Siem Reap is the most popular destination in Cambodia and one of the most sought-after cities within the Indochina tourism route. Far beyond than imagined, it gathers millions of visitors all year round because of its graceful medieval temples, wild street parties, exciting cuisine, amazing shopping and fantastic handicrafts.
With so many things to see and do in this small province on the northwestern side of Cambodia, careful planning is essential to avoid wasting your precious travel time and resources. Learn more on the must-sees and must-dos in Siem Reap to make it not just a stopover in your Indochina swing but a wonderful vacation.
This is what everyone comes for and there are thousands of them. Realistically, we can’t see them all so just choose the most important ones according to its historical relevance and aesthetic value. Below are suggested temples to visit:
Day 1: Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Bayon, Banteay Kdei, Phnom Bakheng
Day 2: Preah Khan, Banteay Srei, Banteay Samrei, Preah Ko, Bakong
Note: Buy the 2-day pass at $40 because they give 1-day bonus day. Sunset is good in Phnom Bakheng. Catch the sunrise in Angkor Wat but try to see it also at around 5PM when the light is softer. Get your temple guide here.
Party in Pub Street
Siem Reap is known to have one of the maddening street parties in Southeast Asia. Partyphiles converge along Pub Street. But the happening site is within the areas of Angkor What? and Temple Bar. Alternatively, the alleys along The Passage are also filled with small bars with less chaos, lower amp and chill-out ambience.
The Khmer cuisine is as old as time and has continued to live on to this day despite its unforgettable war history. Explore the bursting flavors of the Khmer food in chic cafes and restaurants in Pub Street and along Sivutha Boulevard. The Old Market is also filled with exciting food finds. It is also interesting to sample the food in small eateries where meals are served without the beautiful garnishing and fancy napkins but are equally palate-kicking and of course, always at half the price!
Siem Reap is a world of finds, from the smallest trinket to the biggest Hindu sculpture and from lightest scarf to the heaviest marble Buddha. Arts and crafts are a lot and they truly are exciting pieces to bring home. Souvenir shops fill the streets of Alley West on Sivutha Boulevard and Pub Street but the best buys are mostly in the Old Market and Night Markets.
After a while, it is certain that you’ll get an overload of temples, party and shopping. Why not learn how to prepare traditional Khmer food and drinks? Le Tigre de Papier offers a 3-hour cooking class and degustation. Asana is the only bar that teaches Khmer cocktail mixing and truly worth an experience.
The Angkor National Museum must be any tourist’s first destination. It helps you understand its history and prepares you in conquering its medieval temples. The national museum houses the finest artifacts from the Khmer Empire. Don’t miss the gallery of the Thousand Buddhas.
Visit the Samatoa Lotus Farm and the Institute of Traditional Khmer Textiles to see how these soft fabrics are made and turned into beautiful scarves, shirts, skirts and accessories.
Other Worthwhile Activities (only when you have extra time)
Take a walk with a monk. This is something that most tourists do not do. Monks are not deaf and mute. They love to chitchat too. Spend an afternoon in Lolei Temple and feel their peace, seek their advises and blessings (or get a glimpse of your future perhaps?).
For tattoo enthusiasts, email me personally. I went up to as far as 70 kms from Siem Reap to see an authentic Khmer tattoo artist who says the pali chant while inking you with the traditional Khmer protective design. I was the only non-Cambodian he ever inked so far (as of this writing).
If you have more time and willing to travel a bit farther, visit a shaman or a traditional healer in Khralan District.
Betwixt and between the arthritic 40 and a horrendous body mass index of positive 30, escapism and yummyeology are my real-life double post-graduate degrees conferred with the highest honors.
I lived nearly half of my life in fancy suitcases, jetsetting between reality and fantasy... read more