The top things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia
The top things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia
So, you're finally getting yourself to Cambodia to visit the magnificent Angkor Wat. You've got a couple of days to spend in Siem Reap while you visit the temples. What to do?
What's that you said? You haven't booked a trip to Cambodia yet?
OK, are you back, with trip all booked? Good, then here we go, our suggestions for an epic Siem Reap experience.
Different ways to see Angkor
Let's take it as a given that you're visiting Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples. Definitely tour the temples with a local guide – you really need their insights into the symbolism and architecture to get the most out of your visit. Here are some other ways of getting around.
Hire bikes in Siem Reap and cycle out to Angkor Wat (it's about six kilometres). Your wheels will make it easy to cover the distances between the temples – and you'll be able to visit some of the less popular temples, which is well worth doing.
Get up before sunrise, put your Nikes on, pack some water and head off. You can run to Angkor Wat from Siem Reap, or get a tuk-tuk to the park and run there. It's pretty flat and if you are early enough, the heat won't knock you over.
If you plan your trip right, you could join the annual Angkor Marathon (December 5-6, 2015). It's a 21-kilometre course around the temples, including Angkor Wat, South Gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon, Ta Prohm and Banteay Kdei. There are also shorter runs, family runs and wheelchair events.
Yes, it does seem a little weird that an operator has been allowed to set up a zipline within Angkor Park. But hey, it's Asia. Take advantage of its quirky ways. This two-hour course of 10 ziplines and four hanging bridges is a pretty fun jungle experience.
Things to do in Siem Reap
Angkor National Museum
As you might be able to tell from the name, this is a museum dedicated to the temples of Angkor. A fully airconditioned building makes this a great middle-of-the-day activity.
Go to the museum before you head out to Angkor, as you'll learn quite a bit about the history and layout of the park, which will improve your temple-wandering experience.
Cambodian cuisine is less well-known than that of its neighbours, but it's a pretty delicious affair featuring fresh herbs, pepper and spices. The best-known Cambodian dish is probably Amok Trey, a scrummy fragrant steamed fish curry.
You can learn how to cook Amok Trey and a bunch of other dishes in Siem Reap on this Cambodia Food Adventure. (One of the highlights of this particular trip is staying in a Khmer stilted house and cooking and eating a traditional dinner with a local family. Brilliant experience.)
Phare the Cambodian Circus
Cambodia has a gruelling recent history and one thing that will astonish you when you visit is how much generosity of spirit you will find – people are doing good and helping others in so many ways. Phare the Cambodian Circus is a great night out – Cambodian cultural stories, music, dance, acrobatics and circus performances.
And it's a great cause – the circus aims to reinvigorate Cambodia's modern art scene while providing employment to Cambodian youth with difficult backgrounds. It's a great organisation and a dazzling, high-energy show.
Siem Reap can be a mighty sweaty place come afternoon, so while 'swimming pools' might not sound like the great cultural adventure you're after, you'll come to appreciate that it's a pretty realistic option once you're there.
Many hotels have their own pool but if yours doesn't, or if you're looking for a change of scene, get yourself to one of the glam pools of town. Most have a standard day rate of a few dollars to use their pools. Put on your togs and take a dip, then grab a cocktail at the poolside bar and chill out.
Siem Reap is brimming with spa centres and massage services. You'll be a weary traveller after a day or two of temple hopping and a good massage could be just the right pick me up.
Do a north-of-the-city day trip
Hire yourself a taxi (preferably one with a charming, chatty, local driver) and head out north for a mega-sightseeing day trip.
This museum is dedicated to telling the story of the horror of landmines and the work of clearing them for years after the war (which is still going today). There are four galleries displaying an array of ordnance and the visit will both sadden and inspire you. Don't hold back on the donations, as the museum also houses and supports disadvantaged kids.
Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre
If you don't think being in a fully netted tropical garden surrounded by free-flying native butterflies sounds awesome, you're a person with no joy. Or you are possibly part android.
More temples but it's worth the temple overload to visit Banteay Srey. These elaborately carved red sandstone temples are like a mini fairytale version of Angkor Wat. The energy here was put into the carved decorations rather than the scale and it's a favourite with plenty of visitors.
Don your low-slung belt of explorer's tools for this one – it's a crumbling temple that has been overrun by jungle. Clamber over the collapsed stonework, explore dark passages and push your way past jungle vines. A genuine scrambling exploration of a beautiful old site.
Places to eat and drink
New Leaf Book Cafe
A quiet and cosy retreat from the hustle of town, this is a place to relax and tuck into a curry and a mango smoothie while you read a book from its second-hand book collection. All profits are donated to local charities – these good people are doing everything right.
The Little Red Fox Espresso
A cool little coffee house run by ex-Brisbane hipsters. There's music playing, plenty of people and a boutique hair salon upstairs. But really, it's all about the coffee. Good coffee can be hard to come by in South-East Asia, but you're in capable hands here. (And they train disadvantaged youth so your cold-extraction coffee dollar is going to a good cause.)
Another fine place that trains disadvantaged street kids to work in hospitality. You might go to support a worthwhile cause, but you'll go back again for the food. Absolutely scrummy Khmer cuisine in a beautiful environment. A winner.
Asana Old Wooden House
A traditional Cambodian house on stilts in the middle of town, you could easily dismiss this place as kitsch. But it really is an authentic old building and it's got a cool, laid-back vibe with jazz playing and lounge chairs and hammocks for chilling. There's a full cocktail bar upstairs where you can take a Khmer cocktail course, learning about making drinks with local spices. A good fun evening.
Sale on Cambodia tours
Right now, we have a sale on Cambodia tours, so if you've ever wanted to see Angkor Wat or explore all that Cambodia has to offer, now is the time. Get on board.
Check out the sale or talk to us at My Adventure Travel to get your travel plans locked down.