (Old Market), Siem Reap Art Centre Night Market, Angkor Night Market, the Made in Cambodia Market and Phsar Leu Thom Thmey.
For those of you not in the know, Sombai is the place to try locally-made wine, otherwise known as Sraa Tram. It’s a traditional drink in Siem Reap and you’ll find it infused with flavours such as coconut, ginger, lemongrass and coffee. Join a tour and learn how to make it drink, whilst also tasting it too.
5. The Food Scene
There is a great food scene in Siem Reap. One moment you could find yourself eating at a pricey Cambodian fusion restaurant, the next you’re eating off plastic plates in the street having paid 50p for your entire meal. If you’re unsure on where to get the best food experience whilst in the city, there are a range of food tours to take part in whilst in Siem Reap. Savour noodle dishes, fresh seafood, exotic Cambodian fruits and tempting sweets whilst exploring markets, rice paddies and street-food stands.
6. Phare – The Cambodian Circus
A great and unique way to learn more about Cambodia’s history and folk tales. The circus is a mixture of music, dance, modern circus arts and theatre, performed by disadvantaged students and graduates from nearby areas.
7. Hostel Culture
Siem Reap has a great hostel culture, perfect if you’re a student looking to save a little extra cash during your trip. Plus it’s a great way to make new friends on your travels too! You’ll find cheap accommodation pretty easily here, with hostels offering private rooms, swimming pools, beds in a dorm, as well as lively bar and communal areas too. Many hostels will also run excursions to nearby Angkor Wat or around the local markets. All for as little as £2 a night!
These are just a few of the many reasons Siem Reap needs to be added to your travel bucket list right now. And great news for those of you wanting to visit Siem Reap later this year (or even next week). Qatar Airways has unveiled eight new routes for 2020, and guess what? Siem Reap is one of them! From November, Qatar Airways will be operating five weekly flights, perfect for that Cambodian getaway you’ve been dreaming of.