5 Reasons to Visit Siem Reap, the City that was once the Biggest Empire of the World

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When you think of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is the first thing that comes to mind. This empire was once among the greatest civilizations in the world.

Angkor Wat brings in millions of tourists to its’ province every year, but there is so much more to do in this town besides admiring its ruins.

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Below, we give you 5 reasons why this historically rich city deserves a place on your bucket list.

Go back in time in Angkor Wat

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Dating from the 12th century, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. It’s a great example of how impressive ruins can be. From afar, one might think they’re nothing but moss-covered stones worthy of a Lara Croft movie. But come closer and you’ll see intricate carvings that tell the history of the once-glorious Khmer Empire.

Spend your day exploring the ruins and carvings, climb its lotus-shaped towers, and marvel at the still-standing sculptures. You get the best experience by visiting Angkor Wat with a guide who can give you a better understanding of their Hindu-Buddhist culture. There’s a beautiful story behind every temple and these stories can make your visit to Angkor Wat much more meaningful.

Remember to wear clothes that cover your legs and elbows. Even though it ruins, Angkor Wat is still a religious site!

Explore Lake Tonlé Sap

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Get a glimpse of rural life in Cambodia with a visit to Lake Tonle Sap, located on the outskirts of Siem Reap.

Join a group tour or rent your own boat to explore the floating markets and stilted houses in Kompong Phluk village. This is a nice way to interact with its villagers, some of whom roam around in boats to sell dried fruits, drinks, and handmade souvenirs.

If you’re into bird watching, you’ll be happy to know that Southeast Asia’s largest water-bird colony is located on Tonle Sap’s western edge. The best time to visit Tonlé Sap lake is between December to April.

Watch Phare, the Cambodian Circus
Phare is like no other circus you have seen elsewhere. This circus tells stories that subtly address social issues through a combination of theatre, music, dance, and performing arts.

What makes their performances more touching is the stories of the performers – who are either students or graduates of Battambang’s Phare Ponleu Selpak.

This is a training center founded by a French volunteer to help children get out of abusive and poor living conditions. Now, many of them have gone on to perform around the world. Check out the Phare website to get a better impression or buy your tickets.

Get lost in the markets

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Siem Reap has two main markets: the Old Market and the Night Market.

The Old Market is also where locals shop for their household needs so it gives you a feel of the real Siem Reap. You will find here locally made products, various works of local artists, and many other items hanging on walls or laid out on the floors. Try out some exotic fruits for the complete experience!

The Night Market features more than 200 traditional huts selling a wider variety of goods. Khmer Kroma scarves, paintings, clothing and wooden carvings are just some of the souvenirs you can buy here. Although there are a lot of night markets in Siem Reap, this one catches your attention with its very flashy lights.

Party on Pub Street

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Even after a tiring day touring Angkor Wat, it’s very hard to resist the bright lights of Pub Street. Go club-hopping, enjoy live performances, and wander down the street with a cold beer in hand. While you’re at it, brave a taste of fried scorpion or dare a friend to try one.

This party zone is closed off to traffic at night so you can fully loosen up and refresh with cold drinks after a hot day of exploring Siem Reap.

How to get to Siem Reap?

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If you’re entering Cambodia through the capital, you can easily get to Siem Reap with a 6-hour bus trip from Phnom Penh.

Coming from another destination in Asia?

Then flying to Siem Reap International Airport might be the best option for you. There are many flights from and to this airport every day. A flight from Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh takes for example only a little over one hour. We recommend to check out GeckoRoutes for a detailed travel guide on how to get here.

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5 reasons to visit Siem Reap, the city that was once the biggest empire of the world
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When you think of Siem Reap, Angkor Wat is the first thing that comes to mind. This empire was once among the greatest civilizations in the world.
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