1. Obviously one of the most like-able things about Siem Reap, Cambodia are the ancient ruins. Most people know about Angkor Wat but there are several others: Bayon Temple, Ta Phrom, Angkor Thom, Elephant Terrace, etc. Though Angkor Wat was thick with tourists by mid-morning on the day we visited, we had many of these other places all to ourselves. I can't really describe how astounding it truly is to behold and even walk around some of these nearly 900(ish) year-old ruins. If, as you're walking around, you think about how these places were just happened upon one day by a French naturalist dude, it seems even more amazing.
History of Angkor Wat: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170309-the-mystery-of-angkor-wat
2. Super bike-able. Most of the temples are relatively within the same area. A lot of travel bloggers recommend hiring a tuk-tuk driver for the day to go exploring and we noticed a lot of people doing this. Tuk-tuks are a great option for people who want to go full-hog and see ALL of Siem Reap in a day (it's also a great way to boost the local economy). However, opting to take things slow and get in a little exercise, we chose to use the janky-ass bikes offered by our AirBnB and I'm so glad we did. The bike riding was fun, not too difficult, and it was nice to be on our own schedule. It was also pretty great to zoom by tuk-tuk traffic jams at some of the major temples and sites. We did, however, miss out on the Cambodia Landmine Museum and that's kind of a bummer.
3. Varied landscape. Some parts of Siem Reap were super dry and dusty while others were deep-green jungle. It was pretty cool to experience both within a few hours.
4. Good, cheap booze. Coming from Thailand where a bottle of bathtub wine is equivalent to $20 USD, the cheap, yummy beer and cocktails were nice. By chance, we ended up going to this place: http://www.misswong.net/ one night and it. was. bomb.
5. Easy travel. Siem Reap is a great "pass through" place for backpackers and travelers heading to other destinations in SE Asia. There are a ton of tour companies where you can book cheap buses to Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.
6. Day passes. Visitors can purchase 1,2, and 3 day passes for entry to all the temples in Siem Reap. Tickets range from $37-$72 USD per person. The prices have increased in recent years but we thought it was totally worth it. We managed to see everything we wanted to see in a day but admittedly, we were zonked by nightfall. A two or three day pass might be good if you're a meander-er.
Check here for up-to-date info on tickets: https://www.siemreap.net/visit/angkor/practical/hours-admission/
7. Accepted currency. In Siem Reap, vendors take USD, Cambodian Riel, and sometimes even Thai Baht. Cards are rarely accepted so bring all the cash (warning about carrying cash under "dislikes").
Keep scrolling to discover our dislikes...
1. Crispy money? As novice travelers, we had not yet received the memo about developing countries' obsession with new, unblemised cash bills. We learned the hard way that vendors and money exchange services will not accept bills-of any denomination- with creases, folds or tears. So, if you're like us and tend to shove your change into sweaty pockets: be warned. Keep your money fresh and crispy.
2. Spiders (and bugs). We stayed in a pretty basic homestay. Like, straw hut with a too-small mosquito net basic. There was a man-hand-sized spider on the wall for the duration of our stay. Jonathan named him but it wasn't my favorite part of the trip. Also, bring mosquito repellent. Usually I'm an essential-oils kinda girl but I was rockin' the 100% deet in Siem Reap.
3. Expensive? We routinely paid anywhere from $8-$10 USD per person for a meal. This may not seem expensive but it was more than we're used to paying for local food in Thailand. A few of our friends were confused when we reported how much we paid for stuff so maybe we weren't looking in the right places.
4. Over-developed. The downtown part of Siem-Reap is super touristy. There were way more Western restaurants, bars, discotheques and shops than I expected. They're definitely trying to cater to the young (in body or in spirit) and the travelers who like to eat hamburgers in every country they visit.
5. Face-melting heat. This place was HOT. And I live in Bangkok...having moved from PHOENIX. The heat really did feel like it was on a whole new level. Bring the biggest re-usable water bottle you can find (or a filtering straw).
6. Aggressive hawkers and scammers. I've had a little experience with hawkers in Thailand and pretty aggressive hawkers in Vietnam but man these people were INSISTENT. You can't blame people for trying to make a living but it did get pretty exhausting. A few hawkers went so far as to following us for a few blocks (at night) and yelling about a foot away from our face (just trying to get us in a tuk tuk). The scamming and petty theft is pretty bad too. I saw women (more than one) throw themselves in front of cars and kids obviously pretending to be hit by motorbikes, presumably so tourists will stop and "help" them. I still struggle with knowing whether I'm being callous or just smart when it comes to handling this stuff. It gets hard.
That's pretty much it. Thanks for reading!
Hearts and Stuff,