Siem Reap is #2 on Tripadvisor’s top Asian destinations for 2017, and for good reason! It has a huge range of accommodation, eating options and sights – including the world renowned Temples of Angkor.
I’ve been to Siem Reap twice now. The first time was with James and we spent 4 days visiting every single temple within 1.5 hours of Siem Reap. The second time, I was alone and decided to not see any temples, mainly because I didn’t want to ruin the memories I had of last time. So instead, I took on the challenge of spending 3 days in Siem Reap without visiting a single temple. Turns out this challenge was actually super easy as there is so much to do!! I managed to narrow down everything to the top 5, so without further ado:
1. Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity
This centre is a conservation centre for Cambodian wildlife and is in no way a zoo. Most of the animals have been rescued from the illegal wildlife trade or were found injured. Once rehabilitated, animals are released into suitable habitats (governed by internationally recognised standards). It is a fair way out of Siem Reap (1.5 hours by tuk tuk), but combine it with a few other sights and it is well worth the trip – such an amazing place and definitely number one on the list for a reason!
- Location: Opposite Kbal Spean. Trying to get a tuk tuk driver who knew what or where the centre is was impossible, so just ask to go to Kbal Spean as it’s the same carpark;
- Time: Strictly by tour only, with set tours Mon-Sat at 9am and 1pm (private tours available for groups of 5+ people);
- Cost: Minimum $3 donation
2. Cambodia Landmine Museum
The Cambodian Landmine Museum was founded by Aki Ra, and the museum tells his incredibly interesting life story through pictures and exhibits, detailing his beginnings as a Khmer Rouge child soldier laying landmines, then as an adult setting out to de-mine them. The museum also focuses on the consequences of landmines and how local Cambodians live with this constant threat.
- Location: 25kms N of Siem Reap (on the road to Banteay Srey & Kbal Spean);
- Time: 7.30am-5.30pm;
- Cost: $5.
3. Countryside Cooking Classes
This was a small non-for-profit cooking class set on the outskirts of a Cambodian village near Siem Reap. As per a standard cooking class, we began by visiting a market to purchase the ingredients before heading to the kitchen, however unlike other classes I’ve done this was a legitimate village market where tourists were quite the novelty! We did all the preparation, however the meals were actually cooked by a local chef named Mrs Phat La in a traditional Cambodian kitchen. Highly recommended!
- Location: Pick up from your accommodation;
- Time: Half day;
- Cost: $30 (from memory).
4. Visit the night markets.
Pretty much any Cambodian-esque item you can think of can be found at these night markets. Prices were reasonable enough, not the cheapest I’ve seen but if you’re pushed for time it was worth the purchase. There is also so much yummy street food it’s ridiculous, a couple of fish foot spas and tonnes of outdoor massage places.
- Location: There’s technically 3 different markets, however they blend into each other and are all along Sivutha Blvd within walking distance of Pub St;
- Time: 6pm until late;
- Cost: Depends how much you buy!
5. Indulge on a budget!
Although you are on a budget, that doesn’t mean you can’t still indulge occasionally! The following were great ways to let myself relax in more western style comfort after so much time living in a developping country.
- Cupcakes from Blossom ($1.50 for 1 cupcake – western style, air-con cafe);
- Ice-cream from Blue Pumpkin ($1.60 per scoop – western style, air-con cafe);
- 1 hour relaxing Khmer massage at Lemongrass Garden ($15). For a cheaper option, Seeing Hands Massages are $5 but not as relaxing;
- Relaxing by the pool at my hotel – Bliss Villa ($3 per night for a 10 bed female dorm).
There are many other things to do in Siem Reap such as the War Museum, Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre, day trips to floating villages, bicycle tours, fancy restaurants, silk farms, pottery workshops, gemstone centres and many, many more.
Let me know of your experiences and suggestions in the comments!