The Ultimate Guide To Siem Reap

March 8, 2017, 5:03 a.m.

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Here is all you need to know about temple town - Siem Reap province - the city specs, the key features and the latest real estate prospects and trends!

Overview

Siem Reap province, located in the north west of the Kingdom of Cambodia, is the nation’s major tourism draw card as the gateway to Angkor history. Each year, droves of visitors come to “temple town” to discover the heritage-listed Angkor Archaeological Park which contains a vast array of ancient temples from the Angkorian civilization, with the majestic 12th century Angkor Wat as the park's magnificent centerpiece. The province is the most popular tourist destination in Cambodia mainly owed to its proximity to the Angkor temples. Siem Reap city is located down South near the great Tonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and home to hundreds of species of birds and fish. This vast waterway was deemed the first Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1997 due to its rich biodiversity and in order to promote sustainability in the region. This area is also home to many Vietnamese and Cham communities living in floating villages around the lake. Siem Reap city center is a vibrant area boasting many luxury hotels, beautiful colonial buildings, a buzzing Pub Street and nightlife, markets, crafts and much more. Phnom Kulen National Park is also located in this province, approximately 48kms from Siem Reap town, and attracts visitors to its two waterfalls and the “river of 1000 lingas”, a carved riverbed abounding with unique insights into the 900BC culture in which it was created. The potential of this area is significant with strong growth potential in the tourism and service sectors as well as craft production, fisheries and of course real estate.

History

Siem Reap was once home to a powerful empire with a long and rich history, making the province an important cultural destination for tourists from around the world, and a mecca of sorts for all Khmer people. Siem Reap means something to the effect of “Siam defeated”, which is representative of the long standing rivalry between Cambodia and its neighbor Thailand - and Siem Reap as a major point of contest for each nation over the centuries. The Angkorian Empire dates back to around 800 BC. Over the next 600 years, powerful Khmer kings dominated much of present day South East Asia. During this period the Khmer rulers built most of the religious temples in the Angkor temple complex. When French pioneers discovered Angkor in the 19th century, Siem Reap was just a small rural community. This finding led to the first waves of international tourists to visit the region. Nowadays the region is a major draw card for history enthusiasts from far and wide eager to visit the UNESCO world heritage listed site - the Angkor Archeological complex, and step back in time.

Economy and Main Industries

In recent decades, Cambodia has seen incredibly forward progress, from an underdeveloped nation to a substantially more urbanized country. Pro-business government policies have helped attract foreign investment to the many different market sectors, including Offices and Commercial Development, Retail Development, Industrial Development, Residential Real Estate and Agricultural Development. According to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) the main industries in Siem Reap are tourism, services, handicrafts, food processing, agro-industries and, especially recently, construction.  

Key Areas of Development

Hot areas:

Pub Street and nearby lane ways are the pinnacle of demand for prime retail real estate thanks to a high turnover of affluent visitors, being the epicenter for the food and beverage industry. In Siem Reap, says Dave Murphy of IPS Cambodia, who has offices in both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap; prime retail real estate space is heavily centered around Pub Street, and the surrounding lane ways. “In a city with far fewer expats than Phnom Penh,” says Murphy, “this is where the money really gravitates for restaurateurs.” However, “It is becoming an extremely hard area to break into for new business ventures,” says Murphy, “as pub street has quickly been deemed prime retail real estate leaving few owners willing to sell, and rental rates climbing every new term.” This means new food and beveridge enterprises have no choice but to move off the main street, where rental rates are lower – but so is foot traffic. But, says Edward Carminati, managing director of Il Forno Restaurants in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, in fact, Il Forno’s less prominent retail space in Siem Reap, launched in 2011, located down a laneway off Pub Street, has been a blessing in disguise. “Our rental rates are more reasonable than on Pub Street, although growing fast, and, in fact, our location offers customer’s privacy, relative peace and tranquility, something very hard to offer when your restaurant sits directly on Pub Street. This keeps us well-reviewed, which makes tourist willing to come and find us off the main drag.” Four communes located in and around the Siem Reap town center, namely Sla Kram, Svay Dankum, Sala Kanraeuk and Kouk Chak, have shown the most overall growth over the last few years.

Real Estate: 

Situated approximately 314km northwest of the nation’s capital Phnom Penh on National road No.6, Siem Reap is large, estimated to be 10.299 kilometers squared. The province is divided into 11 districts with one central town and 13 Sangkats including 87 communes and 921 villages. The Siem Reap real estate market can be divided into 9 zones. See full report here . In 2015, land prices within residential areas within Siem Reap rose between 5-10 percent and in commercial belts process climbed up to 15 percent. It is speculated that the rise was due to increasing numbers of tourists visiting the region and a flow on effect positively impacted hotels, entertainment venues, retail outlets and the service sector. Property growth has been concentrated around Siem Reap Town which includes four key neighborhoods: Sla Kram, Svay Dankum, Sala Kanraeuk and Kouk Chak. Although rental prices in in the most popular parts of Siem Reap have increased quite swiftly in the last ten years, in a macro/broad sense the Siem Reap market for real estate is still developing. The Siem Reap real estate market is clearly promising choice for investors with healthy forecasts of increases in the value of the overall market.

Agriculture:

Siem Reap has fertile agricultural land making it a great option for farming and agriculture. An abundance of water and fertile land combined with affordable local labor creates significant opportunity for agricultural investment and development, such as in organic farming and agro-processing. Foreign partners bring not only capital, but also essential knowledge and skill to the table. The combination of forces is very often a win/win for both sides. Although land cannot be owned by foreign investors, access to land is readily available via 99-year leases and joint ventures where a local partner owns at least 51 percent of the equity. Some hot agricultural areas include: fisheries, rubber processing, sugar processing, jute, palm oil refineries, and large varieties of tropical fruits and organic produce.

Retail Properties on the Siem Reap Real Estate Market:

Siem Reap retail property prices peak in locations around the Old Market/Pub Street area thanks to the constant stream of tourists passing through this lively hub. Some tenants coming to the end of long leases in these popular areas have faced over 300 percent rent increases. However this is opening up properties for investors with sufficient funds to compete with new ideas for making the most out of their property. Limited lease lengths may mean higher risk exists for Siem Reap retailers when investing development capital into rented buildings and land for retail or commercial purposes. New businesses sitting on 5-10 year leases will naturally be reluctant to extend or dramatically refurbish current premises/buildings/infrastructure on that rental property, due to concerns over rental increases once their contract lapses.

Office Space on the Siem Reap Real Estate Market:

New developments are bringing increasing options for serviced and non-serviced office space in the city, but still nothing like the supply of Phnom Penh.

Residential Property on the Siem Reap Real Estate Market:

There is a host of affordable apartments, flats, villas and borey houses on offer in and around the Siem Reap city. There is also a growing collection of luxury condominiums and serviced apartments which are perfect for foreign investment. The city is compact and manageable for a first time buyer, with very encouraging rules for FDI.

Water Supply:

Water is predominantly city sourced in Siem Reap City and shortages can occur in the dry season. Many residents and businesses choose to drill a deep well in order to source their own water; however, the water may still require proper filtration after it is tapped. During wet season, Siem Reap is prone to flooding. Drainage infrastructure is improving significantly, especially around the tourism hotspots. The local government has worked hard to alleviate flood problems in Siem Reap so as not to disturb accessibility for visitors.

Roads:

Siem Reap infrastructure is developing fast in terms of road networks. The road networks connecting Siem Reap to other major Cambodian centers have inadequate and an impediment to the city’s expansion, making travel across the country arduous. The roads of Siem Reap and those connecting to Phnom Penh, the temples, Battambang, Kep and Kampot have are currently undergoing development, much of which is nearing completion. However the road servicing Phnom Penh to Siem Reap continues to slow travel times compared to other main national roads due to being too narrow, in poor condition in some parts and not able to cope with the volume of traffic. The government has been in the process of the necessary widening of this road for the past few years.

Tourism/ Hotels:

Tourism is thriving in Siem Reap and it is only set to expand. Siem Reap was ranked as the world’s second best holiday destination in 2015 by TripAdvisor.com. The province draws in over two million local and international tourists each year. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the province attracted more than 2.3 million foreign tourists in 2015, a slight increase from 2.2 million the year before. Mass-Asian tourism ventures are a somewhat new force in the Siem Reap tourism and property market, as Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and other Asian entrepreneurs/investors are choosing to monopolize their parts of the Siem Reap tourism economy. The number of hotels doubled in 2015 compared to the previous year demonstrating that the tourism growth rates remain healthy in the province and look set to continue. According to the Ministry of Tourism, there are now 186 hotels in Siem Reap with a total of 12,053 rooms, as of the end of September 2015, with 14 five-star hotels and 25 four-star hotels.

Weather, Climate and Geography

The province of Siem Reap is 10,299 square kilometers and located in the Northwest of the kingdom; bordering with the Northern province of Oddor Meanchey, Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom towards the East, Banteay Meanchey to its West, and down South featuring the largest freshwater reserve in South East Asia, the Tonle Sap Lake. The southern region of the province consists of wet plains which is rich in rice plantations and other agricultural fields, thanks to the yearly overflow of the Tonle Sap. Vast green vegetation and forests defines the north of the province. Siem Reap has a tropical climate with average temperatures rarely falling below 30C in any given month and a fairly long wet season - which starts in April and extends into November. The city averages approximately 1500 mm of rainfall per year.

Population and Demographics

According to the Department of Tourism, there are approximately 903,030 people living in Siem Reap Province, which accounts for 6.3 percent of Cambodia's total population, with a 3 percent annual birthrate. The population density sits at around 83.9 people per km2. The gender ratio is almost equal with 51 percent of the people living in Siem Reap being female and 49 percent being male. Due to the past civil war and genocide, Cambodia have a very young population. The average age is 21 years old, and it is estimated that around 50 percent of the population is younger than 25 - which means the region has a particularly young and energetic workforce.

Entertainment Attractions

Shopping: 

Siem Reap offers an excellent range of options to buy Cambodian souvenirs, handicrafts, textiles and art. The various markets scattered throughout the city center cater for tourist tastes. The Old Market still has the best range of souvenirs. For more quality products, there are a great selection of specialist stores, boutiques and galleries selling handmade goods including silks, carvings, paintings and other crafts. A visit to a nearby silk farm is also a good idea for those curious about the production of Khmer silk where products are available for purchase directly.

Dining: 

Siem Reap offers a large array of dining options from market street food to NGO restaurants, international fine dining to brunch eateries. Because of the huge tourist traffic flow, all types of cuisine can be found in central Siem Reap - but remember, tourist-tailored shops also have tourist-tailored price tags.

Nightlife:

Siem Reap offers a thriving nightlife and bar scene mainly concentrated around Pub Street, its adjoining laneways and the Old Market area. There are venues to cater for all manner of tastes.

Angkor Archaeological Complex: 

The Angkor Archeological Complex is described by UNESCO as “a major site exemplifying cultural, religious and symbolic values, as well as containing high architectural, archeological and artistic significance.” The complex is considered a living heritage site as the local population still inhabits parts of the area and the whole complex spans a vast 400 meters squared. It houses multiple splendid remains from the Khmer Angkorian civilization. It’s difficult to see this complex on foot as temples are scattered all over the complex, some with significant distances between them, therefore it's best to hire a private taxi, tuk tuk, motorcycle, bicycle or minivan to get around. Here are just a few highlights of this great site:

Angkor Wat:

Angkor Wat is the main attraction within the heritage site due to its sheer size and breathtaking Khmer aesthetic. It is believed that the shrine was constructed as both a temple and mausoleum for King Suryavarman II in the 12th century in honor of Lord Vishnu the Hindu deity.

Angkor Thom: 

Built at the turn of the 12th century by King Jayavarman VII, who was considered Angkor’s supreme ruler, the fortified city of Angkor Thom is surrounded by five gates with a set of 54 gods and demons outside each one. In the center of the city are some of the most principal monuments including the unmistakable Bayon and Baphuon temples, the Royal Enclosure, Phimeanakas and the Terrace of Elephants.

Bayon: 

The unique Bayon temple, with its ever distinctive gigantic motif of serene stone faces featured on many towers, is one of the most popular spots for tourists after Angkor Wat.

Ta Prohm:

The Ta Prohm temple ruins are instantly recognizable as they have been absorbed into the jungle surroundings with massive tree roots growing in, over and around the structure. The temple was the backdrop in the famous Hollywood blockbuster “Tomb Raider” starring Angelina Jolie, making it a favorite with visitors from all around the globe.

Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve:

The Tonle Sap Biosphere Reserve is listed as a protected area, as prescribed by UNESCO, and consists of a large freshwater lake and its floodplain, approximately 10kms away from the Angkor temple complex. The bird communities are the most striking natural feature, particularly in the dry season when they colonize every piece of open water, guaranteed to enchant avid bird watchers. The rarest stork in the world, the Greater Adjutant, can be found in the waterways, along with more than 400 species of fish, as well as many species of mammals and reptiles. This area is vital for the economy of Cambodia, since its fisheries provide 80 percent of the protein consumed within the country and houses some sixty floating villages on the lake and its edges. This is a prime eco-tourism hotspot.

Angkor National Museum:

The state-of-the-art Angkor National Museum holds a large collection of selected pieces on loan from the National Museum in Phnom Penh and the Angkor Conservation office, covering both the pre-Angkorian of Funan and Chenla, and post-Angkorian periods. Displays are themed by era, religion and royalty. Sculptures in stone, wood and bronze are exquisitely displayed highlighting their impressive features. Architectural motifs and elements are also part of this beautiful collection. Presentations include touch-screen video, epic commentary and the chance to experience a panoramic sunrise at Angkor Wat.

Phnom Kulen National Park:

The Phnom Kulen National Park is an area rich in cultural heritage and considered the birthplace of the early Khmer empire. The region houses an active pagoda and giant reclining Buddha, waterfalls and a river bed (known as Kbal Spean in Khmer) containing ancient carvings of “1000 lingas,” a collection of phallic motifs that pay homage to the Hindu God Shiva. It’s located about 2 hours from the Siem Reap town center and costs USD 20 to enter the park.

Schools & Educational Institutes

Siem Reap’s educational facilities are still somewhat limited compared with the capital Phnom Penh, but there are some good international school options including the International School of Siem Reap, Smart Kids International School, Australia Pacific International School and Western International School. Siem Reap also has a number of universities, including Angkor University, Siem Reap University of South East Asia and Pannasastra University of Cambodia.

Healthcare

Siem Reap has a number of international standard hospitals and clinics – including the international standard Thai-managed Royal Angkor International Hospital, which is affiliated with Bangkok Hospital Medical Center. For expats, this hospital offers ambulance and medevac services. Other option include the British Khmer Clinic, offering English-speaking primary care services, and Naga Clinic, which provides a broad range of medical care with multilingual doctors. There is a decent range of general dentistry clinics that are also available, offering full dental services including Pachem Dental Clinic and the International Dental Clinic.

Key Transport Services

The city does not have any form of public transport. However, motor-taxis (moto-dops) and tuk tuks are readily available. There are few places in central Siem Reap where you won’t be solicited for a moto-dop or tuk tuk ride! Siem Reap is accessible by direct flights from many Asian cities, thanks to the international airport, and by land from Phnom Penh and the Thai border. It’s also accessible by boat (via the Tonle Sap Lake) and bus from Phnom Penh and Battambang.

Boats: 

River ferries between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are offered daily. During the dry season, the ferry stops short of the dock in Siem Reap leaving passengers to travel the final short passage by smaller boats. The Siem Reap ferry Dock is located at Chong Khneas, 12 kilometers south of the city center. Ferries depart 7am daily from the Phnom Penh Port at the riverside area on Sisowath Quay, and 7am from the dock in Siem Reap. The trip takes between 4-6 hours.

Flights: 

Siem Reap International Airport is approximately 6 kilometers from the city center. There are regular flights to/from Siem Reap to international destinations such as Bangkok, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Manila, Vientiane, and domestically between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville.

Roads: 

Many transport companies offer buses and minivans to and from Siem Reap and is very affordable. The trip between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap can take up to 7 hours to complete due to varying road and traffic conditions. This transport can be booked through travel agencies, guesthouses, hotels and directly with bus companies. Private air-conditioned taxis are easily booked and readily available through accommodation providers, transport and individual operators, and these will make the trip a bit faster. By road from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap can be reached by National Highway No. 6. Overland crossings occur from Thailand via the Aranyaprathet/Poipet border.

Types of Property

If you are looking for prime retail space, industrial properties or serviced offices for your business, Siem Reap has a growing number of offerings. This tourist hotspot is compact and manageable for a first time buyer, with very encouraging rules for foreign investors.  

Condos and apartments for sale & rent:

The latest breed of luxury condominiums are tailored to the demand of international investors, who are able to buy condos and apartments in Cambodia - as long as they are in a co-owned building and above the first floor. Many options exist in Siem Reap city and its surrounds with swimming pools and gym facilities.

Services apartments for rent:

Catering to the high-end expat market primarily, Siem Reap has a small range of serviced apartments available. These properties are fully furnished, and come with a range of services designed to make life easier and more pleasant - for long or short term stays.

Flat houses for sale and rent:

Highly popular with locals, flat houses are the still the most popular choice for a home in Cambodia. They are affordable, able to be used for multiple purposes, and usually include the land ownership in the title. They are also good option to combine living space with a retail or food and beverage business.

Villas for sale and rent:

Colonial-style villas are available for investment in and around the city center. Choose to make it your next home or convert into a boutique-style hotel or guesthouse.

Boreys:

Borey homes are essentially homes within a township development, a type of gated community. They can be villas, flat houses or link houses. All infrastructures is supplied by the developer, and each buyer can buy a property within the borey with individual hard title over that land plot. Normally, bores also offer community facilities for all buyers to use. 

Government Authorities and Emergency Services

Police:

The Tourist Police have an office opposite the ticket booths for the Angkor Archaeological Park and can be contacted by telephone on (012) 402 424. They have a reputation for being helpful, and can speak English.

Fire Department:

Located by the airport, call the hotline on +855 12 784 464. Find more info on Siem Reap emergency services here.

Post:

Siem Reap’s main post office in is on Pokambor Avenue, beside the Siem Reap River. Opening hours are from 7:00 am till 5:30 pm every day. Travel agents and some guesthouses may also offer to post your mail for a small fee.

Government:

Information of the Siem Reap city hall can be found here. And their official website is located here.

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