9 Things to Do in Siem Reap
I was pleasantly surprised by how much there was to do in Siem Reap. Being home to such an iconic landmark like Angkor Wat I thought there may not be too much else to see in the town. But I really enjoyed Siem Reap’s vibe, it felt sleepy and relaxed yet bustling and plentiful at the same time.
Here are 9 things to do in Siem Reap because guess what, lists don’t always have to be to 10! Oh and don’t worry only number 1 covers Angkor Wat. Whilst research for this trip I would search ‘Things to do in Siem Reap’ only to discover lists of ‘Things to do at Angkor Wat’. Not WAT I asked for.
Bonus: Where to stay in Siem Reap
1. Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is not just one temple but a series of 72 Buddhist temples. Built in the 12th century and set across over 500 acres of land, the Angkor Wat site is one of the worlds most famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites and was one of the finalists for the Seven Wonders of the World.
Angkor Wat was built as the funeral temple of King Suryavarman II and is consider the largest religious monument in the world. You are transported to another world as you climb in and out of segments of the main temple, through small archways and up and down steep steps.
The main temple is really impressive, but I also thoroughly enjoyed looking at a lot of the smaller temples. By no means did I do them all, because the area is massive, but some of them I had entirely to myself, and it was so peaceful and quiet to be in this historic place in nature.
Angkor Wat is located just under 8km from downtown Siem Reap and is accessible by Tuk Tuk. To get inside Angkor Wat you need a permit, which you obtain from the official ticket office outside the park area (all Tuk Tuk drivers will know where this is). It is open between 4.30AM – 5.30PM. It is open early because people go to watch the sunrise. When I was there the sunrise was not spectacular at all, but it helped to go early to beat some of the crowds because as I was leaving the main temple to explore the smaller ones, it was getting packed.
As the site is so big there are a few different payment options. A 1 day pass costs US$37, a 2 day pass US$62 and US$72 for a 7 day pass. You don’t need to plan your visit on consecutive days as the 3 day pass is valid for 10 days and the 7 day pass for a month.
You can pay in cash or by credit card, there is also an ATM. Currencies accepted include, US dollar, Cambodian Riel, Euro and Thai Baht.
Be sure to watch out for these cheeky little fellas!
2. Have Drinks at Pub Street
If you’re looking to have a night out on the town, then you will definitely find yourself at Pub Street. Most of the bars serve US$0.50 draft beer and it’s a big place for expats and tourists to gather.
Appreciate this slightly blurry picture of the Pub Street sign, as I walked from my hotel to Pub Street for the sole purpose of taking this picture. Been there, done that, got the picture and then went to bed!
3. Cambodian Landmine Museum
The Cambodian Landmine Museum has a really interesting story behind it. Cambodia has a bloody and devastating history, most notably between 1967 and 1975 during the country’s civil war.
Well, the Cambodian Landmine Museum was set up by an ex-child soldier named Aki Ra in 1997. During his time as a child soldier Aki was forced to plant thousands of landmines and after the war, he returned to the villages where he places the mines and began removing them with handmade tools. In 2008 he set up an NGO, Cambodian Self Help Demining (CSHD) which now helps clear landmines around Cambodia and has worked to set up the museum.
In the museum you can learn about the dangers of landmines, how they work and why they were planted. The Landmine Museum is open daily between 7.30AM and 5.30PM. Cambodian citizens go free, but international visitors pay $5 (£3.70).
4. Shop at Old Market
Locally known as Psar Chaa, this old market is located between Pub Street and the riverside. It’s the most central market so is very popular with locals and tourists alike. They have everything from fresh food, herbs and spices to souvenirs, crafts, jewellery and artwork. The market is open every day from 8AM to 6PM.
5. Get a Cheap Massage
There are a plethora of spa’s in the main area of Siem Reap, located in the main downtown area. Now I can’t remember the exact one I went to, but I really don’t think it matters they will all be super affordable and incredibly relaxing. As in the kind of relaxing that has you walking away feeling like you no longer have bones, a body of walking jelly. An hour full body massage in 2019 set me back around £4 or £5.
I had my first massage in 2017 in Vietnam and I haven’t looked back since! I have made it my new mission to have a massage in every country I go to. Well, only the countries where massages are affordable. Now I’ve had a massage in Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Zambia.
6. I Dare You to Eat a Crocodile Burger
When walking around the downtown area I kept noticing signs for ‘crocodile burgers’. I just thought that this was one of those deceptively named foods like tiger bread, or Bombay duck and that perhaps the burger bun was adorned with a scaly looking top. Oh, how naïve I was. A crocodile burger is a burger, with crocodile meat. I was shocked. I have lived in two country that eat dog (Vietnam and China) and yet I was surprised by crocodile! No, I did not try it, but you are welcome to! Maybe it just tastes like chicken! Why is it that everyone describes uncommon meat as just tasting like chicken?
7. Wat Bo Temple
After trapsing around Angkor Wat in the scorching heat you might be rather tired of temples. But the Buddhist temple of Wat Bo is really beautiful and grand and much different than the World Heritage Site.
Wat Bo is one of the towns oldest temples and is located along Tep Vong Street close to the Siem Reap River on the east of the downtown area.
8. Wat Damnak Temple
Another temple, but Wat Damnak was the ultimate escape from city life. The temple is located just 400m from the Villa Wat Damnak Hotel, where I stayed. The ground was littered with fragrant frangipani flowers and the details on each structure were impeccable.
9. Eat at the Cafés and Restaurants
There are lots of cafés and restaurants located in cutesy streets in the downtown area of Siem Reap, so you’ll never be short of places to eat. I was an instant fan of the mango smoothies that you seemed to be able to find everywhere. I also had this delicious mango, coconut rice dish which I still to this day claim was one of the best meals I have ever eaten (even though it gave me 3 days of food poisoning). Anyone whose lived in Vietnam will know that the best restaurants are those with plastic chairs or even better no chairs at all, well maybe the same cannot be said for Cambodia! Some popular dishes to try include, fish amok and bai sach chrouk.
Where to Stay?
I stayed at the Villa Wat Damnak Hotel and it was a really great stay. From the airport I took a Tuk Tuk (I simply love the idea of taking a Tuk Tuk right from the airport) all the way to the hotel, with the end of the journey leading us down cute little streets with hanging pink flowers.
My room at Wat Damnak Hotel was really nice, spacious, lovely bathroom, comfy bed and cute little leaves arranged on the bed spelling ‘Welcome’. And did I mention a swimming pool!
Whilst I was there, I had an issue with my UK bank card and I was more than a bit stuck in Cambodia not able to withdraw any money. The Damnak Hotel let me use their phone to make an international call to the UK, which I thought was kind as it took me over 20 minutes of international calling to solve the issue!
The hotel was also in a perfect location, just a short walk to the market, an array of massage parlors, restaurants and Pub Street.
Finally, did you notice on this post absolutely no where did it suggest that you ride an elephant. So therefore, do not ride an elephant. DO NOT RIDE A BLOODY ELEPHANT. Yes they are offering it, but that’s to make money. These animals are tortured to be able to offer you this experience. It’s unnaturally cruel and I am going to write a post about it soon, so you can find out exactly why.