Trip: October 2017
Below is our Top 5 Things To Do in Siem Reap, part of the Just Carrying On – Top 5 Things To Do series. These lists are favorite activities, eats, and drinks from our travels around the world—in no particular order.
We began our adventures into Cambodia in Siem Reap with our friend Melissa. It was love upon arrival so we extended our time in Siem Reap to 5 of the 10 days we spent in Cambodia in October 2017.
1. Bayon Temple
Yes, Angkor Wat at sunrise was beautiful (as was Phnom Bakheng at sunset) and I am sure the hundreds of others who were there agreed. But by 0730 we snuck over to Bayon Temple (when it opens) and were awed by the large stone pillars, the looming carved faces looking down at us, and the peace and quiet. In comparison to Ankgor Wat, the place was empty. We were able to meander aimlessly through the many nooks and crannies of this beautiful temple without navigating selfie-sticks and tours groups taking turns for their instagram-perfect-image (we like good photos too, just not hustling for them). Bayon is a gorgeous temple without the comparison to busy Angkor Wat, but it’s made even better because it can be fully enjoyed. If you’re looking for an awesome tuk tuk driver or want to read our 3 day itinerary for the entirety of the temple complex (it’s huge), read this post.
Two different groups of people separately told us this was a must visit, so visit we did. We ordered 5-6 small dishes and as each one arrived at the table and we took our first bites a collective ‘wow’ was let out. The food was delicious, creative, and affordable. We ate things like corn fritters dipped in mint yogurt sauce and drank spicy pineapple margaritas. The restaurant is part of Friends International and focuses on training youth in the service industry to help them get jobs. The food, the mission, and the prices combined for one of the best dining experiences we had in all of SE Asia. It was so good, in fact, that we made sure to search out Marum’s sister restaurant, Romdeng, in Phnom Penh.
3. Silk Farm
Jason’s parents have a friend living in Siem Reap who kindly offered to pick us up in the afternoon and show us the silk farm. Without this offer, we likely wouldn’t have gone. The farm itself was fascinating. We were given a private guide (which is standard and free) who took us through all of the steps of the silk farm—from the silk worms munching on leaves, spinning a cocoon of silk, the silk being cleaned of dirt, spun, dyed, spun a few more times (ok I’m not actually an expert) before making its way to the loom to be woven into something beautiful. It was a remarkable experience to watch and they have a very nice shop full of completed products for purchase. It’s entirely Cambodian run and provides many jobs for the local people.
4. Peace Cafe
We ate our first breakfast in Siem Reap here. Next to the river and sitting beneath the shade of trees, this charming cafe caters to vegetarians. The outside garden was quiet and peaceful, the yogurt and fruit breakfast delicious. They also offer on-site yoga, though we were too busy lazily enjoying our breakfast to attend. We enjoyed other delicious breakfasts spots within the hustle and bustle of Siem Reap, such as the trendy Sister Strey, but we loved the low-key vibe of the Peace Cafe most. Aptly named, I suppose.
Massages! Siem Reap offered the most affordable massages we found in SE Asia. For as low as $1 an hour, you can get a foot massage. Most places were more like $4-5 an hour but the opportunities were endless. In addition to little massage shops in the evenings there were chairs lining the streets and we actually had quite a few decent very affordable massages (like the one shown above). The only regret is that we didn’t over-indulge more often.
Google Maps: everywhere / Trip Advisor: Don’t bother (none were that good at our price point)
Asana Bar is a charming restaurant in a wooden house on stilts. It is near the busy downtown streets but is tucked away and has an oasis vibe after you climb up the steps and enter into the bar. We enjoyed one of their many carafe cocktails, a ‘gin fizz’ to be exact, and sat under the fan on a steamy night. Our waitress was lovely, teaching us a few Khmer phrases while sharing about her life. The place was delightful and the cocktail refreshing in the land of generic lagers.
Top 5 Things To Do in Siem Reap is part of Just Carrying On – Top 5 Things To Do series, which offers our best travel recommendations from around the world.