Being one of the the millions of tourists visiting Cambodia every year to witness the magnificence of the Angkor Wat temples, little did I know that Siem Reap had much more in store for me than just the temples.
Siem Reap – The town
The talented local and international artisans fabricating woodworks, craftworks and paintings, the delectable street food, the very happening night life at Pub street – Siem Reap is surely going to dazzle the tourists. With beautiful and intricated handicrafts, silk shawls and silver accessories to take away for souvenirs, you will be spoilt with choices.
The eclectic food options includes and not limited to crispy fried grasshoppers, tarantulas, cockroaches, snakes and meat from octopus to crocodile. And, I found it particularly amusing. Being a vegetarian, I was worried about the bizarre food scenes in Cambodia(Read above). But as it turns out, there are a lot of vegetarian options too. From the assortment of fresh fruits, fried banana kebabs, roasted corn, fried noodles, yummy banana-chocolate pancakes to the amusing fried ice cream – all by the street. Consequently, the diversified food options is surely going to delight everyone’s appetite.
Furthermore, with vehicles passing by on the right side of the road, unlike other parts of Asia, friendly english speaking natives all over Siem Reap and people transacting in dollars – it’s easy to observe that this small town is influenced to a large extent by the western tourists.
The only street in Siem Reap open till 2AM; boasts of tourist laden mini bars along the street. Tourists and locals alike dance to the tunes of some western music on the street and in the pubs likewise.
For the outdoorsy folks, there are options aplenty. Ranging from zip-lining through the 1500 year rainforests, cycling or quad biking in the rustic countryside, boating over Tonle Sap lake and floating villages, crocodile and silk farms to Kbal Spean waterfalls by the Phnom Kulen national park (just 55km away from Siem Reap) – the tour operators are usually bustling with tourists. Just head over to any of the tour operators around Pub street and book yourself an experience.The famous Cambodian circus might amuse you. Additionally, indulging in yourself has never been easy with the growing number of spa’s and salons offering medley of services.
Few pubs here have Apsara dancers in their luscious garments adorning elaborate headdresses. Apsara dancers perform Khmer style of classical dance to the tunes of the brilliant Khmer musicians. It’s an opportunity to soak in the Khmer style of classical dance while in Cambodia. Not to be missed!
Temple Club, Siem Reap
Located in Pub street, it offers free dance performances every night between 8PM – 9PM when you dine there. No pre-booking needed. Lot of other clubs also offer free or sometimes paid dance performances. Click here for more options>>
Life in Cambodia
Nevertheless, the repercussions of the tyrannical history still stands heavy on the economy and the community strives to make a living. Livelihood of the locals in Siem Reap town involves mostly around catering to tourists. Be it the sometimes pestering tuk-tuk drivers or resourceful guides or amicable shop keepers or talented artists or apsara dancers or hospitable hotel owners or multi-cuisine restaurant owners or street vendors flourishing on the tourist dollar. Contrary to popular belief, I found it pretty safe for travellers, solo travellers or otherwise. And no hint at chicanery from the locals. They are warm and friendly people and helped us whenever they could.
Despite the incredible architecture of Angkor, the delectable food, the happening night scene and the genial locals forging Siem Reap as a peppy atmosphere, Cambodia has a lot more to offer than Siem Reap. With a sad heart, I had to bid adieu to Cambodia without exploring the southern parts of the country. Phnom Penh, Silhanouville and Kampot is now on my wishlist for a later time. Goodbye Cambodia, until we meet again or as the Cambodians would say – chum reap leah!
Want to know about the rich heritage of Cambodian temples? Find out here. Highlight of Cambodia – Angkor Wat temples
Closest Airport : Siem Reap International Airport.
Plenty of hostels conveniently located around Pub street and also goes easy on the pocket. Find a hostel here
Tuk-Tuks are the standard option in the town. Also, you can find taxis and bicycles for rent to roam around and for the temple tours too.
In Siem Reap, dollars are accepted everywhere. Hence, there is no need to convert to the official currency – Cambodian Reil. On an average, you would need $30 per day excluding stay and Visa fees.
The best time to visit would be around November – March. Although, during off-season(May – early october) prices will be lower and also, you can dodge the crowds. It is usually warm year round with temperatures hardly going below 25°C.