Siem Reap – Beyond Angkor Wat

Floating Village, Siem Reap

Naturally, Siem Reap is best known for being home to Cambodia’s top tourist attraction, Angkor Wat.  

That being said, Siem  Reap, not only offers this monumental temple for folk to flock to see. There’s still some lesser known places most people who visit agree, not one of them ‘s left disappointed but glad of the chance to have been.

Good planning ahead of arrival relieves any need to feel rushed. Take the time to unwind, put your feet up. Relax, so your body adjusts. The heat can be very exhausting. It’s best to keep out of the sun.  Remember that water’s important, so drink as much as you can.

What to do in Siem Reap

Siem Reap’s Attractions and Activities

There are plenty of places to see besides the main attraction, Angkor Wat. Siem Reap isn’t short of enticing activities. You will find a multitude of inviting opportunities to choose between.  The selection is broad enough to suit people of all ages and interests. Activities such as cycling,  quad biking,  relaxing massage and boat trips are all recommended. Furthermore, is the opportunity to take a cooking class or simply the pleasure of sitting in peace to watch the sun as it sets. We recommend a boat trip to visit a floating village, Angkor National Museum or some of Siem Reap’s less famous temples.

Tonle Sap

Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater Lake. The lake was designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1997. Taking a boat trip on the lake gives you an entirely different way of seeing this part of Cambodia. Cruising along by boat you will get a glimpse of rural life away from the city’s hustle and bustle. You’ll learn about the fishing villages, local Khmer culture and the history of your surroundings.

Small group tours are family friendly. You will benefit from having a personal guide who will offer you a professional and informative day out. Boat trips are a wonderful way to experience rural life. As you sail along and passing you by there are pagodas, floating markets and fishing boats, even schools. There are hundreds of floating villages on Tonle Sap. Whole communities living on the lake. You’ll see the fishermen, their families and a distinctly different way of life. There are houses built on stilts. Built in this way so as to avoid the flooding during the rainy season.

Temples to see after Angkor Wat

Beyond the renowned Angkor Wat, is the Bayon with its smiling faces and Ta Phrom. You can deepen your knowledge about the fables, myths and incredible stories of the history around Angkor.

Suryavarman II built  Beng Mealea as a Hindu temple. Beng Mealea (“Lotus Pond”) Temple is hidden in a maze of jungle. It dates back to the early 11th Century.

On the way back to Siem Reap, you can visit Banteay Srei and the temple complexes of Beng Mealea. The  Banteay Srei are pink sandstone monuments of extraordinary value and stature. Hidden like a fairy palace in the heart of an immense and mysterious forest. Built in the tenth century and dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.

Carved in the niches are male and female figures. All exquisitely executed in both style and proportion. Reminders of a bygone era, where the importance of the Gods and the wishes to obey the ruler were more important than anything.

Architecturally, Beng Mealea is noted for its innovative construction of hallways. It was a very large temple with wide galleries. This is the most Indian of all the temples in Angkor. A proper dress code applies for visitors here as it does for all temples. The holy sanctum of Banteay Srei (The Citadel of Women) is a very enchanting temple. Also one of the jewels in this remarkable city. In one section, Yama, the god of death, points out the upper and lower roads that take mortal spirits to heaven or hell.

Hire a tuk-tuk in Siem Reap

Anyone who has visited Cambodia before will know that the amount of tuk-tuk drivers offering their services is often overwhelming. However, don’t be discouraged. Tuk-tuks are, in essence, local taxis that can be used all day or merely to get around town.  Tuk-tuks in Cambodia are typically the way to get around.

$2 gets you anywhere in the main town, while good negotiators should be able to talk drivers down even lower for smaller distances. Tip the driver well and you’ll have a friend for life in addition to an enthusiastic and genuine tour guide who will show you the best of Siem Reap.

Tours are arranged directly with your hotel. Drivers will collect you from your hotel, in town or from Angkor Wat Tuk Tuk Tours or Siem Reap Tuk Tuk Driver.

A tour of Angkor’s small circuit temples can be booked for around $15. There is also a new app available for your smartphone in Cambodia called PassApp. It is worth downloading when you get here as the LPG run tuk-tuks are smaller but significantly cheaper than the traditional ones.

Siem Reap’s Old Market

At the Old Market (Phsar Chas in Khmer) you get a feel for what a real Cambodian market is like. Lined by baskets of spices and colourful arrays of fresh produce. Crispy fried tarantulas and meats from oysters to chicken feet create a bizarre food carnival!

If you’re looking for street food, there are hawkers selling all kinds of local and international foods. These include fried banana kebabs, roasted corn on the cob, or banana-chocolate pancakes. If you’re busy during the day, visit the Angkor Night Market which is less traditional but great for clothes and souvenir shopping.

Old Market Area; 5 a.m.–6 p.m. and for the best food vendors walk between Street 9, Street 11, 2 Thmou St. and Pokombor Avenue

Get a Fish Foot Massage

After a long day of trekking around temples, you will be more than ready to give your worn-out feet a rest.  Relax and prepare for the next day’s adventures. Spas offering reflexology, massages and more can be found at any hotel and at many private spas dotted around Siem Reap town. Indochine’s traditional treatments are particularly recommended.

If you’re looking for a cheaper option head down to the Pub Street area which is lined with dozens of shops. A half-hour reflexology treatment runs about $5, or try a “fish massage” — tiny fish will nibble dead skin from your toes. The going rate is $1 for 15 minutes or $3 for 20 minutes with a free can of local Cambodia beer!

Party on Pub Street

Pub Street is Siem Reap’s party area. The streets are lined with bars, restaurants, and clubs of all varieties. You can grab a drink or a scoop of ice cream at Blue Pumpkin or head for some dancing at the famous Temple Bar.

Start your evening at Red Piano which serves delicious French cuisine. Known as Angelina Jolie’s favourite place while filming “Tomb Raider.” You can even try her favourite cocktail — Cointreau, lime and tonic — now named after the movie.

Continue in any direction down the road to find a spot for dinner. All the restaurants in this area offer reasonably priced international and local food amidst the lively setting of Pub Street. Perhaps one of the best known and oldest bars in Siem Reap is ‘Angkor What?’ bar. There are countless inscriptions and scribings on the walls and tables which are proof of its longstanding popularity and the fact it is almost always the last bar to close!

People looking for something away from the backpacker vibe, head down to Miss Wong. A classy cocktail bar located on a small side street. This place transports you back to 1930s Shanghai and provides refuge from the partying on Pub Street.

Watch a traditional Apsara dance

A night or two in and around Pub Street is enough for most travellers who then go in search of something more traditional. This is a great opportunity to head to one of the Apsara shows. Prepare to be transported to a world of Cambodian dancers who still perform the original dances depicted in the bas-relief carvings in the temples.

Most people enjoy having dinner while watching the evening performance. Consequently, these are offered at any of a number of local hotels and restaurants. For example, the Apsara Terrace at the Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor is known for its pure classical dance combined with martial arts performances and a fantastic barbecue buffet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Similarly, Angkor Village Hotel’s Apsara Theater offers a more reasonably priced dinner show every day at 8 p.m. For travelers on a budget try Temple Balcony that offers a free Apsara performance if you buy a dinner.

Give back

Responsible and community-based tourism is a heavily increasing sector of the Cambodian tourism industry with Siem Reap in particular having many NGOs that are based here making getting involved easy.

Get in touch with ConCERT Cambodia. This organisation will connect you with one of many of Siem Reap’s organizations and help you choose an organization that fits in with your interests and itinerary.

After decades of tragic war, Cambodia, helped by NGO’s is a quickly developing the country. One organization doing important work is the Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC)(working with the Belgian NGO APOPO). They have recently begun using large mine detection rats from Tanzania to help clear fields of mines and unexploded ordnance.

ConCERT Cambodia; +855 63 963-511
Cambodian Mine Action Centre; +855-23-995 437

Take a Khmer cooking class

We recommend a traditional cooking class especially for people hooked on Cambodia’s delicious cuisine. You will learn to cook Khmer style and still be able to satisfy your taste buds long after leaving Cambodia.

Expert Khmer chefs instruct and guide you through local markets. They will identify all the mysterious ingredients so you can create a genuine Cambodian cuisine masterpiece. Afterwards, go back and throw on your apron and chef’s hat.  Then you will be shown how to prepare two dishes of your choice at Le Tigre de Papier.

Cambodia’s national dish is fish amok and is a must try as well as the green mango salad and fresh spring rolls. Having enjoyed your own cooking you can buy a cookbook as all proceeds support a local NGO.

Shop for the perfect souvenir

On your journey around Siem Reap you may have seen the souvenirs on sale here are cheap like in a lot of tourist resorts. This country is admired for its traditional handicrafts so it’s definitely worth finding a handmade, one of a one-of-a-kind souvenir.

‘Angkor Making Shoes’ make bespoke shoes and trainers for just $12.   This suits many tourist’s schedules as the time used to produce orders is short. People looking for silk clothing should try Samatoa who offer customized or off the shelf silk clothes.

Artisans d’Angkor is a great initiative. It teaches underprivileged people in Cambodia various crafts.  Although prices may be higher than elsewhere,  it is a reflection of the quality. They always stock a large range including the classic Cambodian checkered scarves(Kramer), luxurious silk and sculptures. Also offering premixed spice packets to help you bring the flavours of Cambodia back home.

Samatoa; Old Market area, opposite hospital; +855 92 529 001
Artisans d’Angkor, Stung Thmey Street; +855 63 963 330

Sharing is caring!

About Author

Connect with Me:

Leave a Reply