cambodia, angkor wat, monks

3 Days In Siem Reap: How We Did It In 72 Hours

How about 3 days in Siem Reap? I asked my husband.

This was our first trip to Cambodia. I had always wanted to visit the majestic temples of Angkor and visit some off-the-beaten-path temples. 

Siem Reap is “the Gateway to Angkor” and is Cambodia’s second-largest city. Now, just to be clear, Siem Reap isn’t all temples, and believe me when we say, you can get “templed out”. 

Having heard so much about Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm, it was natural that we booked our flight to Siem Reap. Although travel guides will tell you to avoid visiting Siem Reap during the monsoon season, we threw caution to the wind and rain.

And, traveled during the monsoon season.

Let’s just say, that after seeing all the temples, we didn’t want to see another temple again, even when we were back home in Kuala Lumpur. 

On this trip, we mixed temples, a hidden gem temple, and the great lake of Tonle Sap. At the end of the trip, we loved Cambodia even more and can’t wait to return to the country. 

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Before booking your flight to Siem Reap, check if you require a visa to enter the Land of the Khmers. 

After that, search for cheap flights with cashback and once you are ready, all you have to do is book your flight, pack your bags, and head to the airport.  

Before you land, have a 4G SIM Card for Cambodia or an Unlimited Data eSim delivered to you.

Get yourself a Siem Reap International Airport Transfer to save you the hassle of getting a reliable ride to your hotel. And, the key is to arrive comfortably. 

For a unique experience, watch an Apsara Dance Show With Round-Trip Transfers on Tuk-Tuk. While watching the traditional show, feast on an authentic Khmer buffet dinner.

To save you the hassle of visiting the Angkor Archaeological Ticketing Office, why not purchase the Angkor Wat Admission Ticket with the option of having either 1-day, 3-day, or 7-day passes in advance? We chose the 3-day pass as we could visit most of the temples at our own time and pace. 

Where is Siem Reap?

Siem Reap sits on the Tonle Sap’s banks, nestled in Cambodia’s northwest region. The city is known for its French Colonial and Chinese-style architecture, especially around the Old Market and the Old French Quarter areas of the city.

Siem Reap is a city that retains its lush tropical landscape where paddy fields stretch as far as the eye can see. The city gained popularity with the rediscovery of Angkor Wat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains the ruins of the Khmer Empire.

Siem Reap experiences a tropical wet and dry climate with warm temperatures throughout the year. The wet season is typically from May to October with rainfall in the afternoon, if not throughout the day. 

We visited in September and it only rained in the afternoons. The rain breathed life into the already green surroundings, transforming Siem Reap into a garden paradise. Angkor Wat is an ethereal beauty as rainwater gently cascades down the facade of the temple.

The dry season is from November to April with the weather becoming drier and warmer with clear blue skies and refreshing breeze. This is the best time to visit the beautiful temples of Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, and Bayon. 

Siem Reap always beckons explorers from all corners of the world. With its rich history, friendly locals, and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a trip here is unforgettable. We wanted to plan another trip here once we returned home.

That is what Siem Reap did to us. And, we needed more than 3 days in Siem Reap. We will be planning a longer trip soon. 

Read more:

11 Interesting Places in Siem Reap: Ultimate Guide for Beginners

2 Days In Phnom Penh Itinerary: A Complete Guide

13 Reasons To Visit Angkor Wat and Why You Must Go Now!

History

Siem Reap, a magnificent city located in the heart of Cambodia, is renowned for its fascinating history that is intricately intertwined with the Khmer Empire and the legendary Angkor Archaeological Park. 

From its humble beginnings as a small village, Siem Reap underwent a remarkable transformation during the French colonial era, blossoming into the bustling metropolis that we know today. 

Siem Reap, located in the northwestern part of Cambodia, is an enchanting city that attracts travelers from all over the world. The city’s main attraction is the Angkor Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that features the magnificent temples of Angkor. 

These ancient structures, built between the 9th and 12th centuries, are a testament to the artistic and architectural skills of the Khmer Empire. Apart from the temples, Siem Reap has a lot to offer visitors. 

The city is home to a vibrant local culture, rich in history, art, and traditions. The streets are filled with colorful markets, shops, and restaurants, where visitors can sample local delicacies and interact with friendly locals. 

There are also several museums and art galleries that showcase the city’s history and artistic heritage. Overall, Siem Reap is a fascinating destination that is perfect for anyone seeking adventure, culture, and a unique travel experience.

Are you not sure if you need a Cambodian Visa? Imagine accessing a streamlined, hassle-free way to obtain travel visas and permits for your international adventures. Take the headache out of visa applications and travel stress-free. 

How To Spend 3 Days In Siem Reap?

When we planned this trip, we wanted it to be a combination of must-visits and an off-the-beaten-path temple which a friend of ours recommended. We hit the ground running (literally!) as we made our way to Angkor Thom, Prasat Bayon, and Angkor Wat on the day we arrived in Siem Reap.

This itinerary is hectic (even for us!) as we wanted to explore as many places within a short period. Hence, if time is not an issue, we recommend visiting at least two temples a day.

Also, combine your trip with a trip to Tonle Sap. Our visit to Tonle Sap was a refreshing change after all the temples we visited

We were templed out by the end of our trip. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our stay as much as we enjoyed the local food which we had on our third day. We hope you enjoy our itinerary as much as we enjoyed this trip ourselves. 

If you don’t have 3 days in Siem Reap, you can use this same itinerary for 2 days in Siem Reap itinerary. 

Day 1: Arrival, Angkor Thom & Bayon

Since this was our first trip to Siem Reap, we wanted to make the most of it. Our 3 days in Siem Reap were packed and this is something we would recommend in the future. We always left early and returned after dinner. Exhausting, to say the least!

Arrival

3 days in Siem Reap. We arrived on our Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur on a cloudy day at Siem Reap.
Our Air Asia flight to Siem Reap

We arrived at a cloudy start at the Siem Reap International Airport. This airport is small compared to other international airports in the region. Since there are no air bridges, we made the short walk to the main terminal.

At the main terminal, we were greeted by smiling and friendly staff who guided us to the immigration checkpoint. Our arrival process was smooth and we were out within 30 minutes. Our driver was already waiting for us to take us to the first stop of our whirlwind trip.

We began our Siem Reap 3 day itinerary with a visit to Angkor Thom which was already crowded by the time we reached the South Gate.

Angkor Thom

3 days in Siem Reap. We started our tour with a visit to Angkor Thom.
Two of the 54 stone figures that adorn the South Gate of Angkor Thom

Our first stop in our 3 days in Siem Reap was Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom is described as an urban marvel and was one of the most impressive royal cities during the Angkor Period

We started at the South Gate which was flanked by 54 stone figures on each side. These 108 figures represent the gods and demons pulling a naga in a tug-of-war. The gods were calm and serene while the demons grimaced in military headdresses.

This scene represents the Churning of the Milk which is taken from Vishnu Purana, Bhagwat Purana, and the Mahabharat. The myth tells us that in the end, the gods obtained immortality after drinking the divine nectar that came out from the churning of the ocean.

The most notable temples within Angkor Thom are Prasat Bayon, Baphuon, Phimenakas, the Terrace of Leper King, and the Terrace of the Elephants.

Prasat Bayon

3 days in Siem Reap. This was what greeted us as we walked towards Prasat Bayon.
The many faces of Bayon

Our next temple in our 3 days in Siem Reap was Prasat Bayon. This temple stands at the center of the Angkor Thom. Among all the temples in Siem Reap, Bayon stands out for its unique architecture and its “temple of faces” feature.

Since we visited in the late afternoon, Bayon was already crowded. Thus, we recommend visiting this temple early in the morning. Watch the sunrise without the crowds as the temple is open from 5.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. 

Since we had time, our next temple on our 3 days in Siem Reap itinerary was the Prasat Bayon which is famous for its many faces.

3 days in Siem Reap. This a close-up of one of the many beautiful faces that adorn the Bayon temple.
One of the many beautiful faces at Bayon

Prasat Bayon was built in the late 12th century by King Jayavarman VII with the central tower rising above the others. This is the only temple that was built to worship Buddhist deities with 216 massive stone faces.

Some believe the stone faces are that of Jayavarman himself or a representation of Avalokiteshvara. As we walked among the many faces, we came to the outer gallery which depicted scenes from everyday life and historical events in the empire.

3 days in Siem Reap. This is one of the long passageways at Bayon.
This is one of the long passageways at Bayon Temple

However, what we found striking was the fact that Bayon was designed as a mandala. A mandala is a configuration of symbols used as a focusing tool for spiritual practice. This temple is the heart which represents Mount Meru.

Exploring Bayon is like stepping into a mystical world frozen in time. The play of light and shadow on the temple’s stones throughout the day adds to its mystical allure. As we wandered through its corridors and ascended its steep staircases, we were transported to a different era. An era where the Khmer Empire reigned supreme.

Terrace of the Elephants

3 days in Siem Reap. This is the Terrace of the Elephants which was originally built as a viewing platform for the king.
One of the better-preserved elephants at the Terrace of the Elephants

Our next stop on day 1 of our 3 days in Siem Reap was the Terrace of the Elephants. We walked for about 15 minutes and passed through Baphuon, an ancient temple that was built during the 11th century. Baphuon is dedicated to Lord Shiva and was later converted to a Buddhist temple.

The walk to the terrace was quick and enjoyable. On the way, we saw several stalls where we could stop and drink refreshing coconut water before turning towards the Terrace of the Elephants. 

When we arrived, we were amazed by the stunning view. The Terrace of the Elephants was originally built as a viewing platform for King Jayavarman VII to see his victorious returning army. It also served as a base for the king’s grand audience hall.

The length of the terrace is decorated with near-life-sized carvings of elephants, their Khmer mahouts, garudas, and lions. The intricate carvings are incredibly detailed, and we were in awe at how realistic they looked. 

We took a photo at the smaller staircases of the terrace, where we could see the magnificent elephants, representing Airavata, the mythical three-headed elephants on either side of the staircase. It was truly a breathtaking sight.

Angkor Wat

3 days in Siem Reap. This was the walkway we walked towards Angkor Wat. This is the Western Gopura entrance to Angkor Wat.
Entrance from the Western Gopura

Our last stop for the day in our 3 days in Siem Reap was Angkor Wat which was an 11-minute drive from the Terrace of the Elephants. We entered through the Western Gopura which is the most beautiful entrance to the temple.

We walked on the Rainbow Bridge although it is more of a causeway than a bridge. This sandstone bridge is the original path the Khmers used in the past to get to Angkor Wat. We could only imagine how lively it was back then.

The Western Entrance is surrounded by a moat representing the ocean with Angkor Wat temple representing Mount Meru. As we walked on the uneven path under the scorching heat, we could only imagine what Angkor was like in its prime.

There are five entrances at the Western Gopura with the center Gopura aligning to the grand causeway leading to the temple proper. The Gopura features ornate bas-reliefs and patterns with false doors and Apsara carvings.

After walking through the ornate passageway, we reached the main statue which is believed to be Lord Vishnu which was originally placed at the central shrine on the third level of Angkor Wat. 

3 days in Siem Reap. This is another entrance to the Angkor Wat temple.
Another entrance to the outer galleries of Angkor Wat

As we walked past the northern and southern libraries and the reflecting ponds, we saw that the other entrances were equally beautiful with intricate carvings. We reached the Terrace of Honor and were in the outer galleries.

The highlights of the outer galleries were the bas reliefs on the churning of the Sea of Milk gallery, the Battle of Lanka gallery, and the war between the Devas and Asuras gallery. However, among the three, it was the churning of the sea of milk gallery that was most beautiful. 

3 days in Siem Reap. This is the passageway of the outer galleries of Angkor Wat.
The passageway of the outer galleries of Angkor Wat

The intricate designs and the carvings were well preserved and tell the story of an important event in Hindu mythology. We recommend reading about the mythology to understand the carvings better.

As this was our last sightseeing for the day, we gradually made our way to the central tower that stands on a raised terrace. While the two inner galleries have towers facing the ordinal directions, the outer galleries have pavilions at the corners. 

We soon made our way up to the third level with restricted access. While climbing up the steep staircase, the view at the top was breathtaking. We had clear views of the lush greenery and a panoramic view of the temple and its surroundings.

3 days in Angkor Wat. This is the reflection of Angkor Wat at one of the refling pools in the area.
The reflection of Angkor Wat on the reflecting pool at the main temple

To end our trip to this beautiful temple, we went to the reflecting ponds. While this area is crowded during the early mornings, there was no crowd when we took this photo. It was almost 4 pm and despite the cloudy skies, we were happy to get a stunning photo.

Are you worried about the long queues to purchase entry tickets to the Angkor Archaeological Park? Purchase the mobile temple pass and enjoy the ease and convenience of a mobile ticket which gives you access to all temples within the park.

Day 2: Banteay Srei, Koh Ker, Beng Melea & Tonle Sap

On Day 2 of our 3 days in Siem Reap, we chose to go off the beaten path and explore some lesser-known temples. We combined Banteay Srei, Koh Ker, Prasat Neang Khmau, and Beng Melea, and ended our day with lunch on the banks of Tonle Sap. 

Banteay Srei

3 days in Siem Reap. This is the entrance to Banteay Srei temple complex.
The entrance to the Banteay Srei temple complex

About 22 miles from Siem Reap, was our first stop, the Banteay Srei temple. The drive to this temple was scenic as we passed through paddy fields and villages. This 10th-century temple was built entirely from red sandstone. However, it is the intricate designs that adorn this temple that made our trip here memorable

The entrance ticket to Banteay Srei is included in the Angkor Temple pass for the main Angkor temples. Hence, you could combine a Banteay Srei and Banteay Samre which is pretty peaceful and away from the crowds.

Banteay Srei is far from Angkor Wat in terms of size. However, while it lacks in size, it is abundant in intricate carvings. Which is how it got its nickname, the “citadel of women” or the ‘citadel of beauty’.

The nicknames came because the carvings were so beautiful that they could have only been done by womenfolk. And, combined with the red sandstone’s pink hue added to this speculation.

Unlike other temples around Angkor, we found it unique that Banteay Srei was built by two courtiers, Vishnukumara and Yajnavaraha. Yajnavaraha was a scholar and philanthropist who helped those who suffered from injustice, suffering, illness, and poverty.

As the temple was small, we spent 30 minutes there and made our way to our next temple, Koh Ker. 

Koh Ker

3 days in Siem Reap. Koh Ker is the only seven-tiered pyramid structure in South East Asia.
The only seven-tiered pyramid structure in Southeast East Asia, Koh Ker

After driving for 2 hours and covering 66 miles, we arrived at our next destination, highly recommended by a friend. It was Koh Ker. Koh Ker was recently inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a recognition it deserves.

When we arrived at Koh Ker, it was empty. After paying an entrance fee of $15, we took our time and walked towards the main temple complex. While the temple originally had 180 temples, there are about 2 dozen ruins that can be visited by tourists.

We loved the fact that we were the only tourists there at that time. As the area was filled with landmines, we were advised to stay within the cleared routes. Koh Ker was once the former capital of the Khmer Empire with inscriptions mentioning its name as Lingapura (“City of Lingams) and Chok Gargyar (“Iron Tree Forest”).

The iconic landmark here is the seven-tiered pyramid known as Prang which was probably the state temple at this site. Inscriptions mention that there was once the largest and most beautiful Shiva-Lingam here. 

3 days in Siem Reap. This is another view of Koh Ker.
Another view of Koh Ker

On the northern side of the pyramid, there is an ancient staircase which is in bad condition. A newer bamboo ladder is also in bad shape. Hence, climbing these stairs is forbidden. 

A newer modern steel staircase at the back allows visitors to climb to the top. From here, we can admire the panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. As we made our way out, we saw many other temples.

Some were in ruins while some seemed remarkably preserved. This is why we stopped at our next destination, Prasat Neang Khmau.

Prasat Neang Khmau

3 days in Siem Reap. This is Prasat Neang Khmau or the "Black Beauty" as she is locally known.
Prasat Neang Khmau is also known as the “Black Lady”

The third of the second day of our 3 days in Siem Reap was Prasat Neang Khmau or “the Black Lady” as she is locally known. This lone temple was made from a sandstone base and surrounded by a laterite wall.

This temple was dedicated to Lord Shiva and a large Shivling stands at the center of the inner sanctum. However, only its base remains today. This was on our list as it is one of the popular temples within Koh Ker.

The black outer surface may have been the result of a large fire that engulfed the area. Another story mentions that the black surface is that the temple was originally dedicated to Goddess Kali, the Hindu Goddess of Destruction.

Our guide explained that the black color was the result of the oxidizing of the iron content used to construct this temple. While parts of the temple were bare, the base and pillars were beautifully decorated with carvings.

We spent about 15 minutes here. There is no entrance fee to visit this temple and with another one more temple to visit. It was time to head to our next destination, Beng Melea.

Beng Melea

3 days in Siem Reap. This is Cambodia's ultimate jungle temple, Beng Melea.
Nature reclaims Cambodia’s jungle temple, Beng Melea

The fourth of the second day of our 3 days in Siem Reap was Beng Melea. This temple is about 37 miles or an hour’s drive from Koh Ker. This jungle temple was built along an ancient highway to Preah Khan.

Since January 2020, Beng Melea has been included in the Angkor Temple Pass. To make the most of your time, we recommend taking the Banteay Srei, Koh Ker, and Beng Melea small group temple tour. In this tour, you can learn about the powerful Khmer Empire, while observing the locals going about their everyday lives in rural Cambodia.  

3 days in Siem Reap. The roots have taken over another area of Beng Melea.
The roots have taken over the temple

When we arrived here, local kids were playing near the entrance of the temple. Due to the remote location of Beng Melea, the temple was not crowded. The temple ruins were bursting at their seams with the roots of trees and creepers.

No one knows the history of the temple and why it was built. What we know of the temple is traced back to its architectural style which is identical to Angkor Wat. As we walked on the wooden pathway, the thick jungle growth was a relief as it kept us cool.

Beng Melea is an authentic and more satisfying jungle temple.
Beng Melea is an authentic jungle experience

We visited the temple close to noon and it was already buzzing with activity. The wide open spaces meant that we had pockets of peace. This meant that we could simply sit back and relax, as we covered the length and breadth of the temple.

Tonle Sap

This was our view on our boat ride to the mighty Tonle Sap.
Our boat ride to the mighty Tonle Sap

Our last agenda on day 2 of our 3 days in Siem Reap was spending time at Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. As we arrived at Tonle Sap, we were amazed by the expansive body of water that transforms with the ebb and flow of the Mekong River

During the wet season, Tonle Sap expands to nearly five times its dry season size, creating an intricate system of interconnected rivers and flooded forests that will leave you in awe. 

3 days in Siem Reap. This is the flooded forests of Tonle Sap.
The flooded forests of Tonle Sap

The lake is a vital ecosystem, home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. The floating villages that dot its shores are a testament to the resourcefulness of the local communities that have adapted to the ever-changing water levels. 

As our driver navigated the waterways, we saw stilted houses, floating markets, and schools. This was a unique and immersive experience that stayed with us forever. The biodiversity in and around Tonle Sap is awe-inspiring. 

This is a fisherman wading through the flooded forests of Tonle Sap.
A fisherman wading through the flooded forests

The lake serves as a crucial breeding ground for various fish species, sustaining the livelihoods of countless fishermen. Birdwatchers will delight in the migratory birds that flock to the lake, including pelicans, storks, and ibises. 

If you want to experience the unique way of life of the locals, don’t miss the iconic floating villages like Kampong Phluk or Chong Khneas. These villages offer a glimpse into the daily lives of the locals, showcasing their resilience in adapting to the ever-changing water levels. 

Join the Kampong Phluk Floating Village Tour and experience how the locals live along Tonle Sap. This is your chance to get up close and personal with the locals as you cruise along the floating village to Tonle Sap.

Don’t miss the Prek Toal Tonle Sap Bioreserve Tour where you will be amazed by the variety of endangered birds such as the Painted Stork and the Black-headed Ibis.

Day 3: Ta Prohm, Roluos Group of Temples & Apsara Dance

Ta Prohm

This is one of the roots that have taken over the gallery at Ta Prohm.
One of the many beautiful roots that have taken over the temple

Our first temple on day 3 of our 3 days in Siem Reap was Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is a 20-minute drive from Angkor Wat and is part of the “big three” temples with Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom being the other two.

With our Angkor Wat Admission Ticket, entry to Ta Prohm is included in the Angkor Pass. The temple is open from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm. We entered through the Western Gate although traditionally, the Eastern Gate was the main entry point.

Thankfully, there were many suggested walking routes with the main highlights being the entry from the Western Gate with its beautiful smiling faces, the trees with their reptile-like roots that take over the temples, and the bas reliefs near the doorways. 

Many stalls sold souvenirs, food and drinks, and shirts at both gates. Ta Prohm was built in the 12th century and was founded as a Buddhist monastery and center of learning.

As we walked through the temple, we came across an iconic photo spot with a long queue. With roots framing the doorway, we could see why. This was also where the famous scene from Angelina Jolie’s, Lara Croft movie was filmed. 

As we walked through the vast area, we easily spent an hour there. The temple of Ta Prohm, shrouded in dense jungle, has an ethereal appearance and creates a romantic atmosphere

Gigantic fig, banyan, and kapok trees spread their roots over stones, separating walls and terraces, while their branches and leaves intertwine to form a roof over the structures. The trunks of trees twist among the stone pillars. 

The strange, haunted charm of the place entwines itself about you as you go. Just as the roots have wound themselves about the walls and towers.

Roluos Group of Temples

This is two of the four brick temples of Lolei at the Roluos group of temples.
Two of the four brick temples of Lolei at the Roluos group of temples

Our last temple in our 3 days in Siem Reap was the Roluos temple which is about 8 miles from Siem Reap. We arrived here early in the morning which meant that we were the only tourists here.

However, unlike other temples, the Roluos temples are open compared to the other temples within the Angkor Archaeological Park. The temple is open from 7.30 am to 5.30 pm and the entrance is included in the Angkor Pass ticket. 

Now, this site is historically important as this was the first capital of the Khmer Empire north of Tonle Sap. There are three major temples Bakong, Lolei, and Preah Ko. This ancient capital was known as Hariharalaya with the temples dating back to the 9th century.

Among the three temples, Bakong was the most impressive. The Bakong temple looks like a stepped pyramid and at a glance, it resembles Candi Borobudur in Java, Indonesia. The Lolei temple was built and dedicated to Lord Shiva and the members of the royal temple. 

Lolei is unique in that it consists of four brick towers grouped on a terrace. King Yasovarman I built these temples for his parents and grandparents. The last temple is Preah Ko which means the “sacred bull”.

Preah Ko got its name from the three sandstone statues facing the temple’s central towers. These statues represent Nandi, the mount of Lord Shiva. Preah Ko and Lolei are similar in that they were built for the ancestors of the ruling king of the Khmer Empire at that time.

We spent a relaxing one hour here, walking among the ruins of an ancient capital older than Angkor Wat. Being in a historical place has a way of transporting you back in time.

Artisan Angkor

This is a close-up of a intricate carvings of Lord Ganesh at Artisan Angkor.
A close-up of the carving of Lord Ganesh at Artisan Angkor

Our fourth activity of the day was to visit the captivating Artisan Angkor workshop situated in the heart of Siem Reap, Cambodia. This workshop is a true testament to the rich cultural heritage and skilled craftsmanship of the Khmer people. 

As we leisurely strolled through its elaborately designed corridors, we were mesmerized by the talented artisans, who were meticulously creating traditional Cambodian art and handicrafts. 

The workshops at Artisan Angkor provide a unique and immersive experience into the fascinating world of Khmer craftsmanship. Witnessing the creation of exquisitely crafted silk fabrics, delicate stone carvings, and intricate woodwork was a truly remarkable experience. 

The dedication and precision displayed by the artisans are truly commendable, as each piece is a masterpiece that tells a story of Cambodia’s cultural richness. In addition to the workshops, Artisan Angkor also features a stunning showroom where visitors can purchase these finely crafted creations. 

The range of souvenirs available, from silk scarves adorned with traditional motifs to intricately carved stone sculptures, is impressive and allows you to take home a piece of Cambodia’s cultural legacy. 

For a truly enriching experience, we highly recommend engaging with the artisans, learning about their craft, and even trying your hand at some traditional techniques. This not only adds a personal touch to your visit but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the remarkable artistry involved.

Apsara Dance

This is one of the Apsara dancers at the show.
An Apsara dance performance

On our final night in Siem Reap, we had the pleasure of experiencing the enchanting Apsara dance performance. This traditional dance form is deeply rooted in Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage and is known for its mesmerizing and captivating movements. 

The dance is often performed at significant ceremonies and celebrations, showcasing the beauty and grace of Cambodian artistry. The female performers, donned in intricate and traditional costumes, elegantly move to the rhythm of the music. 

Their subtle yet intricate hand gestures and movements convey stories and emotions, leaving the audience spellbound. The Apsara dance draws its inspiration from Hindu mythology, depicting celestial maidens or nymphs known as Apsaras. 

The performers embody the grace and beauty of these celestial beings, captivating the audience with their movements and expressions. The Apsara dance is a true testament to Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage and is a must-see for anyone visiting the country. 

One of the distinctive features of the Apsara dance is the elaborate headdresses worn by the performers, adorned with ornate jewelry and accessories. The dance is accompanied by traditional Cambodian music, creating a harmonious and enchanting performance.

To witness the Apsara dance in its true cultural context, consider visiting the splendid Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Many restaurants and cultural venues in the area offer Apsara dance performances as part of the dining experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the beauty of this ancient art form while enjoying delicious Cambodian cuisine. 

Do you want to watch an Apsara dance show but don’t know how to get there? You can join this show that comes with a roundtrip pick-up and transfer and feast on a buffet dinner. Now, you don’t have to worry about both transport and food.

What are the best places to stay in Siem Reap?

Park Hyatt Siem Reap

Our first choice for stays more than 3 days in Siem Reap is the Park Hyatt Siem Reap which has 104 rooms and suites designed with a blend of contemporary luxury and traditional Khmer-inspired touches. 

The Park Hyatt Siem Reap is a luxurious and breathtaking hotel located at a bustling crossroad in the heart of Siem Reap. From this prime location, you can easily explore the Old French Quarter, the Night Market, and Pub Street, all within walking distance. 

The hotel offers an immersive experience that seamlessly blends modern elegance with traditional Khmer architecture, creating a unique and captivating atmosphere. The rooms at Park Hyatt Siem Reap are designed with attention to detail, featuring contemporary amenities and Cambodian accents that add a touch of local character. 

The accommodations include spacious suites and well-appointed standard rooms, each providing a comfortable retreat after a day of exploring the wonders of Siem Reap. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, the Park Hyatt Siem Reap provides a luxurious haven for you to relax and recharge. 

From the moment you step into the hotel, you’ll be enveloped in an ambiance of tranquility and comfort, courtesy of the attentive staff and the serene surroundings. One of the standout features of this hotel is its world-class dining options. 

Indulge in a culinary journey at The Dining Room, where local and international flavors come together in exquisite dishes. The Glasshouse Deli offers delectable pastries and treats for a delightful afternoon break.

For relaxation, the hotel boasts a beautiful courtyard and a refreshing swimming pool, providing a tranquil escape in the bustling city. The Spa at Park Hyatt Siem Reap offers rejuvenating treatments inspired by traditional Khmer rituals, ensuring a blissful and pampering experience.

Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor

Our next hotel, if you have more than 3 days in Siem Reap is the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor which is a 119-room hotel located in the Old French Quarter facing the Royal Palace and close to the Angkor National Museum.

Nestled amidst the charming and mysterious city of Siem Reap, the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor is a luxurious and elegant hotel that stands out for its timeless charm and colonial grandeur. When guests enter the hotel, they are transported to a bygone era where modern luxury meets magnificent architecture and attention to detail. 

The hotel’s architecture is awe-inspiring, and the interior design is enchanting, creating a magical atmosphere that captivates guests. The Avenue of the Elephants, a remarkable gateway to the wonders of Angkor Wat, is an iconic feature that adds a touch of enchantment to the already mesmerizing experience.

The hotel’s staff is welcoming, courteous, and always ready to provide guests with exceptional service. The accommodation is luxurious and designed to make guests feel pampered and privileged. However, the grandeur of the hotel comes at a high cost, which could be a point of contention for some visitors. 

Despite the exceptional experience, some guests have noted signs of aging in some areas of the hotel, emphasizing the need for ongoing maintenance and renovations to preserve its splendor. Despite these considerations, the hotel remains a beacon of luxury in Siem Reap.

During breakfast, the hotel’s dining areas can get busy, creating a lively atmosphere that adds to the hotel’s charm. However, the hotel’s iconic status means that it can experience a rush during peak hours.

There have also been some concerns about the Wi-Fi’s speed and reliability, making it a little less seamless for guests who rely on connectivity. However, improvements in this aspect would undoubtedly enhance the overall guest experience.

Despite these minor issues, the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor is a testament to the allure of Siem Reap and an excellent option for those who seek a harmonious blend of history and luxury. It is a magical retreat that promises to take guests on a journey of a lifetime, where every moment feels like a dream come true.

Anantara Angkor Resort & Spa

Our next hotel is the Anantara Angkor Resort & Spa which is a 39-room hotel that is 15 minutes away from Angkor Wat, the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Anantara Angkor Resort & Spa is a luxurious retreat nestled in the heart of Siem Reap, Cambodia, offering a perfect blend of traditional Khmer architecture and contemporary elegance. 

The resort is renowned for its stunning design, with intricately carved wooden decor and lush greenery creating a serene atmosphere. The rooms are spacious and exquisitely furnished, providing a comfortable and stylish haven for guests.

Many visitors praise the resort for its impeccable service and attention to detail. The staff members are often commended for their warmth and willingness to go above and beyond to make guests feel welcome. 

The on-site spa is a standout feature, offering a range of rejuvenating treatments inspired by ancient Khmer healing traditions. While Anantara Angkor Resort & Spa generally receives high praise, some guests have noted occasional issues with the Wi-Fi connectivity. 

Additionally, a few visitors have mentioned that dining options within the resort, while delicious, can be relatively pricey. However, these concerns are often overshadowed by the overall positive experience of staying in this exquisite retreat.

Zannier Hotels Phum Baitang

Our next choice if you have more than 3 days in Siem Reap is the Zannier Hotels Phum Baithang which is a 45-room luxurious hotel just a short drive from the international airport. 

Zannier Hotels’ Phum Baitang is a luxurious resort nestled in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The name “Phum Baitang” translates to “Green Village,” and this charming retreat lives up to its name by offering a unique experience immersed in nature. 

The resort is designed to resemble a traditional Cambodian village, with stilted wooden villas surrounded by lush rice paddies and tropical greenery. The accommodations at Phum Baitang are nothing short of spectacular. 

The resort features spacious villas, each meticulously crafted with a blend of rustic charm and modern comforts. The beauty of these villas is that they are designed to resemble Cambodian homes amidst swaying plantations of lemon grass You can expect authentic Cambodian architecture, thatched roofs, and stylish interiors that create a serene and cozy atmosphere.

One of the standout features of Phum Baitang is its commitment to providing a tranquil escape. The resort boasts a gorgeous infinity pool, spa facilities offering traditional Khmer treatments, and a yoga pavilion for those seeking relaxation and rejuvenation.

Belmond La Residence d’Angkor

Our final choice for 3 days in Siem Reap is the Belmond La Residence d’Angkor, a 62-room luxurious and elegant hotel located in the heart of Siem Reap, Cambodia. The hotel boasts traditional Khmer architecture, which blends perfectly with modern elegance, providing guests with an unforgettable experience. The exceptional service and attention to detail at this hotel makes it a perfect choice for travelers. 

The hotel’s accommodations are opulent, with spacious and tastefully designed rooms and suites that feature Khmer-inspired design elements while offering modern comfort. This hotel’s lush tropical gardens create a serene atmosphere, providing a perfect retreat for guests after exploring the nearby Angkor Wat temples.

What we love is the hotel’s stunning swimming pool is a true masterpiece, offering a tranquil oasis where guests can relax and unwind while taking in the beautiful surroundings. 

Circle, the on-site restaurant, offers an extraordinary culinary journey that features Khmer and international cuisine, providing guests with an unforgettable dining experience. The hotel’s Spa Village, a sanctuary for rejuvenation, offers a range of treatments that will leave guests feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. 

Frequently Asked Questions on Siem Reap?

What is the best time to visit Siem Reap?

The best time to visit Siem Reap is during the dry season which is from late November to March with hardly any rain in December and January. For this trip, we visited during the monsoon season in September. 
The monsoon or rainy season starts from June to October. During these months, there are rains, sometimes throughout the day or in the afternoons. Don’t let the rains stop you from visiting. Most tourist areas are less crowded and the landscape is beautiful. 

Are US Dollars accepted in Cambodia?

Yes, US Dollars are accepted in Cambodia. While the official currency in Cambodia is the Cambodian Riel (KHR), US Dollars are widely accepted and even preferred in many places, especially in tourist areas. Remember that you may receive change in Riel, so it’s advisable to have some Riel on hand for smaller transactions. 

Is there a dress code for Angkor Wat?

Yes, there is a dress code at Angkor Wat. As Cambodia is a Buddhist nation with Angkor Wat being a living temple where the locals go to pray, it is best to dress modestly. This means avoiding showing bare shoulders, no tank tops, and spaghetti straps.
The safest choices would be either a long skirt, trousers or long dresses that cover the knees. Also, avoid baring your midriff as it is considered disrespectful. For men, it is best to wear long pants for temple runs. 

What does bong mean in Cambodian?

In Cambodia, the term “bong” is widely used to address someone in a friendly and respectful manner. This term is typically used between friends, acquaintances, or even strangers. It is similar to using the terms “brother” or “sister” in English. 
The use of “bong” reflects the warm and welcoming culture of Cambodia, where building strong interpersonal relationships is highly valued. Cambodian people place great importance on social connections and building strong relationships with others. 

It is not uncommon for people to address each other with terms of endearment such as “bong” to signify a level of closeness and familiarity. The use of this term also reflects the deep respect that Cambodians have for one another and their desire to maintain a harmonious social environment. 

How do you say thank you in Cambodia?

When you’re traveling in beautiful Cambodia, it’s important to take some time to connect with the locals. One of the best ways to do this is by expressing gratitude. In the official language of Cambodia, Khmer, saying “thank you” is a powerful way to show appreciation. 
The word for “thank you” is “Orkun” (អរគុណ), which is pronounced as “aw-koon”. It may be a simple phrase, but it carries much meaning. When you say “Orkun” while looking the person in the eye, and with a genuine smile, you’re acknowledging their kindness and making a real connection

Can I drink tap water in Cambodia?

While the tap water in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap is safe to drink, but, it is heavily chlorinated. Hence, it is not recommended to drink the tap water there. We bought plenty of bottled water and boiled the water whenever we needed a drink.

The popular bottled water brands available in Cambodia are Kulen, Dasani, Evian, and Fiji which were all cheap. We avoided the local bottled water as we were unsure of their origins and if they were filtered as advertised.

Do they speak English in Cambodia?

Yes, English is widely spoken in urban areas of Cambodia and the major cities of Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. However, in rural areas, Khmer and Thai are spoken. 

Do you tip in Cambodia?

No, tipping in Cambodia is not customary in Cambodia. However, tipping at restaurants is common and if you feel that the service was excellent, a tip of 5% to 20% of the bill is appreciated. At hotels, it is a good idea to tip the bellboy who assisted you with your luggage.

Do not feel obliged to tip for poor service or if you feel you have been overcharged. While tour guides and tuk-tuk drivers may be persistently asking for a tip, you do have to give in to them. Always agree on the fare before boarding a tuk-tuk just to be on the safe side.

Is Siem Reap worth visiting?

Yes! Siem Reap is worth visiting. Siem Reap is a breathtaking destination that offers an inspiring blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Located in Cambodia, this city boasts one of the world’s most remarkable sites, the Angkor Wat. 

This temple complex is an architectural marvel, with its intricate carvings and massive size. The temples are a testament to the Khmer civilization’s glory and the rich history that surrounds them. It doesn’t matter if you spend 3 days in Siem Reap or less, this temple complex will blow your mind, as it did to ours (well, not literally!).

Siem Reap also has a bustling cultural scene, with colorful markets and traditional dance performances that showcase the city’s vibrant heritage. The Old Market, also known as Psar Chas, is a sensory delight, with a variety of local goods, from aromatic spices to artisanal crafts. 

You can also indulge in authentic Cambodian cuisine by trying the street food or visiting the local restaurants. The flavors are both unique and delicious, and they offer a glimpse into the local culinary traditions. 

If you seek a more serene experience, you can explore the Tonle Sap Lake’s floating villages and immerse yourself in the unique way of life along the water. Interact with the friendly locals, and you’ll gain a deeper appreciation of their daily routines and the challenges they face.

Siem Reap is an adventure waiting to happen, offering endless opportunities to discover new cultures, tastes, and experiences.