Walk, Watch, Rest and Eat!
According to Trip Advisor 2016 travelers’ choice awards, Siem Reap (still) is people’s favorite destination in Asia! We are far from being surprised and would like to take this opportunity to remind why visiting Siem Reap is a once in a lifetime experience, from unusual and funny places to breathtaking landscapes.
That’s the reason why, after seeing more and more bloggers personal tops 3, 5,10 and more about “things to do in Siem Reap”, we decided to publish our own. You may already know some of the attractions below, but we are willing to bet that there are several of them you’ve never heard of!
Of course, the following top won’t include the most renowned majestic Angkor temples - number 1 for everyone, and forever - nor our own organization which is not the main topic of this article.
That being said… are you ready?
1. Phare (the Cambodian Circus – about 10min from city center)
A great example of a creative & trendy social business. If you are looking to enjoy a high-quality show with your loved ones, you won’t be disappointed.
Why we love it: Phare offers free vocational training in performing arts to Cambodian young people. The troupe performs every night an original play deeply related to local culture, thanks to talented musicians, expert dancing acrobats and beautiful backdrops. Needless to say that they reinvest their profits and donations into their social project. What touched us the most was the steady bond that all artists seem to have with one another; it’s like visiting a very happy family.
2. Bug’s Café (Insects Bar & Tapas – city center)
We have so many things to say about Bug’s Café: how friendly the owners are, how pleasant the terrace is, how good the food is, how varied the choice is, how fun the staff is… Let us tell you:
Why we love it: the founders decided to merge the Asian custom of consuming insects with high quality and fine cooking recipes; the result is impressive and surprisingly… delicious! If you never tried eating bugs before, this is the place to start with. And for the most reluctant, a “regular” menu – just as tasty - is also available ;)
What we preferred: the crickets and silkworm Wok with Mediterranean seasoning / the feta and tarantula samosas
3. Phnom Krom (Angkorian temple on top of a hill – about 30min from city center)
If you can rent a small motorbike, going to Phnom Krom is the most easy-to-reach peaceful and romantic excursion.
Why we love it: As the place is not extremely famous, it won’t be crowded - especially in low season. The road you will take to reach the hill is surrounded by Lotus flower grounds and rice fields. Moreover, Siem Reap is quite a flat city; it’s pleasant to be a bit higher for once (the view of the Tonle Sap lake is spectacular from there). The temple in itself may be very small, but it belongs to History: built at the end of the 9th Century during the reign of King Yasovarman, it is dedicated to the Hindu gods Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma.
What we preferred: the sunset upon the rice fields during the rainy season.
4. West Baray Lake (Resting area – about 25min from the city center)
Wanna enjoy the quiet atmosphere of a local beach but don’t have time to make it to South of Cambodia’s renowned littorals? You can find a back-up plan just next door.
Why we love it: It is surrounded by Nature and is 100% local: a few tourists, a lot of Cambodian people. You can rent a hammock in a shady place for nothing and even head out for a dip! The perfect place for a smooth afternoon of relaxation and board games, with your family and friends.
5. Kyung Yu Fun Fair (Night market & funfair – about 10min from the city center)
Speaking of local… here is another place where you won’t run into lots of western people. And yet, it is definitely a must see.
Why we love it: At Kyung Yu, you can have a drink with your friends in a festive ambiance, buy local clothes and goodies that you won’t find at the Old Market (and at the cheapest price), and enjoy a small but lovely fairground. If you feel like having a picnic time, it is also possible to rent a mat on the grass and sit comfortably to savor your street food.
6. Siem Reap’s Pagodas
Visitors often forget to drop by the pagodas that can be found at every corner in the city center and around. Yet, they all are worth seeing. It’s just the right activity for those who are looking for a very calm, spiritual atmosphere, and who love to admire wall paintings, offerings and sheltering statues. Here is a small selection of the pagodas we enjoyed the most:
- Wat Damnak - Maps
- Wat Polanka - Maps
- Wat Preah Prom Rath - Maps
7. Kaya Spa (Siem Reap city center)
After all these hours walking under the sunlight, you deserve a treat! A massage/body scrub and a fine meal will immediately refresh you. You can do both in one single place; how convenient!
8. The River Garden Hotel’s cooking classes (5min from Siem Reap city center)
Located in an area full of vegetation, this hotel definitely knows how to entertain people. Open to non-clients!
Why we love it: Besides their quiet pool that you can use for free (even if you don’t buy anything), The River Garden offers funny cooking classes for those who are too tired to keep walking through Cambodian ‘’jungle’’ but still want to experience something exciting. What’s quite unusual is that they first bring you to local markets in order to select and buy the ingredients, and then bring you back to the hotel for the Khmer cooking lessons. Only fresh products indeed!
9. Artillery Café (Vegetarian and organic Restaurant - Siem Reap city center)
One of the best choices to taste fresh, original, organic and not too expensive cooking. For natural and healthy food lovers.
Why we love it: The terrace beneath shady trees makes you feel like you’re far from the noisy city, although it’s located on the highly frequented Wat Bo Street. They manage to offer very healthy and light courses, full of vegetables, brown rice, quinoa… that are still really mouthwatering. No worries, the non-vegan still can enjoy meat add-ons.
What we preferred: Their homemade hummus and elaborated smoothies.
10. Cambodian Cultural Village (Theme Park – 15min from Siem Reap city center)
The perfect family trip.
Why we love it: This large park is composed of “artificial” villages, corresponding to diverse themes, events and cultures. You can revel in entertaining shows all day long, in lots of different and beautiful places. A final night show is scheduled every day. Going to Cultural Village is like visiting a playful and open-air museum, and a very easy way to learn Cambodian culture’s main specificities.
What we preferred: the Khmer Wedding ceremony show
We really hope you could find what you were looking for thanks to this top! There are a hundred more attractions that we couldn’t rank but that we love, as Siem Reap is overflowing with surprises, even in the most remote and small areas. Please share your favorite places in Siem Reap with us in the comments, and feel free to give us a feedback if you visited something on our advice!