What to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Most people visit Siem Reap because of Angkor Wat, the biggest tourist attraction in all of Cambodia. Over the last decades Siem Reap has grown very fast and is now a pretty big city with almost 140 000 people living there. The city is modern but still with plenty of Khmer traditions. Even though I only spent four days in Siem Reap I could tell it has a lot more to offer than the famous temples of Angkor.
Of course visting Angkor Wat is the most popular thing to do in Siem Reap. The old temple of Angkor Wat has around 1 million visitors every year. No wonder it is so crowded. What many people try to do there is to get there very early in the morning and see the sun rise behind the famous temple.
Angkor Wat is only one of many temples in the temple area of Angkor. If you have gone all the way to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat I think you should take your time and visit it over several days. I recommend getting a tour guide on one of the days in Angkor to learn more about the history, and then plan one or two days to explore the smaller temples by yourself.
More about Angkor Wat here.
Floating village of Kompong Phluk
Many tour companies offer tours to the so called floating villages. There are a few of them close to the big sweet water lake Tonlé Sap just south of Siem Reap. There’s a river with the same name running out to the lake and along this river lies the village Kompong Phluk. It’s a village that has all of its houses on stilts. When it’s wet season from May to October the water rises and the villagers depend on fishing for their income.
After going through the city you reach the mangroves close to the lake. Here they let you off the boat on to a house with a restaurant and where many people where waiting with their small paddles boats to take you inside the mangroves. Even though there weren’t many people here it felt very touristy since there were so many there trying to make you go on a boat tour…
After the mangrove you continue out to the lake where many of the big boats stay and wait for the sun to set. I didn’t think the lake was so spectacular and didn’t want to sit on that small boat with the driver for hours just for that.
So Pub Street is where the party is. Some hostels arrange a pub crawl for their guests and this is where they go. During the night the clubs are open, playing loud music and with dancefloors filled with youths. The dancefloor sometimes extend to the street as well. But don’t let this scare you off. During the days the restaurants are open and serve all from khmer to western food. Even though this is not the cheapest area the food isn’t that bad. I had some really delicious spring rolls I still think about sometimes on this street.
Shopping at the markets
The old market is a sight for itself. In the center quite near Pub street lies the old market. In here there are many vendors selling everything from souvenirs to food. The food area reeks of fish, but it is fascinating watching them work there with rinsing fish, cutting up fruits and so on.
In the souvenir area the vendors are really trying to sell you stuff and they come on to you really hard sometimes. They really want to sell so it’s quite easy to bargain here. You can get a good deal on the beautiful silk scarves and the popular khmer pants. They also have paintings, sunglasses and lots more.
The old market isn’t the only market in Siem Reap. There are plenty of night markets in the center and you can’t avoid them actually. Even though all of them sell basically the same things I still thought it was nice to walk through them.
Like many other asian countries, massage is of course popular in Cambodia too. In Siem Reap you can get all from very cheap foot massages to high class body massages. I actually visited one of the finer massage spots in the city and it was quite nice. So treat your feet with a nice massage after walking around the temples all day is my suggestion.
Cycle or rent a tuk tuk
Yes, rent a bike and explore the city for yourself. Or simply rent a tuk tuk that will take you round the city. On this you are out in the open and can take photographs without any windows, pretty good I think. Make sure to set the price before you start. You can find drivers everywhere in the city!