Temples and Tuk Tuks – top tips for exploring Siem Reap

by possandruby

After an easy 9 hour flight via Vietnam I stepped off the plane into the sultry, tropical air of Siem Reap, Cambodia, home to the famous ruins of the ancient Khmer Empire.

Nestled snugly between Vietnam and Thailand the country attracts 4.7 million visitors annually (Source: Cambodian Ministry of Tourism). The majority of visitors stay for just a few days in Siem Reap, barely enough time to catch a glimpse of the spectacular temples of Angkor.  On my two visits I have stayed for a week in Siem Reap and I have found there is plenty to discover in this bustling little town.

The town is centered around the Old Market which is a hive of activity, explore the walkways brimming with fresh produce – fruit, vegetables, herbs, meat and seafood, grains and spices – morning is the best time to see all the produce on offer. The outer stalls sell an eclectic mix of cookware, souvenirs, beauty products, jewellery and clothing and are open most the day and long into the night.

The surrounding streets of the city centre are home to night markets, cafes, restaurants, banks and massage parlours. It is also home to Pub Street which comes into its own once the sun goes down, drinks start flowing and music starts pumping.

The Siem Reap River meanders alongside the city centre with numerous vehicle and pedestrian bridges giving access to the outer ‘suburbs’ and into the nearby countryside. Transport is cheap in Siem Reap with tuk tuks on every corner charging $2USD for most trips in the city limits.  Push bikes are available for hire for a few dollars a day  and some hotels offer them free to guests.  Traffic is manageable and there seems to be unwritten rules that allows organised chaos to converge into a seamless flow of efficient traffic.

Situated just 6km from the city centre is the main attraction, the Angkor Archaeological Park dotted with ruins believed to have been constructed between the 8th and 13th centuries for various purposes.

The temple of Angkor Wat is the most recognised of all temples and is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. Thousands of visitors flock here for sunrise and sunset each day.

Tickets must be purchased to gain access to the park, there is a one-day pass for $20USD, 3-day pass for $40USD, and a 7-day pass for $60USD.  I highly recommend the 3-day pass which allows for a full day of exploration with a guide plus a sunrise and a sunset visit either of which can be extended to explore some of the further afield temples.

My favourite temples are Angkor Thom and the complex of Bayon, Preah Khan, and Banteay Srey for their intricate carvings and serene presence.  The popular temples are crawling with visitors in the early hours before the heat of the day sets in so if you are willing to endure the heat a little later in the day the experience is much more enjoyable and peaceful.


  • Take plenty of water for your adventure (additional water can be purchased outside the temples but availability can be inconsistent)
  • Opt for a guided tour for day 1 but consider a day where you explore solo with no time restraints so you can channel your inner Indiana Jones
  • Be aware that sunrise at Angkor Wat while spectacular will be shared with thousands of other keen visitors who also chose to get up at 4.30 am there is nothing intimate about this experience but it is worthwhile
  • Choose the temples you would like to visit carefully, there is some distance between them so travel time needs to be included especially as most roads are 40km/ph and tuk-tuks are not a speedy mode of transport
  • There are some fantastic information panels at Banteay Srey and Preah Khan so take the time to do a little reading
  • Watch out for the cheeky little monkeys not really common but can be found around the temple grounds, one took a sneaky sip from my water bottle which was zipped in my bag with the twist cap on! Clever little fellows!

Although is it a relatively low-cost destination Aussie visitors need to be aware that the primary currency used is the US dollar (the local currency of Riel is rarely expected and hesitantly accepted in tourist transactions) so it is worth considering the exchange rate if you are seeking a budget break.

Siem Reap has much more to offer than just the temples from quality dining to day spas, adventure activities, and educational experiences. Take some time to explore the city and the fascinating remains of the ancient capital.

Have you been to Cambodia? Share your adventures in the comments below or tag us on social media @possandruby


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