It may be a resort town known as the gateway to the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, but there are plenty of other things to do when exploring Siem Reap besides visiting temple sites. Community-run circus shows, zip lines through the jungle, bustling night markets and stone carving workshops…these are just some of the adventures that await in Siem Reap.
Inspired by Stone
The intricate carvings on the walls of Angkor Wat leave many visitors in awe. Why not take that inspiration and turn it into your own unique piece of art? Back Street Academy connects travellers with Cambodian craftsmen so they can learn the art of stone masonry – as well as the meaning behind the ornate details that adorn the ruins. Take part in a workshop where you can carve your own piece of stone using traditional techniques. This is an amazing chance to truly appreciate the beauty of all the temples that you’ve been visiting during your stay – as well as spend time with local masters.
Cambodia’s Cirque du Soleil
If you want to be blown away by dance, storytelling and breathtaking acrobatics…as well as support a really good cause – buy yourself a ticket to Phare: The Cambodian Circus. Profits generated through ticket and merchandise sales go towards free education and professional arts training for local students in need. This circus focuses on telling uniquely Cambodian stories – past and present – through the creative arts. We promise you will leave the show feeling like the world is a magical place.
As travellers flock to pubs and bars after their day of exploring, locals head in a different direction – to Road 60. This vibrant night market stretches for one kilometer and sells everything from spicy barbecued squid on skewers, to satin pajama pants. It’s a wonderful place to go and soak up local life as well as try some very delicious street food snacks. If you’re game, buy yourself a deep fried tarantula to feast on!
Up, Up and Away
It would be hard to find a more breathtaking view of Angkor Wat than hovering over the ancient ruins at sunset in a hot air balloon. Angkor Ballooning offers this unique experience each day at sunrise and sunset – dependent on weather conditions. If you want to take amazing photos of the site without battling through hundreds of tourists, this is the way to do it!
Fly Through the Jungle
Keeping with the aerial theme – if you’re in the mood for more adventure then be sure to sign up for an Angkor Zipline experience while you’re in Siem Reap. You’ll get the chance to explore the jungle canopy inside Angkor Park, thanks to a series of zip lines and sky bridges, with the help of a Sky Ranger who will teach you about all the plants and animals. This company also offers some great quad biking tours if you want the action to continue on-land after you’ve swung around in the tree tops.
A History Lesson
Due to decades of war and the brutal Khmer Rouge regime, Cambodia remains one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. Hundreds of people are injured each year by unexploded ordnance and landmines. If you want to learn more and find out what is being done today to clear the country of these deadly devices, head to the Cambodian Land Mine Museum where you can view moving displays and real-life collections of UXOs.
Chilling by the Lake
To truly escape the hustle of downtown Siem Reap, jump on a motorbike and head to nearby West Baray. This man-made body of water is a great place to have a swim, lie in a hammock and feast on freshly barbecued fish. The lake is only 10 kilometres from town yet you won’t find many tourists around…it’s mostly locals having picnics and frolicking in the water. There are boats for hire if you want to cruise around the lake and check out the little island which has some temple ruins. Please remember to be respectful of local culture and cover up when you are swimming. Bikinis and speedos are not recommended.
Phnom Kulen National Park
If you have the time and don’t mind venturing a little further out of town, we highly recommend a day trip to Phnom Kulen National Park which is located about 1.5 hours from Siem Reap. There are hiking trails to explore, submerged carvings to discover and a majestic waterfall where you can swim in the rock pools to cool down after your adventure. Be warned that the waterfall pools get very crowded on weekends and during festivals so try to go when things are quieter during the week.
Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake and home to a huge variety of water birds including threatened species such as the Greater Adjutant Stork, Milky Stork and Spot-Billed Pelican. The Sam Veasna Center runs eco tours of the lake that include time in Prek Toal bird sanctuary where you are bound to see some amazing wildlife. They can also arrange visits to the nearby floating villages.
It might be the most overlooked of all Asian cuisines, but Cambodia’s savoury noodle dishes, mouth-watering sweets and classic Khmer recipes are definitely worth exploring with your tastebuds while you’re in town. Siem Reap Food Tours offer a range of packages for travellers that include a trip to the morning market to buy fresh ingredients, a lesson on Khmer spices and flavours as well as lots of hands-on time in the kitchen to prepare your own Cambodian feast.