Siem Reap is the capital city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia, and is the gateway to Angkor region.
Siem Reap has colonial and Chinese-style architecture in the Old French Quarter, and around the Old Market. In the city, there are traditional Apsara dance performances, craft shops, silk farms, rice-paddy countryside, fishing villages and a bird sanctuary near the Tonle Sap Lake.
Siem Reap today, being a popular tourist destination, has a large number of hotels and restaurants.
The name Siem Reap means the ‘Flat Defeat of Siam’ — today’s Thailand — and refers to the centuries-old conflict between the Siamese and Khmer peoples.
This name, according to an oral tradition, was given by King Ang Chan (1516-1566) as “Siem Reap”, meaning “the flat defeat of Siam” (Cambodians call Siam or Thailand “Siem”). It was because of Ang Chan’s victory against a Siamese invasion, slaying Prince Ong, and capturing no less than 10,000 Siamese troops.
The story was told that King Ang Chan of Cambodia tried to assert further independence from Siam. The Siamese also had been through internal trouble themselves during these years. King Chairacha was poisoned by his concubine, Lady Sri Sudachan, who committed adultery with a commoner, Worawongsathirat, while he was on a campaign against Chiang Mai. Sudachan then raised Worawongsathirat to the throne. The nobles hated Worawongsathirat and lured the usurper and his family to a place outside the city where he was assassinated, together with Sudachan and a new-born daughter, during the royal family’s procession by barge to see a white elephant (allegedly just captured). The nobles then invited Prince Thianracha, who was a monk in a monastery, to give up that role and ascend the throne under the title of King Maha Chakkraphat (1548-1569). Being informed of the internal troubles in Ayutthaya, King Ang Chan attacked Prachin Buri in 1549 and successfully took away its Siamese inhabitants. There he obtained information that of Maha Chakkraphat’s coronation, signaling that the question of succession in Ayutthaya had thus been settled. Ang Chan therefore retreated and did not advance any further. King Maha Chakkraphat was very angry at this, but his hands were tied, because the Burmese had just come by way of the Three Pagodas Pass; they took Kanchanaburi and Suphanburi, and appeared in front of Ayutthaya.
Because King Ang Chan refused to give King Maha Chakkraphat a white elephant when he asked for it, it is indicated that Ang Chan declined any symbol of vassalage to Siam. Maha Chakkraphat’s attention was now turned towards Cambodia. He put Prince Ong, the governor of Sawankhalok and Srey’s son, in charge of an expedition against Cambodia. Ang Chan counter-attacked, and shot Prince Ong dead on an elephant’s back, and his army routed the Siamese and captured no less than 10,000 Siamese troops. It was because of this victory over Siamese the that King Ang Chan renamed the battleground as “Siem Reap” meaning “the flat defeat of Siam”. However, most sources mention the final defeat of Angkor Kingdom by the Thais from Ayutthaya in the fifteenth century. The city has been abandoned since then.
From the sixteenth through to the nineteenth centuries, the feuds among the Khmer lords caused the interventions and domination from their more powerful neighbors: Vietnam and Siam. Siem Reap, along with Battambang(Phra Tabong) and Sisophon, major cities in the north western part of Cambodia, were under Siamese administration known as Inner Cambodia from 1795 till 1907 when the province was ceded to French Indochina.
Re-discovery of Angkor
In 1901 the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO; French School of the Far East) began a long association with Angkor by funding an expedition into Siam to the Bayon. The EFEO took responsibility for clearing and restoring the whole site, when the Angkor ruins were rediscovered. In the same year, the first tourists arrived in Angkor – an unprecedented 200 of them in three months. Angkor had been ‘rescued’ from the jungle and was assuming its place in the modern world.
Siem Reap was little more than a village when the first French explorers re-discovered Angkor in the 19th century. With the acquisition of Angkor by the French in 1907 due to the Franco-Siamese agreement, Siem Reap began to grow, absorbing the first wave of tourists. The Grand Hotel d’Angkor opened its doors in 1929 and the temples of Angkor remained one of Asia’s leading draws until the late 1960s, luring visitors like Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Kennedy. In 1975, the population of Siem Reap, along with that of the rest of the cities and towns in Cambodia, was evacuated by the communist Khmer Rouge and driven into the countryside.
As with the rest of the country, Siem Reap’s history (and the memories of its people) is coloured by the spectre of the brutal Khmer Rouge Regime, though since Pol Pot’s death in 1998, relative stability and a rejuvenated tourist industry have been important steps in an important, if tentative, journey forward to recovery. With the advent of war, Siem Reap entered a long slumber from which it only began to awake in the mid-1990s.
Today, Siem Reap serves as a small gateway town to the world famous heritage site of the Angkor temples. Thanks to those attractions, Siem Reap has transformed itself into a major tourist hub. Siem Reap nowadays is a vibrant town with modern hotels and architectural styles. Despite international influences, Siem Reap and its people have conserved much of the town’s image, culture and traditions.
The Wat and the river
The Town is a cluster of small villages along the Siem Reap River. These villages were originally developed around Buddhist pagodas (Wat) which are almost evenly spaced along the river from Wat Preah En Kau Sei in the north to Wat Phnom Krom in the south, where the Siem Reap River meets the great Tonle Sap Lake.
The main town is concentrated around Sivutha Street and the Psar Chas area (Old Market area) where there are old colonial buildings, shopping and commercial districts. The Wat Bo area is now full of guesthouses and restaurants while the Psar Leu area is often crowded with jewellery and handicraft shops, selling rubies to woodcarving. Other fast developing areas are the airport road and main road to Angkor where a number of large hotels and resorts can be found.
Businesses centered around tourism have flourished due to the tourism boom. There is a wide range of hotels, ranging from several 5-star hotels and chic resorts to hundreds of budget guesthouses. Plenty of shopping opportunities exist around the Psar Chas area while the nightlife is often vibrant with a number of western-styled pubs and bars.
Most tourists come to Siem Reap to visit the Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, (about 6 km north of the city), and other Angkor ruins.
The Gecko Environment Center is a floating environment center located in the province of Siem Reap on the Tonle Sap Lake. The goal of the center is to promote environmental awareness among the local community as well as visitors to the great lake The province of Siem Reap is part of the Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve.
Angkor Wat (Wat temple) is the central feature of the Angkor UNESCO World Heritage Site containing the magnificent remains of the Khmer civilization. Angkor Wat’s rising
series of five towers culminates in an impressive central tower that symbolizes mythical Mount Meru. Thousands of feet of wall space are covered with intricate carving depicting scenes from Hindu mythology.
Cambodian Cultural Village
Opened on September 24, 2003, the Cambodian Cultural Village assembles all the miniatures of famous historical buildings and structures of Cambodia. There are 11 unique villages, which represent different culture heritages, local customs and characteristics of 19 multi races.
Angkor National Museum
Opened on 12 November 2007, the Angkor National Museum offers visitors a better
understanding of the area’s archaeological treasures. The Golden Era of the Khmer Kingdom is presented, including the use of state-of-the-art multimedia technology. The museum covers Khmer history, civilization, and cultural heritage in eight galleries.
This magnificent inner royal city was built by the end of the 12th century and is renowned for its temple grounds and towering southern gate.
Another market where one can find food, clothing, and jewellery.
According to the Köppen climate classification, Siem Reap features a tropical wet and dry climate. The city is generally hot throughout the course of the year, with average high temperatures never falling below 30 C in any month. Siem Reap has a relatively lengthy
wet season which starts in April and ends in November. The dry season covers the remaining four months. The city averages approximately 1500 mm of rainfall per year.
The town is 7 km from the Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport (IATA code REP). Siem Reap is accessible by direct flights from many Asian cities, and by land from Phnom Penh and the Thai border. It’s also accessible by boat (via the Tonle Sap lake) and bus from Phnom Penh and Battambang. A new airport is planned 60 km from Siem Reap.
It is possible to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap via Poipet. The road from Poipet to Siem Reap is newly paved and sealed as of 2013. If travelers take a taxi from Bangkok to Poipet and from Poipet to Siem Reap, it is possible to complete the whole journey in 6-10 hours, depending on border-crossing times. This journey is also possible by bus and minibus.
That’s all for now, until next time,
Choak Dee Krab
Laew Phop Kan Mai Na Krab
Did you find this post, Helpful, Informative,
Guiding or you just liked it