In Southeast Asia, Siem Reap, Cambodia is a charming city with a small village ambiance. The community in the capital is warm and welcome travelers with open arms.
After spending a few days on the Gulf of Thailand, I took a bus to Siem Reap. The environment drastically changed since I went from experiencing a vibrant and tropical vibe to a calmer city. The capital has a lot of history that you can easily explore and activities to keep it wild and fun.
If you are seeking a combination of both, check out the top seven places I suggest you should see or do when visit Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Explore Temples of Angkor Wat
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 feel the civilization that once lived there. Visitors climb marble stairs, crouching down under arched openings, and witness traces of original paintings on the walls.
Since Angkor Wat is vast and if you cover all the land, I suggest stretching your visit into two or three days. A common tip from locals and other travelers is to go one day before sunrise, at least. The reason being is that the sight you will experience colorful skies behind Angkor Wat is strikingly beautiful.
To visit, they require you 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 afterward 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 affordable for a day rental, you can explore the Cambodian countryside and at your own pace.
Some 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 sit close together, so if you’re on a moped, you’ll 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 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 walk on foot, you will get tired quickly and won’t have time to see a lot of the temple ruins. However, you can also hire a tour guide, though please note some of these can be pricey.
Visit A Floating Village
The only time I ever paid for a tour guide was when I visited 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 speedboat.
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 research if there are better offers online.
Have a drink in Pub Street
Pub Street is an infamous nightlife stretch, and a must-see for any new tourist visiting Siem Reap. The famous road offers all kinds of things to do, including visiting pubs, dancing, and indulging Cambodian street food.
Pub Street started with only three restaurants on a dirt road and later opened its first club in 1998 called Angkor WHAT? Bar. After the year 2000, more restaurants, bars, and clubs opened. Angelina Jolie’s movie Tomb Raider featuring Siem Reap is when tourists started exploring the capitol, and Pub Street saw more visitors at night.
You are welcome to visit Pub Street in the day since a lot of the places are open 24/7. It’s best to visit at night though, so you see how lively it gets. It’s super simple to visit since most tuk-tuk drivers already know that tourists commonly want to visit Pub Street.
On 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.
By only paying an entrance fee of five dollars, the War Museum is an outdoor adventure that includes a collection of war machines and weapons used in the battles. The War Museum in Siem Reap is the largest one in Cambodia and provides insightful information about what the country faced. They even have detailed photographs that will bring tears to your eyes.
Since the War Museum does not take an entire day to explore, ask a tuk-tuk driver to take you to the Landmine Museum, a 20-minute drive north of Siem Reap.
A young Khmer man originated the Landmine Museum named Aki Ra. He collected dead landmines with a stick. Tourists heard about the man and requested to see his collection. Aki Ra charged for the viewings and then formed the Landmine Museum with the support of Richard Fitoussi (film producer) and Tom Shadyac (movie director).
Today, the Landmine Museum is affordable to visit at only five dollars. You can ask a tuk-tuk driver to take you and to bring you back for a flat fee.
Go Shopping at the Angkor Night Market
Established in 2007, the Angkor Night Market was the first and original market in Siem Reap. The best part about the market is how it’s not overcrowded with people or tourists.
The Angkor Night Market has over 240 shops selling 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 do so here.
Also, the market offers restaurants and bars in case if you get hungry or thirsty for a cocktail. One popular place is the Brick House Bar, which has live music for entertainment.
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
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.
Since the circus is only 2km away from Pub Street or the night market, it’s a great addition to your day plan. For you to get another tuk-tuk after the show is easy since they line up outside waiting for a new customer.
If you complete all these things to do in Siem Reap, 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.