Once known primarily as the gateway to the Angkor temple complex, Siem Reap has evolved into a modern, fun, and visitor-friendly city. The town is a hive of activity, with attractions running the gamut from contemporary galleries to edgy boutiques and slick eateries.
1. When to visit Siem Reap?
Irrespective of the weather condition in Siem Reap, travelers can always enjoy their visits to the beautiful Angkor temples. January and February are typically known as the best time to visit Siem Reap. The weather is at perfect levels with a cool climate and has no rain, clear blue skies, and amazing picturesque sunrises and sunsets. March is another pleasant month with the climate remaining quite cool. The sky, however, becomes partly cloudy. Just be aware that this is the peak tourist season, so you will find it more crowded and prices will be higher.
By April, the weather in Siem Reap turns quite hot and humid. You can visit the Angkor temples if you plan to avoid the sunniest time of the day when the heat is intense and unbearable. May marks the beginning of monsoon rains and also the start of the harvesting season in the country. It is still a good time to visit Siem Reap, especially for those who do not want to be jostled by heavy traffic. Temperatures start rising by June. As the temperature is still bearable, this is a perfect time for taking in the picturesque rain-washed attractions in the area. In July and August, the temperatures remain hot. However, this is a good time for families with school children on summer vacation.
September is the wettest month of the year. If you are willing to brave a little rain, this is the best time to experience Siem Reap in its lush green glory to take in the delightful Angkor temples in the best peaceful manner. The cool and wet October gives way to a pleasanter climate. November and December are the beginning of peak tourist times in Siem Reap.
Siem Reap in December with nice weather expected for the crowds
2. Shopping in Siem Reap
The town of Siem Reap is a shopaholic's dream, particularly for Cambodian silks and other textiles. Handicrafts, contemporary art, carvings, decorative items for the home, silver items, traditional stone carvings and lacquer wares, incense, candles, souvenirs, and clothes are also a great deal. From the smart boutiques in the luxury hotels and resorts to the open-air covered markets all over town, the variety and choice of items will astonish you. For more basic shopping needs, convenience stores and supermarkets are located all over town. Always remember to bargain! Even if the result is only a small discount, the bargaining process can be a lot of fun. The majority of outlets will allow bargaining, and it's essential in the markets. If you're looking to buy jewelry, be very careful unless you or someone you know are knowledgeable about gold and precious stones.
For a slice of Cambodian life, while you shop, Siem Reap's open-air covered markets are a must. The Old Market (Phsar Chas) in the center of town is best for curios and souvenirs. For real Cambodia, visit New Upper Market (Phsar Leu Thom) where the locals shop for food and general needs.
The Angkor Night Market in the heart of town is great for just about everything. It’s truly fun and an experience to explore, dine, chill and shop after dark. The goods sold here, primarily by local communities as well as non-governmental organizations, encompass clothing, silk paintings, traditional handicraft items, and wood and stone carvings.
Angkor Night Market
Angkor Shopping Center
Angkor Shopping Center is an internationally flavored, two-story mall opposite the Royal Gardens selling ready-made and custom gold jewelry, a wide selection of silks, traditional crafts, silver, and food. On the third floor, there is a Hong Kong-style Chinese restaurant and bar.
Angkor Shopping Center
National Silk Center
Located 16 km west of Siem Reap, the Silk Center is a fascinating mix of silk farms and shops where visitors can see the entire process from silkworm to finished product, including mulberry bushes, silkworm breeding, spinning, dyeing, and looming. On-site, the Artisan d'Angkor shop has lovely silk clothing.
Asia Craft Center
This unique showroom stocks good quality traditional Khmer handicrafts such as lacquerware, carvings, and inlaid marble paintings as well as examples from Southeast and South Asia. Located on the Angkor Wat road, it also features silk carpets from Kashmir.
The studio of interior designer and artist Jean-Pierre Obriot is at his Sivatha Road gallery, featuring contemporary Cambodian art based on Buddhist spirituality together with exclusively designed home decor products.
The Red Gallery
American photographer John McDermott, whose famous photos of Angkor Wat are in Cambodia's National Museum, recently opened his second gallery in Siem Reap. Red Gallery is stylish and small, featuring paintings, photos, and sculptures from local artists.
Pich Reamker Shop
If you're fascinated by Khmer dance and drama, this gallery is for you. It offers traditionally made and authentic theatrical headgear and masks, with each example unique and beautifully crafted.
Rehab Craft Cambodia
In the Old Market area, you will find Rehab Craft, a non-profit NGO whose products, including silks, textiles, basket ware, silver, woodcarving, and soft furnishings, are all made by the disabled. Revenue from sales is reinvested in training and employment programs.
Senteurs d'Angkor Workshop
This workshop and its retail outlet on Airport Road specialize in natural soaps, moisturizing creams, candles, and balms, all deliciously scented using all-natural ingredients such as flowers, herbs, and spices. Even the packaging is hand-made from sugar palm leaves.
Located in the center of town on Sivatha Road is this newly opened Western-style mall comprising a department store, a supermarket, a pharmacy, various other small stores, and a burger bar. Lucky Mall has a Lucky Burgers outlet on the second floor.
Boutiques in the Old Market area
A number of boutiques are located in the town center near the Old Market, specializing in original clothing designs made up of silk and other natural fibers. From skirts, shirts, and dresses to shawls, all colorful and well-finished, unique styles are easy to find.
Shopping in the area near the Old Market
3. Other tips in Siem Reap
You must buy an admission pass (an 'Angkor Pass') to visit the temples and sites in the Angkor Archaeological Park. Passes may be purchased at a center near Angkor Wat (they used to sell the pass at the entrance of the Angkor complex but it was overloaded). Passes are sold in one-day (US $37), three-day (US $62), and seven-day (US $72) blocks. The three-day pass is valid for one week and the seven-day pass is valid for one month. One passport-sized photo is required at the time of purchase of three and seven days passes.
Clothes for visiting temples
Because these are religious sites for the Khmer people, it is finest to follow the dress code of "long pants/skirt and covered shoulders". This is the dress code that the Khmers follow when visiting any temple or holy space. You can buy a pair of pants at the market or use a shawl to cover your legs if you forget.
How much time to spend in Siem Reap?
Like anywhere, it depends on your itinerary to decide how long you should stay in Siem Reap. However, somewhat between three days and a week is ideal. Three days are enough to see the most important temples around Siem Reap or five days if you want to see remote temples and the countryside.
Hotels in Siem Reap
Finding a hotel that fits your budget and requirements will not be too difficult. From luxury resorts like the Amansara to basic hostels, accommodation is available for every kind of getaway. There are now several four and five-star hotels in town, especially along the airport road. You will always get a good deal on a good quality hotel or guesthouse in the downtown area. If you are looking for a local boutique hotel, Siddhartha Boutique Hotel is economical, pretty, has spacious rooms, and attentive service.
Not only does the road have a great atmosphere, it also has many side streets worth checking out for cuisine from all over the world. The night markets surround this area and are one of the main attractions of Siem Reap. The markets are great fun to walk around and you will find absolute bargains around every corner. In order to know where you are in Siem Reap, use Pub Street as your starting point and walk out from there.
Nightlife in Pub Street
In the main, Siem Reap is vibrant if the chaotic town that boasts some beautiful resorts with easy access to the heritage sites of the Angkor temples and other cultural attractions, but it also has some of its own charms. A good tour guide - or a Siem Reap tour package - will show you everything.