An isolated jungle village until the discovery by French explorer Henri Mouhot of the magnificent ruins representing the height of the Khmer civilisation in the 12th century, Siem Reap is now a mix of traditional Cambodian life and 21st century modernity.
The town itself, originally a cluster of small villages in northwest Cambodia, nestles on the banks of the Siem Reap River, north of Tonle Sap Lake. Its Angkor Archaeological Park, containing the Angkor Wat complex, is now the largest construction site in Cambodia, with new hotels, restaurants and facilities providing modern amenities to hordes of visitors.
Even so, Siem Reap is a pleasant, laid-back and inexpensive place in which to base an exploration of this important historical area.
Central Siem Reap is around Sivatha Street, the town's main north-south road. Shopping and commercial districts, and the quaintly but accurately-named Pub Street and its alleyways are all in the town center. Many of the bars, clubs and restaurants are owned by Westerners.
A large number of new hotels and resorts, from upscale luxury to well-known international chains, are located on the road to Angkor Wat, providing all modern comforts and amenities as well as traditional Cambodian massage, culture shows, spas, and golf and honeymoon packages.
Wide boulevards, traditional restaurants, galleries, boutiques and elegant colonial buildings characterize Siem Reap's French Quarter, set among lush greenery on the banks of the Siem Reap River. The Old Market (Psah Chas), at the south end of the French Quarter, is full of stalls selling food, silks and local products.
The Wat Bo area is home to a large number of guesthouses, bars and restaurants and is popular with budget travelers as a result. Psar Leu is the jewelry and handicrafts district, with everything from traditional wood-carvings to precious stones and hand-crafted gold jewelry for sale.
Along the road leading to Siem Reap International Airport (REP) are many hotels and the New Market, now the best traditional food market in town since the Old Market became more visitor-oriented. Delicious French breads and a huge variety of everything gastronomic are spread out on hundreds of stalls.
Find more information about Siem Reap and hotels in the area:
Siem Reap hotels | Cambodia hotels
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