If you weren't informed beforehand you would never know you were in a city. Siem Reap is a place that offers out-of-this-world experiences, giving travellers insight to the innermost workings of Cambodia.
The gargantuan temples of Angkor Wat functioning as the main attraction but the city of Siem Reap has much more playing cards to add to the deck, and with it being rather small it makes it easy and affordable to get around the city.
You can either use a Tuk Tuk or services like Grab or PassApp, rent a motorbike, or even cycle around if you are looking to get up close and personal with the city.
Here are our list of top ten things to do in Siem Reap
The temples were built between A.D 1113 and 1150 and the site is one of the largest religious monuments ever made. “Temple City” is located approximately 6 km out of Siem Reap and is an absolute must-see for any visitors as the magnitude of the structure alone is awe-inspiring. Originally, Angkor Wat was built as a Hindu temple, dedicated to the god Vishnu, but was later converted into a Buddhist temple, and statues of Buddha were added to the already intricate design. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and remains one of the new 7 wonders of the world.
Tour prices start at $20, but can vary depending on the length, use of a guide and other factors, and can be arranged from all hours of the day.
Made in Cambodia Market
This is an authentic Khmer shopping experience without the tired trinkets and souvenirs that can be found at every other market.
At Made in Cambodia Market you get to experience and take in all original forms of art that benefit the local community, and support local artists. Discover handwoven silks, organic raw honey, products from Artisans D’Angkor, beautifully jewellery (fashioned from recycled goods), Rehash Trash products (all made from plastic bags), intricately designed gemstone jewellery, tasty locally made preserves and liquor, clothing brands that support local causes, a variety of 100% organic soaps and many, many more goodies.
Not so much a village but a few streets full of trendy, hot spots. The term village comes from the close sense of community that the fellow expats and locals share. It is definitely possible to spend an entire day spoiling yourself with treats and little pleasures. Wander around the streets to be greeted by friendly faces and an abundance of unexpected delights. Do not pass Tribe without enjoying a fresh cup of coffee (or a naughty cocktail) and taking a peek at the delightful art on display from local and international artists. You can even find the art on the walls of the surrounding alleys (the latest alley being Coconut Alley, named after the two local ladies selling fresh coconuts at the entrance).
Don’t limit yourself - Siem Reap is small enough to galavant all over with the shake of a lamb’s tail. Treat yourself to an exquisite, luxurious cocktail at Miss Wong before heading out, the decor is engrossing and will take you back to Asia in the roaring 20s. They have an extensive list of cocktails to try, and an array of homestyle Chinese dishes.
All along the river and its surroundings, there are wonderful places to relax during Happy Hour. Quench your thirst with an ice cold beer at Sway Away - your own beach experience in the middle of the city - or hop along to the different spots to get a taste of everything. If you’re looking to get more into a party mood, make your way to Pub Street, where all the buzz is. Don’t stay stuck in one place, hop from bar to bar to enjoy karaoke, and even a drag show or two.
If you’re interested in history and you like animals, boy do we have a combination for you. Apopo focuses on clearing the landmine fields all over the country. They are now primarily focused on Cambodia and have introduced African giant pouts rats to their team. These rats are masters of sniffing out unexploded objects and landmines alike. They work together with a team of people that use metal detectors and clear the land of any danger so it can once again be cultivated by villagers.
The tour is very informative, with an expert and friendly guide who goes into a detailed history of the Vietnam war and Khmer Rouge. Visitors can watch a live demonstration with one of the rats showcasing a step-by-step process. Inside the centre, there is a big display of unexploded objects and landmines, as well as a map of the world with a history of Apopo and their coverage dating back to 19 years ago.
It is also possible to “adopt a HEROrat” to show your support and help with funding the project.
Phare The Cambodian Circus
For an evening of endless entertainment, the Phare Cambodian Circus is an absolute must-see attraction in Siem Reap. The performers use theater, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories; historical, folk and modern. Phare The Cambodian Circus transforms the lives of Cambodian youth through the use of theatre, live music, dance and high- flying acrobatics The young circus artists captivate and astonish crowds with their energy, passion, emotion, and most talent.
Just a few minute’s drive from the city centre, one can peruse through the workshops of the many talented fine art students and artists. There are many different workshops where artists mould, carve and sculpt different materials like wood, stone, precious gems, and ceramics. They also work with silk and make beautiful jewellery. There are informative plaques everywhere to show you the entire process, making it an easy tour to enjoy by yourself.
Local Markets and Local Food
Local markets are always buzzing with people and is a great way to peek into the culture of Cambodia. The markets are filled to the brim with stalls that sell everything from fresh produce from all the provinces to gold jewelry and a variety of Asian-styled clothing. Be sure to walk through the streets and discover the street food. Just follow your nose, there is an abundance of them all over the city, and they offer a great selection of local yummies.
There are four main floating villages that are accessible to tourists. You can explore Chong Kneas, Mechrey, Kampong Phluk, and Kampong Khleang to have an experience like no other. See the houses standing high on stilts, pass through fields of lotus flowers, or even visit a crocodile and fish farm to discover more about the trade of Tonle Sap. It’s a unique experience, and a good, insightful way to see another side of life here in Cambodia.
Phnom Krom Mountain
It is possible to reach Phnom Krom mountain via motorbike or bicycle, and it comes highly recommended to do just that. Here you are surrounded by lush greenery, sights of local fishermen, children playing outside, and there are many spots to stops and pagodas along the way that make for beautiful photographs. Enjoy some drinks at the many huts located upon the lotus ponds, and be sure to head up to the top for sunset.
If you’re looking for a bountiful adventure while still connecting to an authentic Khmer encounter, this city should be a top priority.