Beyond Angkor Wat: 48 Hours In Siem Reap
It's so much more than home to one of the Seven Wonders.
As the gateway city to the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is one of Cambodia’s busiest tourist destinations. The surrounding temple ruins are a drawcard for visitors, but Siem Reap is more than just home to one of the Seven Wonders.
With tourism booming, the vibrant city center has so much to offer. It is a melting pot of local culture and modern touches.
From Khmer style cocktails at sleek bars, to visiting practicing monks at local temples, there is so much to do in 48 hours in Siem Reap.
Book yourself in close to the action of the town centre but away from the hustle and bustle at Heritage Suites Hotel. This quaint, boutique hotel is a far cry from the sprawling hotel chains that line the main highways. Think private suites, a stunning heritage façade, and lush, green gardens. Settle in to your digs with a swim and a signature turmeric, chilli and coriander martini (or two) from the pool bar.
Hail one of the friendly tuktuk drivers and take the short ride in to the heart of town for the afternoon. Go for a stroll around the Siem Reap old markets (known as Psah Chas) to scope out the souvenir scene.
If you can do without the souvenir style t-shirts and bags, head to The Lane nearby, to check out the work of up and coming Cambodian designers. Despite its proximity to the touristy Pub Street, The Lane is home to the trendiest stores in Siem Reap, as well as some undiscovered restaurants and bars.
Stay at The Lane for some pre-dinner cocktails at the intimate Miss Wong. Unlike neighbours throbbing with tourists, it’s a great place to relax with some local flavours (Kampot green peppercorn infused vodka, anyone?) and conversation.
For dinner, venture away from the predictability of Pub Street to the best Khmer restaurant in town, Sugar Palm, and tuck in to a fish amok and minced pork with morning glory.
Be sure to save some room for dessert as the streets around Old Market are lined with dessert carts offering ice-cream, baked treats and freshly squeezed juices. If you want to take a seat, head in to Kaya café for some traditional Khmer desserts like a guava and lemongrass teukolok (shake) and pumpkin custard.
Start your morning with a stretch at Ashtanga Yoga Siem Reap or Peacock Yoga studio before doing as the locals do with a trip to the wet markets at Psah Chas. A completely different vibe to the night markets, the mornings see local growers, fishermen and butchers selling their wares in the walkways.
Head right to the center of the market to pick up a steaming hot breakfast bowl of clear, spicy soup, before taking in the sights and smells of local Cambodian cuisine. You can’t mistake the smell of the local, fishy delicacy, prahok!
Post breakfast, spend some time visiting the operational wats (Buddhist temples) around central Siem Reap. Wat Kesararam is one of Siem Reap’s most beautiful, with the main temple covered in bright floor-to-ceiling murals. Preah Prom Rath Pagoda is equally as ornate, with colourful tiles and its famed giant reclining Buddha statue.
And, if you think size matters, you must visit Siem Reap’s largest wat, Damnak Pagoda. As its fully functioning, it’s highly likely you’ll cross paths with a monk. Hang around for a chat – they love answering your questions and finding out more about you.
Before leaving Siem Reap, dinner at Marum is a must. Eating red tree ants and mini crocodile burgers in a big, open-air garden is not an experience you will forget in a hurry. With all profits reinvested back in to the training of their hospitality students at the restaurant, you will leave feeling warm, fuzzy and sated.
Finish the night off with a Khmer style Tamarind Sauce cocktail (white rice paddy herbs, tamarind and kaffir flavours) from Asana. One of the last wooden home-style buildings in the area, it is a unique place to kick on into the night.
Before you race off to catch your flight, stop in for breakfast at The Hive or Sister Srey. If you’re missing your smashed avo, this is where you’ll find it.
Time permitting, a spot of pampering at Lemon Grass Garden Spa comes highly recommended. Prepare for the plane with a full body massage followed by a mani-pedi combo before the 20-minute commute to the airport.
(Lead image: macronix / Flickr)