Ten things to do in Siem Reap…that aren’t temples!

by possandruby

It’s well known the temples of Angkor are spectacular a MUST when visiting Siem Reap, in fact, they are the only reason some visit the city, but there is so much more to explore in this beautiful corner of Cambodia.

You may have heard of castle fatigue or church fatigue experienced by those travelling through Europe?  Well, there is also temple fatigue! While there are many different temples and architectural styles there is a point where everyone tires of wandering through the ruins.  This doesn’t mean though that you have to be confined to your comfortable air-conditioned hotel room or stuck poolside with a cocktail in hand (although this is a very tempting option some days!) it actually means you can enjoy other amazing activities between temple visits.  Here are my top ten to consider:

  1. Cooking class – This is an activity I love to do on all my travels. It gives an insight into the culinary heritage of the country and gives you a sense of accomplishment as you create the traditional dishes you see served in restaurants and from street food stalls. There are a few to choose from try Sojourn it’s a little bit out of the main centre of town and gives you a look at rural living (and you can treat yourself to a spa treatment on site after you have cooked!).


  1. Lotus Farm – This wasn’t listed on any brochures but was a recommendation from the hotel concierge and boy was it worth it! For the princely sum of $2USD, you could spend as much time as you like wandering the lotus ponds. They stretch for blocks and blocks and are in all stages of bloom which is simply beautiful. The lotus is used for many purposes as an offering in Buddhist temples, like a flower to decorate the home or business and the seeds and roots are edible and used in traditional dishes.


  1. Silk Farm – There is a strong push in Cambodia to preserve the ancient artisan traditions and one of these is producing silk. Artisans d’Angkor offers free tours of a working silk farm and factory complex just 20 minutes from the centre of town.  Free hotel pick-up is provided and a knowledgeable guide walks you through the process of silk farming and weaving finishing up in the well-stocked showroom and shop.  There is no pressure or obligation to buy.  Outside in the lush courtyard, there is a small café for refreshments – don’t miss the passionfruit gelato.


  1. Massage – Available all hours of the day and night massage has become an essential part of any visit to Siem Reap. Soothe your tired legs after clambering around the temples all day with a cheap and cheerful foot and leg massage or indulge in the full spa treatment package including scrubs, wraps, and facials. One unique offering is the two-handed massage where two therapists work in synchronisation to relax tired muscles. Massage parlours dot the streets you don’t have to look too hard to find one and prices start from as low as $2USD for a 30-minute foot massage. Try Body Tune and Temple Massage for quality treatment at low prices or Sokkhak Spa for a more indulgent experience.


  1. Cocktails – Yep the true tropical holiday treat. Some hotels have fantastic quality bars and poolside cocktail service with happy hour specials for as little as $3USD. There are not many dedicated quality cocktail bars in the town centre as many of the outlets are more traditional bar style with beer and standard mixed drinks.  For a real treat try Miss Wong Cocktail Bar for some unique concoctions and delicious accompaniments including taro chips, dumplings, and Asian sliders.


  1. Shopping – There is plenty of shopping in Siem Reap from the bustling food markets during the day to the humming night markets as the sun goes down. Some little boutique stores are popping up here and there with local handmade trinkets and clothing. Much of the market wares are repetitive and can be of poor quality but it can be a fun place to bargain for kitsch gifts for your friends and family. The food markets are fascinating and a hive of activity with local producers selling their wares, fish, and meat is butchered while you watch and fruits are provided for sampling before you buy. Explore the Old Market (Phsar Chas) in the centre of town and the Full Moon Night Market.


  1. Bike riding – Taking in the sights and sounds of the city is best enjoyed from the seat of a bicycle. The traffic whilst appearing chaotic is actually reasonably easy to navigate, although Aussie cyclists need to be aware that the traffic flows in the opposite direction. Bikes are available at many hotels either free of charge or for a minimal fee or can be hired from outlets throughout the town. Many parking attendants around town take care of vehicles parked in designated areas and there was never a fee charged to park bikes. You can join organised bicycle tours and for the rev head, there are also quad bike tours available.


  1. Hot Air Ballooning – While ballooning over the famous Angkor Wat is prohibited due to its UNESCO heritage listing there are other options to take to the air over other temples of note. Flying with Angkor Hot Air Balloon I floated over Bakong, a late 9th-century temple outside the main park as well as seeing the rural landscape, farms and villages. Priced at $100USD for a 30-minute flight it is one of the higher priced activities but gives a different perspective of the area at sunrise.


  1. Yoga – Take some time out and join a yoga class. Let the local yogi or yogini relax your mind and body as you move through the series of poses. Be aware of which class you are signing up for and what level of knowledge/experience you need otherwise you may end up staring questionably at your feet for most of the class. Try Peace Café which offers a selection of different styles in classes each week starting at $6USD.


  1. Dining – There is a melting pot of cultures in Siem Reap and this is reflected in the cuisines available. The Khmer cuisine is delightful and comprises mild curries accompanied by rice and tasty salads featuring fresh herbs and vegetables. The French influence can be experienced at many restaurants and the local bakeries and cafes that serve delicious pastries and croissants, particularly at breakfast. Western menus have crept in with pizza being a big drawcard for locals and some of the major fast-food chains are also available. My pick is the local restaurants serving the freshest of seasonal produce, some great social enterprises act as training facilities for young people giving them hospitality skills for future employment. Try Chanrey Tree, Marum, Sister Srey Cafe, Viroth’s, and Cafe Central just to name a few.


There are so many more things to do that could be added to this list including Apsara dance class, butterfly gardens, Khmer language class, cycling tours, Cambodian circus, monk chats, and meditation sessions.  The best way to find out details about all these activities is to have a chat with the front desk staff at your accommodation and check out TripAdvisor as well.

Have you been to Cambodia? Share your adventures in the comments below.

Note: All travel was at my own expense and all opinions are my own. None of the recommendations provided are sponsored in any way.


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Matt September 25, 2016 - 7:57 pm

Nice list! I want to go back and try some of these sometime. We went to the Cambodian Landmine Museum which I highly recommend going to. The entrance fee helps pay for clearing landmines in Cambodia as well as many other local initiatives.

possandruby September 26, 2016 - 12:02 pm

Definitely recommend a return visit, I might have to head back too the museum sounds fascinating!

Pineapples August 24, 2016 - 8:24 pm

Cool list, thank you Poss!


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