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.
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
Cost: There are three tiers of ticket price
- $18 (general seating)
- $28 (reserved seating at the center)
- $38 (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.
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
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!
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.
3. Visit the Angkor National Museum
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
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.
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.
Oh, and did we mention the $0.25 beer!?