5 must dos in Siem Reap

In Siem Reap, don’t get all tired and templed out. Here is my guide to the best of what this remarkable city of temples has on offer…

1. ARTY SOUVENIRS

Buy authentic Cambodian keepsakes – lacquer tableware, a wooden statue or some pearl jewellery – at Artisans d’Angkor. For silk scarves, bags and accessories, take time to visit its silk farm, a 20-minute drive from downtown Siem Reap.

Angkor art
(image courtesy: Silverkris)

If you want local ambience and street food along with your shopping, stroll around Psar Chaa (Old Market). Keep an eye out for bargains or take home a unique Khmer memento in the form of a fine art print of the Angkor temples by American photographer John McDermott, from the McDermott Gallery.

2. STAY IN STYLE

FCC Angkor comes with oodles of charm and history. This Art Deco gem also has a great location – along the banks of the Siem Reap River and close to the Angkor Wat complex.

Raffles
(image courtesy: Silverkris)

The Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor is still considered the best in terms of luxury and service – despite the recent spurt of new hotels in the city. Besides enjoying the rooms, which have colonial-style furnishings and Cambodian objets d’art, you can also catch an Apsara performance (a classical Khmer dance) and have dinner at its aptly named Apsara Terrace restaurant.

3. GET PAMPERED

Soothe achy muscles at Bodia Spa with the Apsara Indulgence 4 Hands Massage. Or try its Herbal Compress Massage. They will have you fit and ready to hit the temple trail afresh the next day.

At Lemongrass Garden Spa, massages are associated with spiritual healing and treatments, and come with names like Cosmic Connection and Spiritual Journey.

If you are looking to give back to this society in some way, spend some of your cash at Seeing Hands Massage (324 Sivatha Street). The no-frills massages there are given by blind masseurs.

4. AFTER ANGKOR, WHAT?

Most visitors to Siem Reap are content with the main temples of the Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom complex. Set aside an entire day just for these two marvels. Once you have had your fill of them, head to Ta Prohm temple – ideally at sunset. It is breathtaking even as it lies in the grip of ancient tree roots wrapped around it. Although this is part of the Angkor complex, it remains serenely untouched by the tourist throngs.

In the grip of nature

The face

And then it dawned on me...

Finally, make a trip to the 10th century Banteay Srei (translated as “Citadel of Women”). Smaller in scale than other temples and built of pink sandstone, it is truly exquisite.

Bantaey Srei
(image courtesy: Silverkris)

5. EAT AND MAKE MERRY

Tuck into Khmer food at Cuisine Wat Damnak, which prides itself on using fresh local produce. Ask chef Joannes Riviere for recommendations or stick to the ever-changing degustation menu for an introduction to this simple but flavourful cuisine.

Fish Amok
(image courtesy: Silverkris)

To linger over ice cream and coffee – or even Cambodia’s famous Amok Fish (steamed fish in coconut curry) – the best place is the popular The Blue Pumpkin. At the end of a hot day, chill with a Tomb Raider cocktail – named after the movie – at The Red Piano. Lead actress Angelina Jolie had hung out at this restaurant while the movie was being filmed.

This was originally published in the April issue of Silverkris (Singapore Airlines)read it online here

Read more Cambodia stories on this blog here

14 Comments Add yours

  1. bladenomics says:

    That painting!! Amazing work of art!

    1. charukesi says:

      yes, some artists sit in front of Angkor Wat and sketch – fascinating to watch them at work!

  2. Love the sunset picture – absolutely stunning!

    1. charukesi says:

      Thanks, Chaitali (it’s sunrise actually – really, really early in the morning)

  3. Niranjan says:

    Interesting list of things to do.

    1. charukesi says:

      Thank you, Niranjan!

  4. mmalavika24 says:

    A really interesting read. I loved the picture with the tree roots..have always been fascinated with Angkor Wat 🙂

    1. charukesi says:

      Thanks for dropping by, Malavika. The Ta Phrom temple is truly a remarkable sight, with the tree roots gripping the structures. A must see for every traveller!

  5. The Temples are amazing, but I agree there is more Siem Reap has to offer. The 3 main ones are Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm. The rest can be skipped. I hope my guide to Angkor Wat may be helpful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqmNEL0RRpM

    1. charukesi says:

      Thanks for dropping by! While I agree there is more to Siem Reap than the temples (which is the point of this post), I think these three temples are not enough unless one is just checking off a list – others like Bantaey Srei which I have mentioned here are remarkable in their own way…

  6. Cambodia, like many of the places you mention on your blog, has always been on my must-visit list.

    This list sounds so interesting! I am sure I would enjoy doing each of these activities. 🙂

    1. charukesi says:

      Your must visit list just keeps growing – now start going 🙂

  7. Anusha Ram says:

    The only thing that is as good as travel itself, is reading about places, local culture and experiences. This was wonderful… I’m just back from a vacation but struck by wanderlust again!

    1. charukesi says:

      Hi Anusha, thanks for dropping by. And I agree – reading about places is the next best thing to actually being there 🙂
      Good luck with your travels!

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