Siem Reap has generally been seen as the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Angkor. It is true that every Cambodia travel package will include Angkor and hence Siem Reap is a much-visited place. It is sometimes reflected in the cost of things in Siem Reap as opposed to other parts of Cambodia but a Cambodia holiday will never break the bank. Siem Reap was once little more than a village but there have been extensive infrastructure developments in recent years.
There are some things worth seeing in Siem Reap, particularly as it is likely you will be staying there for your visit to Angkor:
• Wat Praeh Prom Rath dates back to the early 16th Century and the highlight is the reclining buddha. Legend has it that a monk came ashore in a sinking boat and its wood was used to carve the Buddha. In the main hall there is another Buddha and there is much decoration, archers, crocodiles and a lotus theme.
• Wat Kesararam in the centre has lovely murals and an impressive celling.
• Wat Damnak behind the town market contains a school, library and the Centre of Khmer Studies.
There are a few other temples but these three as well as a visit to Angkor should satisfy your religious interests so that you can learn more about the people that lived here, and those that still do.
• Angkor National Museum is in Siem Reap and exhibits help explain the history of the Khmer Empire, is culture and clothing.
• Local skills are evident if you visit the Silk Farm, the Handicraft Association and the Senteurs d’Angkor Workshop. If you want to do some shopping, as many tourists on a Cambodia tour do, you may enjoy haggling as you will have to do in the markets. An alternative is buying in these places where the makers of your purchases will get the money directly and you will be further supporting the local community. Scarves, jewellery, paintings and bags all make good souvenirs and gifts.
• Tonle Sap is a huge freshwater lake a little way from Siem Reap. Why not learn even more about the locals and visit a village, built on stilts? Fishing is a major activity with the depth and size of the lake changing dramatically between wet (May to October) and dry season. There are boat trips that will help you make the most of your time.