Siem Reap, Cambodia is best known for the temples at the Angkor complex. Whilst the complex is the main thing to see here and you should allocate at least three days to do so, there are plenty of other activities to be done whilst in the city! In this post I share 8 things to do in Siem Reap.
1. VISIT THE ANGKOR NATIONAL MUSEUM
Before heading to Angkor it is worth stopping by the Angkor National Museum to learn about the history of the Khmer Kingdom and the art and architecture that came with it. “During the Golden Era of the Khmer Kingdom, one of the ancient civilisations of this world was being created. It was the origin of Khmer art, culture, and architecture. These great inventions became one of the few wonders of the world that still amaze people throughout generations and that still hold a great impact in present Cambodia society. Angkor National Museum takes pride in revealing the royal historical path of this Golden Era of the Khmer Kingdom.”
Price: US $12
Tips: Go mid afternoon, around 3pm or 4pm.
2. GO TO THE PHARE CIRCUS SHOW
The Phare Circus opened in 2013 under a 330 seat big top. The audience are entertained by Phare, the Cambodian Circus performers who use theater, music, dance and circus arts to share historical, modern and folk Cambodian stories. The artists all graduated from Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPSA), an NGO school and professional arts training center in Battambang, Cambodia.
The PPSA was originally started in 1994 by nine young Cambodian men who returned from a refugee camp after the fall of the Khmer Rouge and wanted to teach drawing classes to young children as they had found art to be a powerful tool for healing. They quickly opened a school, which now has over 1,200 pupils who are educated in visual arts, theater, music, dance, and circus.
Price: US $18 Section C; $25 Section B; US $35 Section A
Tips: If you choose unreserved seating in Section C, arrive before 7.30pm ahead of the door opening so you are first in to get a ringside seat. Your view will be as good as Section A!
3. RECEIVE A BLESSING
In Cambodia where Buddhism is practiced by around 90% of the population, it is very common to see monks and lots of temples. One of the staff at our hotel kindly took us to receive a blessing at a nearby temple. First you buy the lotus flowers to be given as an offering, and then enter the temple for the blessing. You spend a few minutes in silence, making your own prayers before placing the flowers for Buddha. You can also receive a monks blessing where you will be lightly sprinkled with water whilst they chant blessings of good luck and safety.
Price: Around US $5 for lotus flowers and the minimum donations, you can of course give more.
Tips: Ask at your hotel if someone can take you so you are not part of a big tour group. There is no need to pay for an expensive tour.
4. EXPLORE THE LOCAL MARKET
Sitauted in the center of Siem Reap you will find the covered local market square. This is a place for locals to shop and buy food. At the very centre of the market you can wander through the noisy fresh fish and meats section, where women sit atop of the tables cutting meats in front of you. This is a real local market, not one designed for tourists so make sure to stand by and watch as daily life happens in front of you.
Tips: Bring your camera! This is a perfect opportunity to capture some great travel shots, be sure to ask permission, but most are happy to be photographed.
5. AFTERNOON TEA & MASSAGE AT THE PARK HYATT
After a few days visiting the temples of Angkor, trust me you will be in need of a break! I suggest adding an extra day off between your temple days to relax and unwind. We spent a day at the Park Hyatt Siem Reap enjoying time in their two swimming pools, indulging in afternoon tea at The Living Room followed by an hour long massage at their beautiful spa.
Price: Afternoon Tea US $25pp; Massage from US $60
Tip: Make an advance reservation for afternoon tea, this is a popular activity in Siem Reap and can get booked up.
6. GLIDE ALONG THE FLOATING STILT VILLAGES
There are a number of floating villages that can be visited from Siem Reap and this is a popular day trip outside of the city. Kampong Khleang is regarded as most authentic, but you can also visit Kampong Phuc or Chong Kneas, however there are many bad reports about Chong Kneas so I would probably skip this one!
Price: Around US $20 pp
Tips: Research the company you go with and which village you want to visit. Some are more touristic than others.
7. HORSE RIDING, QUAD BIKING OR CYCLING
If you are interested in exploring outside of the main town into more rural areas then you can choose from horse riding tours with The Happy Ranch, quadbiking or cycling. Whilst I didn’t personally have time on my trip to do this, I heard from many people it was a wonderful expereince where you get to explore beautiful rice fields and alternative temples that you won’t see whilst visiting Angkor.
Price: Dependent on activity and tour company. Many hotels offer bicycles for free.
Tips: Make sure you allow enough days to include these activities, as well as a break. Cambodia can be very hot and you will need some down time.
8. DRINK AT PUB STREET
Over the years tourism in Siem Reap has increased dramatically, and with that comes a lively centre to the city where many visitors spend their evenings. Pub Street, is recognised easily by the neon signs that stretch from one side of the street to the other! But you would hardly miss it, as this area is in the centre of Siem Reap where the majority of restaurants and bars are situated. If being in the centre of the activity is your thing, then head here to sip on an Angkor beer!
Price: Dependent on place
Tips: Don’t get too drunk.
I hope that you found this post useful in planning your own trip to Siem Reap. I highly recommend leaving yourself a few days for activities away from the main temples, to expereince more of the local culture and to give yourself a little break! Please share you own tips with our readers in the comments below!
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