Siem Reap is a city that started slowly, but has flourished in recent years as the gateway to the Temples of Angkor. And while many travel to South East Asia and rely on tour guides on the ground to provide historical context, there is something to be said about traveling with a knowledge of your destination before you arrive. history of Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
You understand your destination on a much more intimate level than other tourists who plan on only half listening to their guide. You have a greater appreciation of the culture, people and place, and can let your hands explore the stone relics of ancient civilizations knowing exactly what it took to carve and chisel these wonders of the world. Interesting facts about Angkor Wat
The following is a brief history of Siem Reap (the gateway to Ankor) to provide historical context before your trip. Facts about Siem Reap Cambodia
There is some evidence that the area around Siem Reap was occupied as far back as 1000 BC, with inhabitants living in much the same way as local villagers in modern Cambodia. History of Cambodia facts
The Angkorian Period
Between the 9th and 13th Centuries, the city of Angkor flourished and became one of the greatest cities in the world at the time, with an estimated million residents. Timeline of Cambodia’s history
Siem Reap, however, just 25 kilometres away, remained a small village and was still that way in 1860 when Henri Mahout visited Angkor, subsequently popularising this ancient site in the West. Facts about Siem Reap
A French Colony
In the late 1800s, the French signed a treaty with Siam and Cambodia became a French protectorate. In 1907, the French began to restore the temples and promote tourism to the archeological site at Angkor, which received about 200 visitors in the first three months of its opening. This also marked the official settlement of Siem Reap, and the French began building work in the small town. Things to know about the history of Cambodia
As tourist numbers to the temples at Angkor rose, so did visitors to Siem Reap, as this was the only place for visitors to stay on a trip to the temples. In 1929 the Grand Hotel d’Angkor opened and still exists, now under the Raffles brand.
In the 1950s and 60s, the temples of Angkor were one of Asia’s biggest drawcards and Siem Reap started to develop as the gateway city. In the late 1960’s the civil war all but stopped tourism to the temples and Siem Reaps slow growth also ceased. Cambodia timeline. Facts about Siem Reap
The Khmer Rouge Regime
Tourism ground to a halt when the Khmer Rouge regime led by Pol Pot took over in 1975, and drove the inhabitants of Siem Reap out to the countryside, as they did throughout Cambodia. Much of the town was destroyed during this period, but the shophouses in the old market and some of the colonial villas survived, along with the Grand Hotel D’Angkor.
The Vietnamese reinstated the city, but it was not until after Pol Pot’s death in 1998 that many residents returned, and with the returned stability the tourism industry began again to thrive and grow Siem Reap.
A Modern City Springs to Life
Cambodia started to grow economically and was back on the tourist map. Half of all visitors to Cambodia visit the temples of Angkor, with almost all of them staying in Siem Reap, making it one of the fastest growing cities in Cambodia. No longer a small village, it has flourished into a vibrant modern city, full of restaurants and bars, and a new breed of luxurious boutique hotel popping up all over town. Interesting things to know about Siem Reap
Not just a stopover on the way to temples, Siem Reap boasts a dining scene described as “lively and varied” by the New York Times, stylish hotels, and a flourishing arts community with designers and performers combining traditional arts with modern expression. History of Angkor Wat.
In 2006, an airport was built and these days, nearly 3 million passengers pass through it every year. Despite the fast growth in recent years, it has managed to maintain much of its culture, with the Old Qaurter retaining many colonial-style buildings. Interesting things to know about Cambodia
Siem Reap was voted the 4th best city in the world by Travel and Leisure Magazine in 2014. History of Cambodia and Siem Reap