General Notes about Siem Reap
The best form of transportation around the town is tuk-tuk, a 2-person carriage pulled by a motor bike. You can get just about anywhere in town for $1 USD.
This is a hot and humid place. Not much you can do about it but you might as well expect it.
There are a ton of vendors, mostly kids at the temples. They don’t like to take no for an answer. Don’t tell them you will find them later as they will find you and remind you that you promised to buy from them. They’ll ask you where you are from and then recite the population, capitol city and leader of the country. After a while, I started playing around with them. When they asked where I was from, I told them “I’m from the State of Confusion.” They would say “I don’t know that country. What is the capitol?” And my reply would be “Incognito.”
If you decide to buy a book from a vendor, get a look inside first. They’re all reproduction copies and in some cases, they have reduced coffee table books down to a much smaller size which reduces the type font proportionally.
On your first day at the temple complex, you’ll probably end up at some of the larger well known temples in the central area like Angkor Thom and its center piece Bayon and Angkor Wat. These temples and the gates leading to them are amazing and should not be missed. But while you’re seeing them, you’ll be surrounded by tourists from all over the world. That was really the only down side to our experience there.
On our 2nd day, we got away from the crowds by touring what our guide called Angkor Obscura. We began the day at several temples that were not in the immediate area of Angkor Wat and completely left the crowds behind. We saw partially restored and completely un-restored temples, some with trees growing out of the side of towers. While the scale was smaller, the atmosphere was so much more enjoyable than the previous day. It really felt like we were discovering something from a time passed by.
We headed back to Angkor Thom for lunch and after eating, we visited temples that actually were a stones throw from “the biggies” but with no-where near the crowds. One of the last places we visited was the Angkor Thom West Gate. The East Gate is awesome but covered with tourists. The West Gate is a virtual duplicate but largely unvisited. While we were there we saw local villagers who had been collecting wood all day long in the temple area riding and walking their bicycles home for the evening. This has to be one of the most atmospheric spots in Angkor Thom.
Restaurants in Siem Reap
We were only in Siem Reap for 3-nights but ended up liking Khmer Kitchen so much that we ate there twice. It’s tucked away in a nameless alley behind the market but every tuk-tuk driver knows it so it shouldn’t be hard to find. Not only was the food really good, I think our total bill was something like $6 USD for the two of us. (See additional notes on Siem Reap restaurants in our 2012 report.)
The place has a huge menu but our favorite dish was Fish A-Mok. A-Mok is a rather mild curry that can be ordered with shrimp, pork, chicken, beef or vegetables. We found the recipe on the web site of a place we ate at in Phnom Phen and have been making it at home since we got back.
The other night we were there we ate at Chivit Thai. We read some glowing reviews of it before we went and it was good but not as good as the Thai we had in Hanoi. Dining is in a very pretty patio and garden setting and the service was very good.
There is a line of restaurants out at the temple complex. We ended up having lunch out there on two days and found the food to be a little more expensive than in town but still not outrageous in price and the quality to be surprisingly good. One funny experience we had at one place there was a person at our table ordering “Mango Chicken”. When it arrived at the table, there wasn’t any mango but there was a small side of tomato. Our friend told the waiter that it was missing the mango and he brought her out another small bowl of tomatoes.
Be sure to order a fresh coconut water to drink at least once.
The local drink of choice is Angkor Beer but Tiger Beer from Vietnam is also widely available.