With its awe-inspiring temples, colorful cafés, and placid waterways, Siem Reap is a jewel of Southeast Asia.
Siem Reap is a cheerful city that embraces travelers like old friends. This region was the site of successive capitals of the Khmer Empire from the ninth to the 15th centuries. The ruins, collectively known as the Angkor Archaeological Park, are located about four miles north of the city center. The 150-square-mile complex, which includes the famous Angkor Wat Temple, is Siem Reap’s biggest tourist draw. But in recent years, this ancient yet dynamic destination has been attracting travelers to stay longer and explore its other facets. A few days in this Cambodian city shows that Siem Reap straddles the best of both worlds—a glorious past and a vivid present. The best way to get to know it is to explore it slowly, one story at a time.
Day 1: Temples galore
There’s no better way to begin a trip to Siem Reap than to rise well before dawn to explore the Angkor Archaeological Park. A tuk-tuk (auto rickshaw) will get you there in 20 minutes, but you can also reach the complex by bicycle, riding down wide roads flanked by lush forest. Pack your breakfast and give the UNESCO World Heritage site at least four to five hours. Despite the daunting crowds outside, the temples look sublime silhouetted against the rising sun and pink-orange sky.