Despite its typically audacious old school Khmer name (Siem Reap means victory over the Siamese), Siem Reap is a rather sedate provincial settlement. As you arrive in Siem Reap, notice the slower pace (it gets a lot slower in the countryside surrounding the city).
The Siem Reap restaurant and food scene is replete with casual eats for the locals and tourists traps for visitors. We seldom have our meals on Pub Street and it's a way too loud for our regular beer gatherings. For Khmer food, as elsewhere in Cambodia, the best stuff is home cooked.
Siem Reap is a city made of hotels and guesthouses. Some have the charm of the old Kleang, others the garrulous kitsch of nouveau riche owners. There isn't a day that goes by without some new hotels blossoming or wilting away. From $2 to $2000 dollars (a night with private pool), there is plenty of accommodation to choose from.
Cambodian diet is based on seafood and freshwater fishes and crustaceans. We are fish-eaters, we love dried fish and rice, fish sauce and rice, and if we have the money we eat crabs and shrimps and rice.
Visitors are often surprised to discover the average Cambodian will gladly make his melodious voice heard. There is in fact no such thing as closet singers in Cambodia, only karaoke singers.
There is a handful of performing troupes of Sbek Thom (literally large leather) shadow theatre in Phnom Penh and few more in the rest of Cambodia. Sbek Thom features two metre high leather puppets lit against a white screen by torches (or modern projectors), and a classical pin-peat music ensemble.
If there is one expression you should learn, it is Sok Sabay, which is used to greet people, ask how they fare, bid goodbye. Literally Sok means peace and Sabay means happiness.
A visit to the workshop shows throngs of young artisans carving figures from Khmer mythology out of wood and stone. Sculptures and statues are readily available for purchase but can also be tailored to order to snuggly fit your curio cabinet back home.
Whether shopping is your thing or not, you'll probably end up at the Old Market. Phsar Chas mainly caters to foreign visitors, although local city slickers are able to bargain Cambodian prices for the odd souvenir or t-shirt.
Away from the crowds, closer to local villages, these magnificent temples are wonders to behold for those who can take time to discover Angkor at their own pace. Children walk the buffaloes home, men plow their fields while you rest in the shade of dipterocarps.