Last updated on September 14th, 2017
Siem Reap is the provincial capital of Siem Reap Province. So when a Khmer says he’s going to Siem Reap, or that he lives in Siem Reap, it could either mean Siem Reap City or anywhere in the province (and that could be a long way from the city).
Siem Reap is a relatively small city, even by Cambodian standards. It is nowhere near as big as Phnom Penh or Battambang. And it definitely has far fewer Khmer than Long Beach, California. There are a few international flights to Siem Reap, from as far as Japan. But most foreign visitors (and local tourists) would have come from Phnom Penh by road, using one of the many “fast” bus on bad road services.
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).
VISITING SIEM REAP
Most people living in Siem Reap are not from the city proper. Hotel and tourism services employ a large number of Cambodians from Phnom Penh and the central provinces. How can you tell? The local twang is so thick and uses so many local words that it is easily distinguishable. Our Speak Khmer section will equip you with conversational expressions to break the ice.
The city gets swamped by foreign visitors during the high tourist season. Busloads of guided tours and charter planes from literally around the globe! We do get the loud thuggish harebrained types that drink all the cheap booze they get their hands on, drive quads in ricefields and walk around town bare chested aping their far more superior simian cousins. But fortunately for us, they’re an exception (mainly to be found on the infamous Pub Street that locals would dutifully avoid unless they work there). People who come here for fast paced night scene are in the wrong place. Siem Reap is merely the gateway to the Khmer soul, Angkor, the city that once was.