The name Siem Reap means the 'Defeat of Siam' — today’s Thailand — and refers to a century-old bloodbath, commemorated in stone in the celebrated bas relief carvings of the monuments. The name has also been translated as 'The Brilliance of Siam', as, for nearly 500 years, before the massacre, it was one of the main border crossings from Ancient Cambodia into Siam.
In 1901 the École Française d'Extrême Orient (EFEO) began a long association with Angkor by funding an expedition into Siam to the Bayon. In 1907 Angkor, which had been taken from Siam (Thailand) by force, was assigned to Cambodia. The EFEO took responsibility for clearing and restoring the whole site. In the same year, the first tourists arrived in Angkor - an unprecedented 200 of them in three months. Angkor had been 'rescued' from the jungle and was assuming its place in the modern world.
Siem Reap was little more than a village when the first French explorers re-discovered Angkor in the 19th century. With the acquisition of Angkor by the French, in 1907, Siem Reap began to grow, absorbing the first wave of tourists. The Grand Hotel d'Angkor opened its doors in 1929 and the temples of Angkor remained one of Asia's leading draws until the late 1960s, luring visitors like Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Kennedy. In 1975, the population of Siem Reap, along with that of the rest of the cities and towns in Cambodia, was evacuated by the communist Khmer Rouge and driven into the countryside.