Where would you like to go with Indochina Pioneer?
Please click on the countries below to read more about your desired destinations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. These pages provide first-hand local travel information regarding transportation, accommodation, attractions, food & drink, entertainment ... together with some suggestions on ready-made tours to and from those places.
Ho Chi Minh City, also known as Saigon, is frenetic Asian city of markets, street clogged with scooters, street side food stalls, as well as foreig…
The name Nha Trang is a Vietnamese pronunciation of a Cham word Eatran or Yjatan. Ea or Yja means river, and tran means reed. According to the loca…
This is one of the best laid-back getaways in Vietnam. The town of Phan Thiet itself is a bustling little fishing port -- quite picturesque and goo…
120km (75 miles) W (over sea) from Rach Gia (Rach Gia is 250km/155 miles S of Saigon by road). The same size as Singapore, the island of Phu Quoc l…
Hanoi is relatively small and runs at quite an unhurried pace for a capital city. Resting in the Red River delta region, the centre is a mixed of t…
Taking a cruise on Ha Long Bay -- or the Bay of the Descending Dragon -- for many represents the pinnacle of their experience in Vietnam. eas…
The ancient town of Hoi An is located 30 km south of Da Nang on the banks of the Thu Bon River. Occupied by early western traders, Hoi An was one o…
Siem Reap Siem Reap is a cluster of villages with a French colonial centre, and the gateway to the Temples of Angkor. These majestic temples in…
A small market town that has been a gathering spot for many local hilltribes for nearly 200 years. Hmong and Dao people, among others, still come h…
Vietiane With a troubled recent history, Laos has only recently openned to the outsite world and is one of the most untouched countries in Asi…
Set on the banks of the Perfume River, Hue was the capital of Vietnam between 1802 and 1945 under the Nguyen Emperors, and later French colon…
The fourth-largest city in Vietnam, is one of the most important seaports in the central region, and the current booming Vietnamese economy has see…
Located 173 kilometres from Saigon, Can Tho is considered as the heart of Vietnam's Mekong Delta. The city, regarded as "Western cap…
Known as "Le Petit Paris" by the early builders and residents of this hillside resort town, Dalat is still a luxury retreat for city dwel…
Quy Nhon was officially founded more than 100 years ago, although its origins stretch backs much further to the 11th-century Champa culture, the T&…
Luang Prabang Luang Prabang is regarded by many as the most attactive cities (or town would be more accurate description) in Asia, if not the …
Phom Penh Cambodia’s capital city is awakening from a turbulent recent past to become a busy and fernetic Asian city of Southeast Asia. …
Vung Tau is the tourist and commercial center of Bà RịVũng Tàu (an industrial province in Southeastern Vietnam). The whole city ar…
Sihanoukville is all about the ocean, located on the Gulf of Thailand. The pristine beaches, the sparkling clear water, the cooling sea breeze, the…
Siem Reap is a cluster of villages with a French colonial centre, and the gateway to the Temples of Angkor. These majestic temples in northwerst Cambodia belong to the classic period of Khmer art and civilization. They were created by a succession of Khmer kings who presided over an empire that domimated the region from the years 800 to 1430, reaching its peak in the 20th century. From the 15 century the temples were abandoned and forgotten by the world until their recovery in 1861 by the French natuaralist Henri Mouhot. The villages origionally grew around individual pagodas coalescing into the town. Nowadays, Siem Reap offers a wide range of hotels, restaurant, cafes and shops. It also offers the opportunity to see the traditional Cambodia, with dance performances, silk farms, rice-paddy countryside and boat trips oon the huge nearby Tonle Sap Lake to small fishing villges.
In the unlikely situation that you need to be hospitalised, head to Bangkok. Otherwise the following well regarded clinic and a children's hospital may be helpful.
Naga International Clinic: #593 Road 6, Airport Rd, Siem Reap. Tel: (063) 964 500. Fax: (063) 963 274. Mobile Phone: (012) 982 981
Angkor Hospital for Children: Achamean St, Siem Reap. Tel: (063) 96 3409. Fax: (063) 76 0452. e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. http://angkorhospital.org
The Tourist Police have an office by the admission gate into the Angkor Historical Park.
ANZ Royal has installed two international access ATMs -- one in town and one at the airport, while many banks have branches in Siem Reap and can provide cash advances and exchange travellers cheques.
The main post office is on the river road, near the FCC Angkor.
Internet cafes are scattered all over Siem Reap, particularly in the old market area. Rates are extremely low -- as little as 2,000 riel per hour. Wireless access points are becoming more
Places to see
Described by Frenchman Francis Garnier as "the masterpiece of an unknown Michelangelo", Angkor Wat, or the city that became a pagoda, is the single largest religious monument in the world.
Built from 1113 during the reign of King Suryavarman II, Angkor Wat took well over 30 years to complete and was dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. In size alone Angkor Wat is breathtaking. The outer walls stretch for 1.5km east to west and 1.3km north to south, and the walls are encircled by a beautiful moat almost 200m wide — the entire site takes in some 200 hectares.
Heavily advertised throughout Siem Reap, the Tara Riverboat is a floating bar and restaurant anchored in the waters of Tonle Sap. It has two advertised packages -- a day and a sunset tour. While the tour includes visits to Chong Khneas and to the Gecko Environmental Centre, it's worth noting these tours are not done on the Tara Riverboat itself, but rather smaller boats with a guide. If you're planning on seeing Chong Khneas or the Gecko Centre anyway, it makes sense to bundle these together and roll them up in a Tara package, but if your main interest is seeing a floating village, then you're better off heading to one of the other, less-touristed villages, like Kompong Phluk or Kompong Khleang.
Once little more than a humble shack, Aki Ra's Land Mine Museum has been reincarnated into the Cambodia Land Mine Museum & Relief Facility -- a registered Canadian-based organisation -- which opened in April 2007 with the aim of building and developing the original museum's vision. The new centre includes an expanded museum, a dormitory residence for up to 30 amputee children and a school.
Tonle Sap Lake
If you came to Siem Reap on the boat -- either from Phnom Penh or Battambang -- the great body of water you travelled across is the Tonle Sap lake. The name means large freshwater river and it's a combined lake and river system of vital importance to Cambodia's agriculture and biodiversity. For much of the year the lake is quite small, but during monsoon season, the Tonle Sap River (connecting the lake to the far larger and more powerful Mekong River) reverses flow and water from the Mekong River flows up the Tonle Sap river, filling the lake and the floodplain that surrounds it. In the process masses of sediment is dumped, and with the forests flooded an ideal breeding ground for fish is created. This remarkable water system is the reason why the ancient Angkor civilisation was able to thrive here and grow enough crops to support such a dense population. Today, the lake remains the lifeblood of the region.
The lake is home to a number of floating and stilted villages, some of which are well worth visiting, others far less so. While it may be tempting to lump all the villages together, they're not the same, and the general rule is the further you go from Siem Reap, the more interesting and less corrupted by tourism, they are. The most commonly visited (in order of popularity) are Chong Khneas, Kompong Phluk and Kompong Khleang, with the first being the most frequently visited and so the most aggressive toward tourists.
Just about every guesthouse, restaurant, shop and tuk tuk driver will happily set you up with an evening of Apsara dancing. Though seemingly ubiquitous, the dancers are often talented and the apsara dance is still very much a part of modern Khmer culture -- it's not just a tourism invention. Most shows include a few sets of dancing, including Apsara, classical and folk dancing, and many of the shows include a buffet dinner and some drinks. .
This tourist trap boasts supposed lush gardens and 1,500 butterflies. When we visited, we spotted one butterfly the entire time we were there. The gardens and the koi pond were so moldy and overgrown that they stank. The staff were inattentive and the Khmer and international cuisine served bland and overpriced. Tourist trap for sure.
The two main spots for riding elephants are both out near Angkor, one running in the morning and the other in the late afternoon. Morning sessions are held near the South Gate of Angkor Thom, afternoon sessions run up to near the summit of Bakheng. Elephant riding gets uncomfortable quickly, so many opt for the morning session, which doesn't involve climbing a hill.
Angkor from the air
It's possible to see Angkor Wat from a tethered balloon or a helicopter. The balloon is set to the west of Angkor Wat on the road to the airport. The balloon rises about 200m into the air and offers good views of both Angkor, Phnom Bakheng and other nearby monuments. There are at least two operations offering helicopter tours, though we're not sure how popular they are as we've never, ever seen one in action. The two main operators are Helicopters Cambodia and Sokha Helicopters.
Arround Old market
While a handful of hotels are around here — some of which are very good — the Old Market area is more of a shopping, feasting and drinking zone than anything else. You can choose to stay in the heart of the area around the market, or across Sivatha Road there's a bunch of affordable lodgings.
The French quarter
Between Sivatha Rd and the Siem Reap River lie some excellent mid- to upper-range options to choose from, including some of Siem Reap's most fabulous hotels. On the western side of Sivatha Rd though you're back to backpacker and flashpacker lodgings — none of which are the pick of the bunch in town.
The backpacker's heartland — loads of good budget guesthouses along with some exceptional mid-range resorts. While the old market area is a ten to 15 minute walk away, it is a pleasant riverside stroll.
Away from town
A few hotels are scattered further afield, particularly on the road to Angkor, but what you gain in proximity to the ruins, you lose in distance from Siem Reap town and its rich selection of eateries and other distractions.
Getting there and away
By Air: Siem Reap's international airport is 7 km out of Siem Reap proper. A US$25 departure tax for international flights and a US$6 departure tax for domestic flights applies.
Means for getting from Siem Reap International Airport into Siem Reap include:
Taxis can be picked up from a booth at the airport. The fee is US$5. Bear in mind the driver will hope to garner your custom for the duration of your stay, taking you around Angkor and so on -- this is totally up to you.
A moto from the airport into Siem Reap should cost US$1.00-1.50. You can often get the ride effectively for free by agreeing to hire the moto to take you around the ruins or show you to a guesthouse where they can get a commission for your stay. It is extremely bad form to negotiate a free ride and then decide not to use the moto for the ruins after all.
The main bus station is situated outside Siem Reap at the taxi-park though many bus companies will offer to pick you up and ferry you out to the bus station. The best company doing the Siem Reap to Phnom Penh run is Mekong Express, which costs US$8 and takes around four hours. GST and Sorya buses take about six hours but only cost $5. All buses break the journey for a snack at Kompong Thom. The Mekong Express buses have a toilet on board -- other (cheaper) services often do not.
If you're arriving by boat from either Phnom Penh or Battambang, you'll disembark at Chong Khmeas ferry dock, some 12km south of Siem Reap. The trip takes about 30 minutes. The boat to Phnom Penh is a speed boat, costs $35 and takes around five to six hours. Transport to Siem Reap should be included in the price. The boat to Battambang is a slow boat and can take anywhere from four to 12 hours, depending on the time of year and current, and how many times you stop. Expect a moto to charge around US$2 to get into town while a car should cost about US$6.
The easiest and fastest way to get to the Thai border at Poipet is to take a share taxi from Siem Reap. You can either hire the entire car (US$30-35) or buy one (or two) seats in a car. Do not, under any circumstances, take an organised minibus to Bangkok. See Tales of Asia for detailed coverage of this route.
Best described as a motorcycle towing a chariot, remorque-motos can be found on just about every street corner. Short hops around town shouldn't cost more than a dollar, but if you're planning on using these frequently, hire one for the day at the universal price of $10. They can comfortably seat two people and three or four at a squeeze.
Short hops around town shouldn't cost more than a few thousand riel, with daily hiring starting at about US$6 depending on where you want to go. Bear in mind the driver will not have a helmet, for himself or you. You can pick motos up anywhere -- just look for a Khmer guy wearing a baseball cap waving at you.
Foreign tourists cannot hire motorcycles in Siem Reap.
More expensive but more comfortable than other options, figure on US$25-30 per day for a Toyota Camry, more for a minibus. If you're planning on visiting outlying ruins and have a few people to split the fare with, this can be a smart way to get there. Most guesthouses and travel agents will be able to sort out a car for you, or just ask a moto and he'll find you one.
Angkor Night Market (Off Sivatha Road)
Entering this market, you may think that you've arrived in Thailand. Neat thatched roofs cover stalls selling an array of silks, statuary, souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, and art. You won't find any bargains here, but it is a relaxed place to shop with little of the hassle one finds elsewhere. You can check it out beforehand by looking at their website. Daily 3pm to midnight.
Beyond (At the FCC Angkor, Pokambor Ave)
This place is indeed "beyond," and parents should certainly heed the warning at the door that within they will find explicit material. The artwork of owner Jerry Swaffield, an Irishman and longtime expat, is wonderfully bizarre. A pastiche on Asian travel and the state of the world in pen and ink drawings (like refined political cartoons), they are odd and sometimes a bit vulgar. He also prints his own comic book about the typical visitor in Cambodia (check the website at www.cheapcharliecomics.com). Swaffield also has a collection of extreme photographs, set in a chaotic yet stylistic display, in the back room. Images of Khmer Rouge cannibalism and atrocities as well as diseased figures are a bit much for some. It's a very unique collection not to be missed (but maybe just stay in the front room). Open daily from 9am to 9pm. MasterCard and Visa accepted.
Carnets d'Asie (No. 333 Sivatha, Siem Reap)
Bookstore, boutique, gallery, and tea shop all in one, Carnets d' Asie features some rare finds, including works by local artists as well as fine temple reproductions and statuary. The large, tinted photographs of Pier Poretti (also see his gallery in Siem Reap; tel. 012/925-684) features large in the collection, with some classic views of the temples as well as scenes of life in rural Cambodia. The large, open tea area at the back of the gallery is a good place to meet with friends and have a look at your finds. Open daily from 10am to 10pm.
John McDermott Photography (On the north end of the FCC compound on Pokambor Ave and on the Passage, near the Old Market)
Just next door to the FCC, American John McDermott displays his stunning silver gelatin prints, some very classic images of the temple, in a cool, tiled contemporary space. The gallery is inspiring for more amateur photographers shutter-bugging at the temples, and these fine prints make great gifts. Small postcards are available for $2, larger reproductions just $35, and poster-size prints start at $300. Due to popularity, a beautiful two-story second gallery has opened in the heart of the backpacker district. The second floor features exhibitions by other artists. Both open daily from 10am to 10pm. MasterCard and Visa accepted.
Senteurs d'Angkor (Cater-cornered to the northeast end of the busy Old Market)
Carrying good contemporary Khmer arts and crafts, statuary copied from Angkor's greats (a good place to pick up that Jayavarman VII bust), traditional leather shadow puppets, silver jewelry, Khmer silks, kramas (Khmer scarves), traditional local spices (pepper and lemon grass), potpourri, local teas, rice brandy, and fragrant handmade soaps, Senteurs d'Angkor is a good stop to satiate your shopping appetite before a flight back home. It has great souvenirs at reasonable prices. Open daily 7am to 9:30pm.
Eating and drinkings
The vast majority of places to eat and drink are clustered near the centre of old Siem Reap, on and around the aptly named Bar Street. A plethora of choices await, and looking at the construction in this area a lot more places are on the way. Expect a very Western-orientated experience. If you want cheap Khmer food, head to the Old Market.
Cafes and bakeries
Blue Pumpkin remains arguably the best cafe/baking house in Siem Reap with a slick, air-con interior and fine food the day through. Anyone familiar with Bangkok with be struck by just how Bed Supperclubbish the place looks. Wireless internet is available. The acoustics upstairs are poor. Very white.
Out Angkor way, the Angkor Cafe enjoys a choice location directly across the road from Angkor Wat. The outdoor seating area is filled with flowers and manicured shrubs. Food and drink are supplied by Blue Pumpkin and the sleek wooden ambience by Artisans d'Angkor.
Cafe Central is located in the old building diagonal from Central Market where Ivy Guesthouse once was. It's a huge, upscale space with exposed brick and large, open windows. It opened in December 2008 and still seems unsure of whether it wants to be a cafe, restaurant or bar. We visited in the afternoon and saw lots of latte-sipping foreigners taking advantage of the free WiFi, with low house music playing in the background. A big Western menu includes pastas, sandwiches, salads and burgers. Cocktails are available too, and happy hour's from 16:00 to 19:00.
Angkor Cafe-- Opposite Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. T: (012) 946 227. Open daily 08:00-18:00.
Blue Pumpkin-- Near Old Market, Siem Reap. T: (012) 946 227. Open daily 06:00-22:00.
Cafe Central -- Near Old Market, Siem Reap T: (017) 692 997 Open: 07:00-23:00.
Set in the centre of Bar Street, Kamasutra delivers very good Indian cuisine in a slick setting, at pretty high prices for the area. Service can be a bit on the snobby side, but the food is very good.
A block north of Kamasutra, Maharajah does equally good food, without the fancy setting -- nor the fancy prices. FCC Angkor has a superb setting overlooking Siem Reap River, with a menu that will be familiar to any who eat at the more famous sister restaurant in Phnom Penh. Excellent service and a fine place to hang out.
Red Piano is another Western-owned establishment with friendly staff delivering good Western and Khmer food. For pub grub try Molly Malone's, while if you're in the market for a barbecue, Villa Siem Reap has barbecues in their garden restaurant every Tuesday and Friday.
El Camino Taqueri, on the southwest corner of The Passage near Linga Bar, serves satisfying Mexican and tasty margaritas. The imported ground beef is just the right spice, the taco shells are fresh and crunchy, and the fantastic guacamole satisfied a craving we'd maintained since arriving in Cambodia. The menu includes all the standard Mexican fare -- tacos, chimichangas, fajitas, nachos -- and nothing more, which we consider a sign that a restaurant knows what it does well. The house margaritas, at $2, are cheap and delicious. There's an assortment of high-end tequilas too, as well as homemade lemonade and Sun Tea. From the stainless steel bar to the mosaic walls and the wrought-iron sombrero chandelier, it's a bit too nice to feel authentic, though you can't really expect that trait at a Mexican joint in Southeast Asia. Better than Viva nearby.
True to its name, Le Bistrot de Paris is a complete replica of a Parisian bistro, from its mahogany bar right down to the red-and-white checked tablecloths and vintage French advertisements hanging on the walls. The Corsican owner lives upstairs and can be found hanging around the restaurant unless it's afternoon siesta time. The food is authentic -- virtually all imported. It's heavy on meats, with foie gras, homemade pate, and sausage from Tolouse. Of course, browse a fine wine selection.
V&A Restaurant, a new entrant to the market-area restaurant scene, is pure vegetarian -- meaning no chicken stock or fish served. It's next door to Cafe Central and owned by the same people as Ivy Guesthouse II. It serves an array of Mediterranean-style dishes like couscous, potatoes and vegetable soups. It's a cosy, small space with only six tables, straight-back chairs, and modern decor. The wine list is well-priced with an impressive assortment. When we visited (anonymously), we were given a complimentary appetiser of carrot chips with balsamic dressing.
Samot Fine Wine &Cuisine fed us our best meal in Siem Reap. The prices are a bit higher than we like to pay (but at about $8 for an entree, still not exactly steep). We tried the snapper special, which was $5, fantastic, and came with a complimentary appetiser of smoked salmon on toast. The desserts sounded great too. The former chef from Sofitel Angkor opened the place in May 2008. It's set down The Passage's quiet extension, and feels a world away. Walls are painted baby blue, with seashell curtains on the patio, and a wine cellar in the rear. Wines start at $4 per glass. Recommended.
Khmer and Asian
Khmer Kitchen is one of the best spots in Siem Reap to really have a go at Khmer food in an accessible, English-speaking environment. Nearby neighbours include Amok and Champey -- in all three cases prices are a good deal more expensive than the offerings in the market, but the setting is far more pleasant -- even if the beggars and postcard sellers can be persistent. For back to basic Khmer food, look no further than the Old Market -- they've even got English menus, so you've got no excuse but to check it out.
For upmarket Khmer, look no further than Viroth's over in Wat Bo. Fine Khmer cuisine in a well-serviced modern setting. Prices are moderate -- consider it a splurge to sample some fine Khmer offerings.Away from the market, Cafe Indochine does Khmer and other Asian food in a great old house which unfortunately sites right on busy Sivatha Rd -- food is good, though the place often packs out with tour groups.
One of the wackier places in town, the Dead Fish, does Thai and other Asian food, but their Thai swings between excellent and very ordinary, so choose with care. Walking over a crocodile pit to reach the bathroom has a certain novelty value. Another Thai place worth considering is Chilli Si Dang, on the east side of Siem Reap River in Wat Bo.
A little out of town, on the Airport Road, Madame Butterfly offers Thai and Khmer cuisine toned down for a foreign palate. The ambience is seductive, but its popularity with tour groups and relatively high prices takes away some of the charm. Back in town, the Soup Dragon is known for its Vietnamese and Chinese food, and if you like playing with your food check out the beef or shrimp fondues. A mastery of chopstickmanship is required as you boil your meat in a vinegar hot-pot before wrapping it in a soft spring-roll pancake laced with coconut juice and green banana. Packed most evenings.
Nightlife and entertainment
Pub Street is now beginning to resemble the party towns of Thailand with throbbing music, wandering crowds, boisterous backpackers, hawkers, prostitutes, and touts. It is amazing how quickly these developments have taken place. There are now quite a number of bars open into the small hours.
The Angkor What? (Pub St., 1 block west of the Old Market) was the first -- and still the most popular -- one here, more or less where it's at in Siem Reap. Sign your name on the wall and say hi to all those you met that day at the temples or on highways elsewhere.
Easy Speaking Café and Pub, just next to the busy Angkor What? (above), handles the spillover. A similar crowd stays late. World Lounge in the same area, also rocks late and has a free pool table.
At Miss Wong (The Lane behind Pub St) you'll leave Cambodia behind and time-travel to Old Shanghai. This bar, with deep red walls, leather booths, and excellent cocktails, adds some welcome class to Siem Reap's after-dark scene.
Dead Fish Tower on the main road heading toward the temples, is set up like the rigging of a tall ship, with precarious perches, funky nooks, and unique drinks.
Laundry is the funky side of Siem Reap. When the temple town gets psychedelic and stays up really late, this is where it happens. On a side street to the north of the Old Market, it's open nightly, but usually hosts special events that you'll see promoted all around town.
Molly Malone's (Pub St., across the street and west of Red Piano Bar) is the hippest pub in town. They've got local expats playing live music, a mix of original songs and covers of crowd pleasers like old Beatles and Roberta Flack numbers. The bar is fully stocked with a fine selection of Irish whiskey and they've got a good stock of imported beer.
Temple Club (Central Pub St) is many things to many people. During the day it is an open-air bar and restaurant. They have traditional Apsara dance performances between 7:30 and 9:30pm. Then, at around 10pm the sound system kicks in, blasting out techno pop at maximum volume. If you want to boogie until 4am, you can do it here. They also have live sports on TV and three pool tables
Funky Munky open from noon until the wee hours of the morning, there are over 50 cocktails to choose from here, and during high season the place is packed.
Apsara Dance - Having spent the day looking at the stone variety of Apsaras, why not spend an evening checking out the living ones? A number of places around town hold shows of Apsara Dance.
Angkor Village - Dancers in traditional gilded costume practice their slow elegant art. This comes combined with a fine set Khmer menu in the traditional indoor banquet-house theater. To make reservations for the nightly show call tel. Dinner begins at 7pm, and the show starts at 7:30pm
What is the Climate, Average Temperature/ Weather in Siem Reap?
Whether you wish to travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia (Latitude & Longitude. Altitude: 15 m or 49 ft) on holiday, business or vacation, are interested in buying property there or are looking to migrate the following Siem Reap climate, temperature and weather information should prove helpful:
- The average temperature in Siem Reap, Cambodia is 26.6 °C (80 °F).
- The average temperature range is 5 °C.
- Siem Reap's climate receives an average of 1281 mm (50.4 in) of rainfall per year, or 107 mm (4.2 in) per month.
- On average there are 106 days per year with more than 0.1 mm (0.004 in) of rainfall (precipitation) or 9 days with a quantity of rain, sleet, snow etc. per month.
- The driest weather is in January when an average of 0 mm (0.0 in) of rainfall (precipitation) occurrs across 0 days.
- The wettest weather is in October when an average of 263 mm (10.4 in) of rainfall (precipitation) occurrs across 16 days.
The average annual relative humidity is 79.3% and average monthly relative humidity ranges from 72% in March to 86% in September & October.