Soooooo sorry that it has been a long while since I last posted on my blog. You see my external hard disk containing all my holiday photos died on me! And I had to spend some time and a lot of money to fix it. Anyhow, I managed to recover about 90% of all my photographs so I AM BACK!
This post will give people some ideas of Siem Reap. Besides Angkor Wat, there are in fact many other things to do if you don’t want to be “templed out” like me. Below is a list of suggested activities in Siem Reap if you are spending less than a week there.
1) Visit the Angkor Archaeological Park
Angkor Wat is the most famous temple in the Park but there are many other impressive buildings. The Park has a 1 day and 3 days passes at US$20 and US$40 respectively. If you like photography or wish to take more beautiful photographs while in the Park, you can also consider doing a photography tour like I did.
Here’s a tip: Buy your ticket in advance to avoid queues on the day of your visit. Also, if you buy the ticket after 5pm, you get to enter the park that same evening to watch the sunset which doesn’t count towards your 3 days! The entrance / ticket counters are a distance away from Angkor Wat so you have to arrange for your tuk-tuk driver to bring you inside after the purchase of the passes.
2) Cafés Hopping
The Siem Reap old town has a good number of cafes, some of which are run by NGOs or just some friendly people who want to help the local community.
Sister Srey Café faces one of the main roads and allows you to people watch and while your time away with a book. The café serves food and drinks with coffee seemingly one of the favourites among its customers. You can choose to sit either upstairs or on the ground floor.
New Leaf Book Café is hidden in a corner of a small lane, away from the relatively busy streets. I tried the Cambodian fried rice the first day I arrived and it was delicious!.
I even paid US$2 to watch a documentary on the Angkor Archaeological Park that night with unlimited pop corn and a drink. The documentary was shown in a room upstairs on a projector.
Unfortunately we didn’t manage to finish watching the show due to a power outage, which is a norm in the city by the way. I was glad that I brought a small torchlight with me!
Many other cafes are in the vicinity as well. For instance Café Central allows you to sit and people-watch since it is located right in the middle of the old town. I wanted to try the cupcakes at Blossom Café but was always too full whenever I passed by. So even though I was in Siem Reap for 5 days, I never get to eat the cupcakes… sad 🙁
3) Visit the Phsar Chas (Old Market)
The Old Market is also in the middle of the Old Town and you really get a feel for a real Cambodian market since everyone there is Cambodian! It has both a wet and a dry section. The wet section is mainly for the sale of vegetables, meat, etc. while the dry section sells souvenirs, snacks, etc.
Interestingly it seems dried meat is popular in Cambodia as well, if not Siem Reap. And they are not in any way less appealing than those in other Asian countries.
If you are buying anything here, especially souvenirs, please check the prices from a few shops first before you bargain!
4) Go for a massage or spa
Most hotels offer massage or spa services but there are other independent ones which have gained good reputation. Frangipani Spa has consistently received customers’ praises but it is not cheap. Upon a friend’s recommendation, I went to Kaya Spa which is located right in the Old Town. The packages are more affordable and the ambience was great. Although it may not be as popular as Frangipani, it is advisable to make a reservation before you turn up. Having a massage after a day out visiting the ruins can be very relaxing!
5) Day tour to one of the floating villages
There are three main floating villages on the Tonle Sap lake in Siem Reap with Chong Khneas being the nearest to Siem Reap, however this village has received some bad reviews for being too commercialized. Kampong Khleang on the other hand, is the least visited floating village probably because it is the most remote and is located further away from Siem Reap (about 40km).
Although it is a dusty drive which takes about 1-1.5hours by a tuk-tuk from Siem Reap, I personally highly recommend Kampong Khleang for a day tour since it is relatively untouched by tourism.
At the floating village you can see the houses built on high stilts, locals fishing on the lake, children rowing boats, etc. You can read more about my trip here.
6) Become a Volunteer
Siem Reap is one of the poorest city in Asia. Many NGOs and volunteering groups are active in Siem Reap and you can help to make a difference by giving a little bit of your time to participate in their activities like I did when I joined Soconomist in their teaching programme.
However, there have been a lot of reports about visiting orphanages which does not seem like a good idea. So do take into consideration the goals of the organizations before you participate in any of their programmes.
7) Phare, The Cambodian Circus
This Circus is part of a NGO which train the performers and help them gain employment. I wasn’t expecting a lot from the show but I have to say that some of the performers have attained at least 50% of what you would expect from Cirque du Solei. I was impressed.
There are daily shows which start at 8pm. However, since it is free seating make sure you get there about 10-15mins earlier to queue up for a good seat. If you are in a rush and need some food before the show, don’t fret. There is a café just outside of the performance venue and they serve hot food like fried rice and noodles and snacks. You can get alcoholic drinks here too if you want. AND, the Siem Reap famous Blue Pumpkin (ice-cream) is also available here.
Ticket cost: US$18
Venue: Big Top, behind Angkor National Museum – in front of Angkor Century Hotel
8) Roam around the night markets
If you wish to get souvenirs, the night markets are probably where you would want to go. I understand there are at least 2 night markets namely Angkor Night Market and Siem Reap Night Market. Both are in the Old Town area. I was walking around on New Year’s Eve and didn’t really know where I was going; there were simply too many people!!
There’s also a handicraft market which you need to cross a bridge from the old town to reach. You can find not only souvenirs, food and drinks in the night markets there are also big foot massage areas inside. Depending on the length of time, you can find foot massage starting from US$1 onwards but do read the small prints or ask before you walk in. You have been warned!
You can also choose to have a fishy foot massage where you let the tiny fishes in the tank nibble on your feet and help get rid of the dead skin. The fish tanks didn’t look too clean so I passed 🙂
9) Pub hopping
Ok I didn’t actually go pub hopping since I don’t drink. But I did walk around Pub Street. There are countless pubs and drinking holes in the area with some famous ones like Angkor What?, Miss Wong, Charlie’s Bar. So pick a few you like!
10) Try the street food
Weird food and street food seems to be very popular in Siem Reap. Spiders and snakes, anyone?
Keeping in mind my sensitive stomach, I ended up only trying something which is similar to crepe being sold along the main streets in the Old Town. Boring… I know.
Which ones would you dare to try?
There are other things you can do in Siem Reap, like driving the ATV, riding a horse or cycling around the villages. If you have time. get out there and explore Siem Reap!
Read more about my visit to the Angkor Archaeological Park here.