Siem Reap, Cambodia, is a charming city that welcomes and cherishes any travelers who visit. The capital embodies a variety of histories like Angkor Wat, other temple ruins, war museums, and experiential activities like visiting pubs, watching dance shows, and even eating bugs!
After spending a few days on the islands of Thailand, I took a bus to Siem Reap. The environment drastically changed since I went from experiencing a vibrant and tropical vibe to now, a quieter city. Interestingly enough, even though Siem Reap is a city, the way it looks and the warm welcome of the people felt as if I was in a village.
You can properly explore Siem Reap by visiting these eight places below that will also allow you to get in touch with each cultural corner of the capital.
Explore Angkor Wat
Taking about 30 years to build, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monuments on earth. It was initially built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god of Vishnu, but later, slowly transitioned into a Buddhist temple.
Built by Khmer King Suryacarman II in the 12th century, the detailed architect of Angkor Wat leaves each visitor in awe. With 500 acres to cover on foot, you will have a chance to really feel the civilization that once lived there. Visitors find themselves climbing marble stairs, crouching down under arched openings, and witnessing traces of original paintings on the walls.
Since Angkor Wat is vastly spread out and if you decide to cover all of the land, I suggest to stretch your visit into two or three days. A common suggestion from locals and other travelers is to at least go one of the days before sunrise. The reason being is that the sight you will experience of colorful skies behind Angkor Wat is strikingly beautiful.
To visit, you are required to purchase your pass at the Angkor Ticket Center. I recommend getting a tuk-tuk to pick you up from your hotel/hostel, take you the ticketing location, then afterwards drop you off at Angkor Wat.
Rent A Moped And Explore Other Temple Ruins
One of the best ways to explore temple ruins besides Angkor Wat is renting a moped. Other than being very affordable for a day rental, you will get to see a lot of temple ruins on a bike versus walking or going through a tour guide that tends to be pricey.
Some of the must-see temple ruins include Angkor Thom, Ba Yon Temple, Ta Prohm Temple, Baphuong Temple, Preah Khan, Prasat Banteay Srei, and Koh Ker. The beauty of these temple ruins is the history that sits behind them and the energy you can sense when you’re exploring. They are stationed closely together, so if you’re on a moped, you’ll have a chance to sightsee nearly all of them.
If you are not too excited about renting a moped or scared to, please note that the traffic in Siem Reap isn’t too bad compared to other cities like Bangkok. My personal biggest fear was having to deal with the hectic driving on a moped, but I felt comfortable cruising on a bike in Siem Reap. Plus, if you decide to walk on foot, you will get tired quickly and won’t get a chance to see a lot of the temple ruins. However, you can also hire a tour guide, though please note some of these can be a bit pricey.
Visit A Floating Village
The only time I ever paid for a tour guide was when I decided to visit the Kampong Phluk floating village. What’s extraordinary about exploring the village is witnessing how unmodernized and simple it is. Their homes, temples, and schools are on sustainable wooden stilts above the water from the lake.
During your boat tour, you will see all kinds of life, including families with kids, seagulls flying, crocodiles hiding, monkeys swinging from one tree to another, or a local waving and smiling at you as they cruise by in a speed boat.
Siem Reap offers several other floating villages; however, if you’re looking to get away from the crowds and not get bombarded with people trying to sell you something, go to Kampong Phluk. Instead of going through a travel agency, I suggest booking your tour through your hotel/hostel. They’re usually cheaper, but don’t hesitate to research if there are better offers online.
Have A Drink At Pub Street
Pub Street is an infamous nightlife stretch, and a must-see for any new tourist visiting Siem Reap. The popular road offers all kinds of things to do, even for one to go dancing, endulge on cheap drinks and food, and go shopping.
Pub Street started with only three restaurants on a dirt road, and later, opened it’s first club in 1998 called Angkor WHAT? Bar. After the year 2000, more restaurants, bars, and clubs began to open. Angeline Jolie’s movie Tomb Raider featuring Siem Reap is when more tourists started visiting the capitol, and pub street began to see more visitors at night. In 2005, the community paved the dirt road to concrete, and pub street continued to grow with new businesses.
You are welcome to visit Pub Street at any time of the day since a lot of the places are open 24/7. However, it’s best to visit at night to see how lively it gets and to take advantage of meeting other people. It’s super simple to visit since most tuk-tuk drivers already know that tourists would want to visit Pub Street, so just say you’re going there, and the driver will take you.
Tour The War Museum
One my first day in Siem Reap, I arrived in the middle of the day and was looking for something to do but nothing too exhausting. A fellow traveler at my hostel suggested that I check out the historical War Museum.
The biggest War Museum in Cambodia is the one in Siem Reap and provides insightful information about what the country faced in the last three decades of the 20th century. By only paying an entrance fee of five dollars, the War Museum is an outside adventure that includes a collection of war machines and weapons used in the battles. They have photographs from the wars stapled to some of the walls that are detailed enough to bring tears to your eyes. Sources confirm that some of the weapons displayed are from World War II.
Even though the war museum is known to be the biggest one in Siem Reap, it doesn’t take an entire day to explore. You can ask a tuk-tuk driver to drop you off, and you can spend at least two hours no more than three to cover all of the museum.
Go Shopping at Angkor Night Market
Established in 2007, the Angkor Night Market was the first and original market in Siem Reap. The beauty of the place is that it was explicitly made not to be overcrowded by tourists, unlike the other night markets that exist in the city.
The Angkor Night Market has over 240 shops that sell all kinds of things like souvenirs, clothing, paintings, photographs, and jewelry. If you are looking to purchase something that is part of Cambodia, you will have a chance to do so here. When buying an item, you’re welcome to bargain for a better deal.
In addition, if you are hungry or thirsty for a cocktail, you can make a pit stop at the Brick House Bar or Island Bar in which also has live music. The Angkor Night Market is centrally located in the city, so you won’t have any trouble getting there via a tuk-tuk or moped.
Watch The Cambodian Circus
Unlike your typical circus entertainment, the Cambodian Circus has authentic performers without the need for animals. The Phare performers use music, dance, and theater to relate stories of Cambodia.
More importantly, the profits generated from ticket purchases, food and drinks, and private performances support free education, social programs of Phare Ponleu Selpak, and professional arts training.
The circus can be something you do before visiting Pub Street or the night market since it’s only 2km away from those two places. Depending on where you are traveling from, getting there shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes. After the show, you can get another tuk-tuk outside since there are always drivers waiting for a new customer.
If you complete all these things to do in Siem Reap, don’t hesitate to ask your hotel for other amazing and fun activities. Some of these include exploring additional night markets, getting tours to hikes, and eating bugs. You can click here to get more information about what to do in Siem Reap.
Follow Janet’s World: Website | Instagram | Facebook