Siem Reap still has to be one of my favorite cities in Southeast Asia. It definitely made me want to go back and spend more than a measly four days in Cambodia to see other parts of the country. Beyond seeing Angkor, I didn’t actually have any expectations for my stay. I researched a little on what to do in Siem Reap, but otherwise I kind of went with the flow. It’s very charming for a major city, and while there are motorbikes aplenty, I didn’t feel claustrophobic. It’s pretty easy to get everywhere you need to go, everything is within walking distance, and if it’s not, you can hire a tuk tuk to take you there easily. While I’m taking a break of sorting through all my Vietnam information, I thought I’d put a little guide together of what you can do there too! Below is our quick guide to Siem Reap!
One of the loveliest hostel experiences. No, it’s not the fanciest place around, but it has a ton of charm, and the hosts were absolutely the kindest.
ASK FOR NIM TO BE YOUR TUK TUK GUIDE
One characteristic of Siem Reap hostels is that they employ their own tuk-tuk drivers, and during your stay you basically stick with one guy the whole time and work out a plan with him. This keeps the drivers employed and less likely to hustle, and it gives you peace of mind in terms of transportation. We LOVED Niem, our tuk-tuk driver, and I still tell people to go ask for him if they stay at Happy Guesthouse. He looked out for us, and genuinely wanted us to be able to do what we wanted to do.
VISIT GREAT LAKE TONLE SAP & ITS FLOATING VILLAGE
We had our own boat to travel around Tonle Sap, and it was an interesting experience to say the least. If anything, witness what life out on the river might be like, but do keep in mind that many of these people are refugees are generally not well off (unlike those in the villages along Halong Bay). You’ll be offered to visit two schools and buy rice for the students, which I’m pretty sure is a ripoff, and a crocodile farm. I’d skip both (but definitely the crocodile farm) as they left us feeling exploitative more than anything else.
EXPERIENCE NIGHT LIFE ALONG PUB STREET
Pub Street is the main downtown area of Siem Reap, and at night you can wander through to a more bustling crowd. It’s a little more of a Khao San Road vibe, if that’s your thing, and you can hang out at a bar or listen to music.
GET YOUR FEED NIBBLED ON AT THE NIGHT MARKET
Don’t go too late, or they won’t be interested in your feet… But it was quite the fun experience! I think we even got a drink as service while our feet were being ignored by the fish…
GET UP, WATCH THE SUNRISE, AND EXPLORE ANGKOR
This might be obvious, but of course you should experience Angkor in all its architectural and historical beauty! If you have a while, dedicate two or even three days to really see all of the area. However, if you only have a day, you should be able to hit the big temples. We have a guide to help you decide.
DO YOGA & EAT BREAKFAST AT PEACE CAFE
Wake-up early one morning and experience the lovely Peace Cafe! It specializes in vegetarian food and has a fair trade shop. You can even schedule a Khmer cooking class, Khmer class, and a monk chat. We woke up early for a yoga class that lasted around an hour and a half and grabbed one of the most delicious meals of our vacation. It’s such a lovely place, and I wish I had gone back again!
Experience a Buffet Dinner and Traditional Performance
We decided to do something special for (G)alentine’s Day and got a buffet dinner at the Amazon Angkor Restaurant. It was absolutely lovey, and the traditional performance was fun to watch.
VISIT WAT PREAH PROM RATH
Lauren and I went to see Wat Preah Prom Rath on a whim one afternoon, and had fun wandering around the nearby temple. It’ll probably only be about an hour of your time, but it’s beautiful and generally quieter.
DRINK $1 SMOOTHIES ALL DAY, ERRY DAY
I mean, need I say more?!
GET A MASSAGE OR TWO
Or three or four or five… So cheap, and so wonderful. It was my first time where I could get massages so easily and cheaply, and I took advantage my whole vacation time (I mean, my #1 to do if I was filthy rich would be to get a personal masseuse). Our hostel even had the opportunity to get a massage in your room!
Siem Reap has a pretty relaxed vibe, so if you’ve just come from a hustle and bustle city or a hectic itinerary, it’s the perfect place to unwind and relax. Seriously, pull up a papasan chair, eat Bang Chev, and enjoy.
Beyond Our Quick Guide to Siem Riep:
what Words and Photos by Samantha