Ah, Siem Reap. Despite being a bit of a beach bum and regretting running out of cash on Koh Rong, this little tourist hub actually turned out to be my favourite place in Cambodia. After discovering the temples of Angkor, Adam and I found plenty to keep us occupied for the duration of our 6 day stay. Here are my top picks of extra things to do in Siem Reap.
1. Eating and drinking
I remember trying my first bit of Khmer food, a veggie cashew nut curry, and exclaiming “oh my god that’s amazing”. I didn’t know what to expect from Khmer food, I guess just a mix of Laotian/Vietnamese/Thai but it exceeded my expectations. Catering for all tastes and budgets, Siem Reap’s restaurant and cafe scene is fantastic. You’re spoilt for choice between traditional Khmer, authentic street/market food and a whole range of Western options.
~ courtyard at Haven
My favourite out of the many eateries we tried were Khmer Kitchen for traditional Amok curry, Haven – a training restaurant for disadvantaged young adults – and a street food stall just on the corner of Sok San road as you leave the night market. Although I wish I hadn’t taken the chef’s advice and gone so crazy with chilli sauce here… It packed a bigger than usual punch!
~ Curry, spring rolls and as always, a lime soda
Another great find for super cheap and tasty food a little walk out of the centre was The Little Cafe. On our way back to our guesthouse, we stumbled across a cafe for the more adventurous, which was dedicated to bug eating, or as they marketed it, insect tapas! Umm, maybe next time?
The abundance of cafes means you’re never short of options when you need to get your real Italian coffee fix. Many of the coffee shops are run by friendly expats focussed on providing job opportunities for Cambodians. For a bit of a treat and to find shelter during a rainy afternoon, Adam and I found ourselves at the hip and very conveniently located Cafe Central. We didn’t eat here as there were much cheaper options to be found but Adam can vouch for the cocktails and I, the tasty iced mochas.
2. Pub street
Despite what may come to mind for some when hearing about a street filled with bars and clubs in Cambodia called Pub Street, it’s well worth a visit. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much apart from some mediocre, cheap and slightly seedy bars but I was surprised at how developed it was.
There are two main clubs on Pub Street; Temple Bar and Angkor What? The rest is lined with slightly more chilled out venues, live music or sports bars where you might find yourself before hitting one of the bigger places. There’s also a number of restaurants that were always packed out.
The atmosphere is lively and bustling and has a fun, safe and positive vibe. You’ll find tourists from all areas of the globe snapping away and taking selfies in front of the neon cubes and ‘Pub Street’ sign after a day touring the temples. You might even come across some locals starting a dance off in the street!
Adam and I had fun hanging out at the graffitied Angkor What? bar with a couple of buckets and some new friends before making our way to Temple Bar for a dance.
If Pub Street gets a bit too much or you prefer a change of scene, there are lots cocktail bars and pubs through the little alleys leading off from Pub Street. When we weren’t up for a big night Adam and I enjoyed a drink at Charlie’s. Miss Wong looked amazing for cocktails but was a little out of our price range!
3. Phare, The Cambodian Circus
A stop in Siem Reap would be incomplete without checking out Phare, The Cambodian Circus. Even though we were there for 6 days, Adam and I left it last minute to book tickets to see it on a Saturday and of course it was sold out. There were tickets for the next day but we were due to leave for Bangkok then. After reading the rave reviews and having been so excited to go, we realised we didn’t have to be in Bangkok on the Sunday as we were meeting Adam’s parents on the Tuesday. So we changed our bus tickets, booked the circus and I’m happy to confirm it was so worth staying the extra night.
The performers have developed their amazing skills through an association who teach disadvantaged youths from difficult backgrounds, to express and heal themselves creatively though the arts. An enterprise set up the circus as a place for the graduates to continue using their talents and earn a living. The show was one of the best performances I have ever seen and it’s great knowing that it supports local youths.
The performances tell traditional, folk and contemporary stories often inspired by real life experiences. The one we saw was Sokrias (Eclipse) which deals with rejection and bullying. I would have gone back to see more if we hadn’t left it until our last day!
4. Shopping at the night market
Worth a look and the place to go for all your touristy needs! Plenty of souvenirs, t-shirts, massage, fish pedicure, street snacks, you name it. It’s also open during the day but the cooler temperature and lively atmosphere make it a better experience at night. I enjoyed wandering around spread over a couple of nights and the sellers aren’t overly pushy.
You of course need to bargain and I found their starting prices pretty high here. Nevertheless I managed to hunt down and score a good deal on a couple of vests and Adam some cool t-shirts and pair of flipflops to replace his broken ones! Still, these didn’t last long.
At the back of the market we came across a very popular place to get a foot massage complete with lady boy show for your entertainment!
5. Cambodia landmine museum
This was on my list of things to do whilst in Siem Reap but things don’t always go to plan and for some reason or another we didn’t make it. They estimate there are still around 5,000,000 landmines throughout Cambodia still in the ground. The museum showcases the thousands collected and disarmed by a man called Aki Ra, who was forced into the Khmer Rouge army as a child. They aim to to educate people on the dangers and impact the landmines had and have on past, present and future Cambodia. They also educate and support at-risk youths who reside in their Relief Centre.
If you missed it, check out my post on all things Angkor Wat and around, competing for the best photo spot at sunrise!