Siem Reap is the gateway to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. These insider tips for Siem Reap will help you explore the ancient capital city of the Khmer Empire.

Siem Reap, in Southeast Asia, is one of Southeast Asia’s most intriguing destinations. This small city, located in the northwest of Cambodia, is the gateway to the UNESCO-listed Angkor Archaeological Park. It has become a popular destination for tourists who want to visit the ancient capital.

Sun rising behind Angkor Wat. Photo by Park Hyatt Siem Reap

On the ground however, visitors will realize that Siem Reap offers more than just a place to explore the Angkorian Temples. It is a destination unto itself. It’s a unique mix of old-world French Colonial charm, modern amenities and stunning natural beauty. Delicious Cambodian cuisine is also available, as well as a rich culture.

A Local Insider Shares His Tips for Exploring Siem Reap

Many SE Asian tourists’ bucket list includes Siem Reap. How do you decide what to do and see? Rina Mariani is the General Manager at Park Hyatt Siem Reap and she’s here to guide you through all that Temple City has to offer. Rina is originally from Bali in Indonesia. She has worked across Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Europe. Rina has lived in Siem Reap with her family since early 2022. Here are her insider tips and recommendations for Siem Reap.

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Ms. Rina Mariani, General Manager Park Hyatt Siem Reap. Photo by Park Hyatt Hotels.

How many days are needed for a Siem Reap trip?

Rina Maria:Previously visitors would only spend three to five days at Siem Reap to fit in all the temples and other Siem Reap activities. Five to seven day stays are now the norm. Our best tip for visiting Siem Reap: You need three days to see the Temples and five to enjoy other attractions.

What are your suggestions for Angkor Archaeological Park?

Rina Maria: The UNESCO World Heritage Site Angkor Wat, is the main reason why people include Siem Reap on their Cambodia itinerary. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A certified guide is recommended for first-time visitors to get the most out of their visit. The temples and structures date from the 9th through 15th centuries. You can learn so many interesting stories. Angkor Wat is the main attraction, but Bayon, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm should also be seen.

The Park’s ever-changing face is illustrated by the early morning sunrise on Angkor Thom Reservoir. Photo by Michael Cullen

There are also sunrises and sunsets from Phnom Bakheng. You can experience different moods and light effects on the facades and sculptures in the temples by visiting at different times. The Park can also be explored on guided Vespa Adventures or Bicycle Adventures. Our Cultural Insiders can also tailor something for you. The 400-square-kilometer Park is home to many temple complexes. There are plenty of opportunities for exploration.

Vespa tours of the Angkor Archaeological Park with your personal guide are a great option. Photo courtesy Vespa Adventures

What is your favorite Angkor Temple?

Rina Marini:Ta Prohm, where I go for space and quiet on the weekends. It’s a beautiful temple and I enjoy wandering around it. It was made famous by the scenes from the Hollywood movie Tomb Raider. Ta Prohm has not been altered in any way, even though work was done to stabilize it. It is called the ‘jungle Temple’ because of the towering ficus tree that grows in and around the buildings.

The new cycle routes within the Archaeological Park and those leading there make it easy to reach. Early morning is the best time to visit Angkor Wat. The jungle around Angkor Wat is alive with sound, and the lighting is perfect for photographers who want to capture the ongoing struggle between nature and architecture.

Ta Prohm is a battleground between nature and architecture. Michael Cullen Photo

What else is on your ‘Must Do or See List’ for Siem Reap besides the Angkor Temples?

Rina Marioni:Park Hyatt is located in the heart of Siem Reap, making it easy to reach many attractions by foot or with a TukTuk. The old French Quarter is a great place to explore the architecture and leafy streets. Central Market has local products and Pub Street offers live music and local cocktails. Kendal Village has a variety of shops that sell local crafts and unique Khmer souvenirs. Satu Souvenirs, located beside the river, is a great place to pick up souvenirs to give to family and friends. Wat Bo Village is another shopping and eating area across the river.

Satu Boutique for take-home Siem Reap keepsakes. Photo courtesy Satu Boutique

Have you got any ideas about responsible tourism?

Rina Mariani : Siem Reap, a destination that is known for its responsible tourism. Here are my insider tips about Siem Reap.

Kulan elephant Forest

Bos Thom Community Forest is a 1110-acre forest located in the foothills Kulen Mountain. It’s home to rescued Elephants who used to carry tourists around Angkor Wat. In this peaceful, safe retirement home you can learn about elephant conservation and interact with the animals.

Elephant feeding at Kulen Elephant Forest. Michael Cullen Photo

Phare: The Cambodian Circus

The evening will be filled with contemporary and energetic performances under the big top. Phare is more than just a circus. Phare performers use music, dance and modern circus acts in order to tell Cambodian stories, both historical and folkloric. The profits generated by the circus are used to support Phare Ponleau Selpak school in Battambang with free education, professional arts and social support programs. Phare Circus offers not only great entertainment but also a feeling of giving to the community.

Phare The Cambodian Circus puts on a high-energy show. Photo by Phare The Cambodian Circus

Khmer Cultural Experiences

To truly understand the Khmer lifestyle and culture, it is important to visit the villages. Interacting with locals will help you better grasp the Khmer way of life. Our Cultural Insiders are able to tailor-make a unique, authentic and community-driven experience for you. These immersive real-life experiences are definitely worth a try.

Community-based tours are a great way to learn about the culture and life of villagers. Photo by Michael Cullen

Tell us about your arts and crafts scene.

Rina Mariani :Siem Reap has now emerged as an arts-and-crafts city. Many of the incredible local artists and foreigners who have settled in Siem Reap are receiving international recognition. Christian Develter, a Belgian-born artist based in Siem Reap, is highly recommended. His Develter Gallery features a collection of his signature large-format oil paintings, limited edition lithography, sculptural collections, and fashion collection.

Christian Develter, a Siem Reap artist, has created some striking art. Develter Gallery Photo

What is your best tip for finding unique souvenirs and gifts in Siem Reap?

Rina Mari:Khmer Souvenirs are diverse and beautifully made. From silk to cotton, you will find authentic Khmer designs and patterns with both traditional and modern features. Local artisans create ceramics, leather carvings, handicrafts, rattan and other items. Locals are also talented in jewelry-making, using silver, semi-precious gemstones, and beads. These locally made items make great gifts and memories of your visit to this Kingdom.

Unique Siem Reap gift ideas. Michael Cullen Photo

Share your Park Hyatt Siem Reap experience!

Rina Mariani :Once a prominent heritage landmark in Siem Reap, the hotel mimics a luxurious colonial home in the city’s central district. Bill Bensley, a renowned American designer, completely reimagined the Park Hyatt Siem Reap. This architectural gem combines Khmer architecture and Art Deco. It is inspired by Cambodian art, as well as the famous Angkorian ruins. The hotel has 104 guestrooms and thirteen suites. It also offers authentic dining, a full service spa, boutique and two swimming pool.

Park Hyatt Siem Reap hotel facade. Photo by Park Hyatt Siem Reap

We were closed, as was the rest of the world during the pandemic. We spent the year 2022 making sure we were prepared to offer our guests the best Siem Reap experiences while also living up to Park Hyatt’s iconic ‘Luxury is Personal’ tagline. Park Hyatt is the ideal place to stay, whether you want to explore the area with our Cultural Insider tours, or just relax by the pool.