As our first port of call in Cambodia, Siem Reap was always going to be that place where you’re a little more wary of your surroundings as you get your bearings and get a feel for a new place. We needn’t have worried. On arrival at Siem Reap airport where we arrived after a one hour flight from Bangkok with Bangkok Airways we were collected by a driver ($5 transfer) and taken the 7km to our central hotel. It was immediately surprising the number of large, fancy hotels which lined the route into town. Tourism had obviously arrived here already and in a big way.
Siem Reap Accommodation
In advance we’d decided to treat ourselves in Siem Reap and had pre-booked a superior double poolside room at the Bopha Angkor Hotel ($74 a night) as recommended on Tripadvisor.
There’s no need to pay anything like that amount if you’re on a budget as there’s a good range of cheap Siem Reap Hotels. On the other hand a number of luxury options have cropped up around town where good deals must be available considering their availability. We had dinner at the excellent restaurant at the hotel but at $21 for two this seemed a high price for such a poor country.
Siem Reap Town
The hotel lies slightly north-east of the centre across the river and there are no street lights. We were a little apprehensive about heading into town at night in the dark on our first night but decided to take a look anyway.
We crossed the bridge and walked into town and were amazed at the scene awaiting us. Pub Street is the life and soul of Siem Reap and is packed with bars and restaurants. Music blasts out of disco bars with signs outside promoting “happy hour” (Angkor Beer 50 cents, Vodka Red Bull $1.50). Molly Malone’s Irish pub at the end of the street was one of a number housed in quaint structures reminiscent of the housing of northern Queensland.
The local people we met were very friendly. But is this what has become of the ancient Khmer Empire? The streets seemed very safe to wander around and there were westerners of all ages enjoying themselves as well as many Asians who are also attracted here to visit Angkor Wat and the other Temples of Angkor.
The main annoyance is the number of tuk-tuk drivers offering their services. In general they’re very pleasant but it soon becomes quite trying when every single one of them insists on trying to get you to climb onboard. They cannot cope with the idea that a foreigner might want to go somewhere on foot or that maybe they’ve just arrived and don’t really want to go anywhere as they’ve already arrived where they’re going. The problem for the tuk-tuk drivers is that there are just too many of them and more and more keep arriving to try and earn their slice of the pie. The tuk-tuks themselves are not like the ones you see in Thailand. they’re actually mopeds which pull a separate trailer.
Eating and Drinking in Siem Reap
There are plenty places to eat and drink in Siem Reap. Just head for Pub Street and Alley Street which runs parallel to it. A few that we particularly enjoyed were:
Le Tigre Papier (Pub St)
Good place for a beer in the evening from where you can watch the world go by. Excellent bar food all day long.
Khmer Family Restaurant (Alley St)
Fine selection of Khmer dishes which are often based on coconut including interesting curries.
Banana Leaf (Pub St)
Another good place to sit and watch the street life during happy hour.
The food stalls at the end of Pub St are put up each evening and serve extremely cheap food. Main rice or noodle dishes cost a mere 3000 riel (75 cents).