If you're heading to Cambodia to take in the beauty of the Angkor Archaeological Complex, chances are you'll be staying and spending some time in Siem Reap. Siem Reap is mostly a resort town, benefiting from the large number of tourists that are drawn to Angkor Wat every year, but it offers a variety of things to do for when you want a change of scenery from temple hopping. Here's a quick guide to places to eat, drink, learn, relax, and stay in Siem Reap!
Places to Shop
Siem Reap is home to a couple of markets: the Angkor Night Market, the Central Market, and Psar Chas (the Old Market) are just a few of them. I found that they all sold similar things. If you head deeper into the centre of the markets, you might find fruit, vegetable, and meat stalls as well as local food stalls. But most of the stalls in the markets mainly sold souvenir trinkets, spices, t-shirts and what I call 'tourist trousers' - those wide-legged, patterned pants that tourists in Southeast Asia tend to end up buying. I'm not mocking them by any means. I also got myself a pair because they were just the most comfy thing to wear in the humid heat of Cambodia!
A word of wisdom here though: surprisingly, I found that the sellers within the Angkor complex were selling most things at a cheaper price than what I saw at the markets, so you might want to wait to buy your tourist trousers there! Of course, with stores both within and outside of the complex, haggling is a necessity and is a huge part of the shopping experience. Even if you're not looking to buy anything the markets are an interesting place to walk through, and also a good place to get some shade from the midday sun.
If higher end, hip boutique stores are more your thing, you can take a wander down Hap Guan Street. There a number of stores selling unique items there such as trunkh. a store selling quirky everyday items, and upcycled furniture.
Places to Eat and Drink
There's nothing quite like a delicious meal and a cool drink after a day of exploring temples. Siem Reap definitely doesn't lack in places for you to grab some Cambodian favourites such as beef lok lak and fish amok! Some restaurants that I tried that I can recommend are the Khmer Grill Restaurant (very affordable with great portion sizes), Khmer Kitchen Restaurant (popular and tasty, and the food was great with an cool and crisp Angkor beer), and The Soup Dragon (for some Cambodian style hot pot)!
For a delicious mid-afternoon coffee, I highly recommend The Little Red Fox Espresso. While they have some interesting food items on their menu, the thing that stood out for me was their Coconut and Cinnamon Mocha. Coconut-y, creamy, and not too sweet - it was to die for!
Finally for drinks, there is no shortage of pubs and bars down the aptly named Pub Street. The Red Piano Restaurant is a popular choice because it is the home of the Tomb Raider cocktail, a fruity mix of vodka, Malibu, and pineapple juice. The restaurant says it was "initiated by Angelina Jolie". While I'm not quite sure what that means, I enjoyed it regardless!
Places to Learn
Although not quite in Siem Reap (located 25km north of Siem Reap, closer to Banteay Srei aka the Lady Temple), the Cambodia Landmine Museum is well worth a visit. The Cambodia Landmine Museum was opened in 1997 by founder Aki Ra, who actually used to plant landmines when he fought for the Khmer Rouge Army as a child soldier. He has since dedicated his life to removing and defusing landmines throughout the country. Part of the museum includes a facility where originally, Aki Ra housed children who were hurt or orphaned because of landmines. Today, he has taken in children who suffers all sorts of other difficulties, providing them with education. At the Cambodia Landmine Museum, you can learn more about landmines in the country and how they work to defuse the landmines. But perhaps most memorable and touching for me, was reading the stories of the children whose lives were affected by the landmines.
Places to Relax
For tired feet or shoulders, Siem Reap offers many massage places. You'll see many 'fish doctor' stalls lining the streets, but we ended up trying out Temple Massage and got an amazing hour-long foot massage that ended with a short shoulder and back massage for just $6 USD! It was great for post-temple climbing, tired feet and the air conditioning was a huge bonus!
Places to Stay
There are so many choices when it comes to places to stay in Siem Reap, and many of them come at a great price for the quality of accommodation that you'll get. I stayed at two different hotels, the first being the King Rock Boutique Hotel which I highly recommend. The room was clean and comfortable, and it was a short (less than 10 minute) walking distance from the central action of Siem Reap. We also became quite attached to this adorable cat, which I named Tom, that hung out outside our room. Quick tip: if you're looking into booking a room at King Rock Boutique Hotel, the staff did mention that it's best to email them directly for pricing (vs. booking through an Agoda or Expedia) as they are able to offer better pricing that way.
The second hotel we stayed at was the Popular Residence Hotel which was cheaper but a little further away from the town centre and pub street area. It would probably take 25 minutes to walk out there, but they did offer free one-way drop-off at the Old Market. To be honest, I enjoyed my stay at both hotels. The staff at both hotels were extremely hospitable and so kind. I would stay at either again! And this is my honest opinion - I wasn't sponsored to advertise for them!
Have you been to Siem Reap? Which were your favourite places to eat, drink, learn, relax, or stay there?
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