Siem Reap: Five Things to do (Besides Visiting More Temples)

Going to Cambodia? Don't miss these top things in Siem Reap!


Most people visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia, go for Angkor Wat, the "Eighth Wonder of the World", the legendary city of the ancient Khmer Empire.

Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat is an amazing and unforgettable experience! Exploring the ruins of Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom, and Bang Melia temples is incredible too.

the sun rises over Angkor Wat temple historical park in Siem, Reap Cambodia against a pink and purple sky
Angkor Wat at sunrise

But Siem Reap itself is often overshadowed by its nearby ancient temples. And that's a shame; the city has a number of real gems. So what can you do in Siem Reap besides visiting Angkor Wat?

1. Get Tickets to Phare

http://pharecircus.org/

Cost: $18 (general seating) - $35 (preferred seating)

More than an unforgettable show, Phare is a good cause. Phare was founded as an organization with a dual purpose: to preserve traditional Cambodian performance arts and to empower rural Cambodians.

The shows that Phare performs are breathtaking and heartwarming. The acrobatic performances are incredibly impressive, but it's even more meaningful when you know a little bit about the circus' history.

performers at the phare Cambodian circus in Siem, Reap
Phare
Phare was started to restore and preserve traditional Cambodian acrobatic arts that the Khmer Rouge regime had attempted to suppress. Some of the performances tell stories of survival and perseverance in the face of oppression - a story told to reflect the life of the circus' founder, who used her own acrobatics and performances to ward off the nightmares she suffered after her escape from the Khmer Rouge.

Ticket costs go to support the circus' school, which teaches performance skills to local people in an effort to break the cycle of poverty. It is a beautiful show from a wonderful organization, and something that you absolutely shouldn't miss in Siem Reap.

We cannot recommend it highly enough.

2. Cruise Tonle Sap Lake


Cost: $10-$15

An evening cruise on Tonle Sap Lake, the largest lake in Southeast Asia, usually includes going past the famous floating village, a visit to a mangrove forest area, and a few beers over a stunning sunset.

A cruise past the floating village shows a glimpse into a traditional way of life that's a little bit unconventional. The fishing village is built on stilts and flooded for a good portion of the year. During this time, people get around by boat. There is a floating temple, a floating church, and even a floating school!

a local villages on a wooden boat passing wooden houses on stilts in the lake at Siem Reap, Cambodia
Floating Village
As sunset nears and you head out of the river onto the lake, your boat might be approached by a little elderly woman in a small wooden speedboat selling a cooler of ice-cold beer. There is absolutely no better way to enjoy the view.

pink, yellow, and purple sunset over tonle sap lake near Siem Reap, Cambodia
sunset on the lake

3. Visit the Angkor National Museum

http://www.angkornationalmuseum.com/

Cost: $12 (optional audio guide $3)

Entry to the Angkor National Museum is a bit pricey by Cambodian standards, but it's well worth the admission for anyone interested in art or history.

From the Angkor Collection to the Hall of 1000 Buddhas, the museum houses an impressive and well-organized collection of historical artifacts and exhibits about the history and culture of the Ancient Khmer Empire. The museum is rather new, and housed in a beautiful air-conditioned building (not true for the Cambodian National Museum in Phnom Penh!) with gardens and fountains.

4. Take a Cooking Class

http://www.letigredepapier.com/en/cooking.php

Cost: $15

A three-hour class at Le Tigre de Papier restaurant includes a tour of the local market and instruction in preparing three dishes: a starter, a main course, and a dessert of your choice, chosen from their menu. The local chefs are knowledgeable, friendly, and helpful, and the class is a lot of fun.

And of course, at the end the whole class sits down together and enjoys the fruits of their labor.

chopped ingredients, lemongrass, onion, chili, and ginger on a wooden cutting board
flavors of Cambodia

5. Explore on Foot


Cost: FREE (draught beer $0.25-$0.50)

Perhaps one of the best things to do in Siem Reap is just explore. Take a walk along the river, enjoy a scoop of delicious homemade ice cream at the Blue Pumpkin Cafe, and buy a postcard to write over a $0.25 Cambodia Beer on Pub Street. The Old Market and Pub Street areas are full of picturesque and charming city scenes; excellent places for street photography.

a quiet evening lit by lamps along a river in Siem Reap, Cambodia
exploring Siem Reap
Oh, and did we mention the $0.25 beer!?

two mugs of ice-cold beer at a small pub on Pub Street, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Pub Street
Interested in Cambodia? Check out my first book, "The Long Road From Pub Street: A Cambodia Travelogue" available now!
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