Siem Reap is an adventure beyond Angkor Wat. Your visit needs to include the Night Marketfor handicrafts and souvenirs, Old Marketfor textiles and Pub Streetfor dining and drinks.
It is also a town serving ‘hidden’ gems like the floating fishing villages on nearby Tonlé Sap lake, cooking classes and gourmet food tours. Open daily are silk farms, butterfly parks and crocodile pens. Countryside tours by horseback and buffalo cart are on offer as are Apsara dance, art and photography classes.
But if time only permits a couple of days:
The Angkor National Museumprovides an insight into Khmer art, culture, and architecture. It includes interactive and standing exhibits and examples of customs and traditions of the ancient empire.
The small Wat Thmeypagoda located behind the Jayavaraman VII hospital is also the site of the Siem Reap Killing Fields. The stupa memorial beside Wat Thmey is filled with the remains of local people who died under the Khmer Rouge.
The Old Market (Psar Chaa)creates a center for Siem Reap town and the French colonial shop houses around it. The market is popular for handmade silks, carvings and clothes. Prahok, a local fermented fish paste is found here as well as the famed Kampot pepper. This is also the place to buy deep fried tarantula – a-ping– and spiced frog legs.
Visit Pub Street, spilling out to the Old Market, that comes alive at night with a neon panorama of cafes, restaurants and bars offering quick bites through to delicious full meals. Eateries range in style and price.
Bright alleyways off the main street offer specialty eateries, and cocktail bars like the 1920’s inspired Miss Wong, expat-friendly Picasso and the The Yellow Sub, a three-story Beatles-themed bar and restaurant. Ice cream and fresh-blended juice stands are here as well as hawker food stalls offering US$1.50 banana and chocolate crepes.
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Angkor Wat at sunrise is a magical experience. The Wat is a 3.6 kilometre sandstone complex of spires, shrines, stairs, walkways and moats once home to a million people. Guides can be hired at the entrance.
Next, Ta Prohm. Jungle gripped, its ancient stone obelisks disgorged from the green canopy, its faces mauled by tree roots and Daliesque stonework.
Lunch at the Bong Thom Homestay: On the way to the Bantey Srey temple and 18km from Angkor Wat is a unique community experience. Set amid mango and dragon fruit orchards and purpose-built fish farms, which are easily toured. Built from local timbers and standing on stilts, the homestay offers lunch using local produce. You can also stay here overnight. Featured is a self-funded English language school for rural children.
The quality Por Cuisinerestaurant, a two-minute remarque (tuk tuk) ride from town, serves great Khmer and French cuisine. Included is a mesmerizing Apsara danceand cultural performance performed nightly.