Catering to travelers from every walk of life, Siem Reap is one of the most vibrant and vivacious destinations in all of Cambodia. This ancient city, though lauded as the gateway to the ruins of Angkor Wat, has so much more to offer visitors. Use this list to immerse yourself in the serene beauty of temples, partake in speedy bargaining at the markets, or simply observe the local customs – then make sure to purchase a ticket!
The Neighborly People
Interacting with local people is one of the best things to do in Siem Reap. Cambodians are very kind by nature, but the crowds of tourists have tempered their efforts at outreach. Settle with a bowl of ox tail soup near most food stalls and you will instantly receive curious looks, which slowly morph into smiles and sentences as they deem you friendly and open. Soon enough, you may find yourself tentatively trying scorpions on a skewer while embroiled in a chess match with a gentleman three times your age. The key is to be curious and respectful, which Cambodians will return in spades.
The Cambodian Landmine Museum and School teaches visitors about the devastating effects of land mines left in Cambodia after decades of civil war, while simultaneously serving as an orphanage and school for effected children. Aki Ra, the founder of the museum, is famous for having deactivated over 50,000 mines with little more than a stick and a shovel. Travelers come away from the museum with a solemn respect for the hardships that many rural Cambodians face daily.
On a more cheerful note: the festival of Angkor Sankranta celebrates the Khmer New Year with three days of festivities, making April 13th-16th the best time to visit Siem Reap. Over a million people flock to the Angkor Archaeological Park to enjoy traditional Khmer games, food, and performances. Parades, floating lanterns, and martial arts demonstrations abound while festival-goers band together for an annual Guinness world record attempt
World Heritage Temples
The Angkor National Park, just outside of Siem Reap, houses over 400 temples and ruins. Angkor Wat is easily the most recognizable temple in the complex, but has a dreadful issue with tourists. Those who adhere to “The Siem Reap Tripadvisor Tour” miss out on lesser known temples such as Ta Prom and Banteay Srey. Both offer astonishing sights without the crowds; Ta Prom gained popularity as the overgrown temple in the Tomb Raider film, while Banteay Srey is famous for its pink sandstone.
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.”
― ANAÏS NIN
“Psah” The Markets
With a seemingly infinite number of markets in Siem Reap, deciding where to shop coul, perhaps be the hardest part of your stay. Stalls seem to cling to every corner of the city, vendors squatting behind low tables and sitting on upturned buckets beside their wares. For visitors, shopping in Siem Reap should always begin in the colorful Psah Chas, also known as the Old Market. It has literally everything a buyer could hope to see, from purses to fresh seafood, with the occasional gem. Once finished with Psah Chas, mosey down to the Angkor night market for more cheap finds after dark. Fake watches, handmade clothing and mats, tapestries, and tacky souvenirs – whatever tickles your fancy, you will find it in the markets.
The Ease of Accessibility
Siem Reap International Airport will land you directly in town, for individuals coming from far outside of the country. Those already in Cambodia find that taking a night bus from the capital of Phnom Penh to Siem Reap is a snap. What kind of traveler you are will decide where to stay in Siem Reap – options range from luxury resorts to hammocks slung up in backpacker hostels. With some of the best hotels in Siem Reap costing less than $45 (€40) a night, it becomes no wonder that many westerners have taken notice of Cambodia.