After a long and tiring ride from Thailand (you can read more about it here), we arrived in Siem Reap. Mostly famous for its proximity to the temples, Siem Reap also offers plenty of interesting activities around.
We spent 5 days there and had a chance to explore the world famous temples of Angkor Wat, visit the city and meet new friends.
What to Do in Siem Reap
With so much tourism coming from the world-famous temples, Siem Reap had to catch up to offer good attractions to the visitors. The city offers plenty of entertainment and good restaurants, specially if you are keen to try the local food.
1. National Museum
On the first day in Siem Reap, we visited the National Museum where we learnt a whole lot of the culture and religion of the country. Cambodia is very proud of its Khmer origins and we could see that clearly demonstrated on their food and culture. On the museum we could learn about the strong ties of the country with their roots on Hinduism and Buddhism.
2. Angkor Artisans Tours
There are also lots of tours to do around Siem Reap. One of them was the Silk Farm Tour, which is a free tour to the local farms where silk is produced and hand weaved. A beautiful work done all manually and which supports the families in the area.
This tour and many others are offered from Angkor Artisans. They employ young people willing to learn a craft and make a living maintaining the Khmer culture alive. They also offer workshops and have a shop full of truly amazing crafts.
3. Pub Street
For a night out and about, visit the famous Pub Street where, well, there are plenty of pubs with delicious food and beer as cheap as US$0.50! The vibe is lively and really relaxed. There are always plenty of tourists and backpackers enjoying the cool evening after a long day around the temples.
4. Night Markets
There are also the Night Markets if you are keen to shop around and get good deals. The markets offer local crafts and plenty of clothing options. Just avoid buying anything from kids as they usually are being used by locals to get money from tourists and the children are often neglected care and education (read a little more further down).
5. Angkor Wat Complex
The world famous temples are a must if you ever come to Cambodia. The amazing complex of Angkor was built over 1.000 years ago by the Khmers as a Hindu temple. Angkor was constructed to replicate the universe as it is believed by the Hindus. Later, it got transformed into a Buddhist temple.
With over 10 different and mesmerising temples, it’s easy to get lost in time there. Each stop provided us with impressive architecture and intricate details. Each of them offer an insight into different eras of the many Khmer empires.
Tickets to the Angkor Wat complex cost US$20 for 1 day; US$40 for 3 days; US$80 for 1 week. We purchased the 3-day pass and it was more than enough to visit them all.
We visited in total 9 temples in 2 days of tour in more than 12 hours. Each temple has its own history and particular architecture, featuring different aesthetics from the eras of the Khmer Empire.
One of the most popular temples is Ta Phrom, made famous by Angelina Jolie’s movie Tomb Raider.
There’s a lot of history in the temples, therefore it is a smart move to either visit the National Museum (cited before) to understand its past or to hire a guide on site. We didn’t do so as we didn’t want to spend too much money. However, if you can, it would be a great opportunity to learn more and get to know the history of one of the most majestic temples in the world (and also the largest).
How to take a good picture of the Sunrise:
If you are up for the challenge of taking a picture of the iconic sunrise, make sure to get up early and have the timeline arranged with your driver. We left our hotel around 5am and got there in about 15 minutes.
When you arrive at Angkor Wat, immediately start walking to your left hand side. Find the lake and a good spot where you can get the reflection of Angkor Wat. Your photos should look something like that:
When we got there, there was already a herd of people waiting for the magical moment. Surprisingly, we found a spot quite quickly and settled down to wait for the sun to make its appearance.
We took lots of pictures and managed to get some beautiful ones. The day was particularly good too. Just a few clouds to make the view even more picturesque.
Also, don’t forget to take a moment to enjoy the view without a camera in front of you. Those images will be there forever, but that moment is unique and indeed quite magical!
Some important tips:
To make the best out of our visit, we hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us to the temples. A 2-day tour cost US$40 including the sunrise (or sunset) + cool water all day. We visited the most famous temples and also some of them which barely had any visitor. If you need the contact for a great tuk-tuk driver, send us a message and we’ll be super happy to suggest you our driver, Khmera. He was always on time, efficient, kind and polite. Super recommended!
We also were lucky enough to share our ride with the guys from Slow Spirit Blog, Rafa and Greg (check them out!). That made our trip so much more fun and helped keep our costs with transport down too.
Also, remember: the temples are a sacred place for its people, so respect the rules and dress appropriately. Wear comfortable and light clothes as it can get really hot during the day. Drink plenty of water and do not litter.
Another really important information is: do not give money to the kids anywhere in Cambodia or buy from them as it keeps them from studying and working under unsustainable conditions. Learn more on this link from Child Safe Travel.
We had an amazing time in Siem Reap and we really hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you have any other experiences, share them with us. We would love to hear from you!
Larissa & Jean