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5 Best Things To Do In Siem Reap

Your Guide to Cambodia

· Travel


Siem Reap is the most popular tourist destination in Cambodia. People from around the world come to marvel at Cambodia's well-preserved ancient temples. With so many tourists coming in each year, Siem Reap has developed a thriving tourism industry.

This article will highlight the 5 best things to do in Siem Reap and give you tips on how to best enjoy your vacation in the city.

1. Ancient Temples (Angkor Wat)

The Cambodian people are incredibly proud of their ancient history. So much so that their national flag has a picture of Siem Reap's most famous temple, Angkor Wat, on it. Angkor Wat is Siem Reap's best preserved and largest temple. Its history stretches back to the 12th century. Thanks to its sturdy foundations and modern preservation technology, travelers can still go inside the temple and explore its ancient wonders.

There are many other temples near Angkor Wat. They tend to be smaller, and for some, not as well preserved. All are still worth visiting.

The most popular options travelers have when visiting the temples is the "small loop" and "big loop". The best option for you will likely depend on how much time you want to spend at the temples. There are food and beverages available at Angkor Wat and around the larger tourist sites.

You are required to purchase a ticket before entering the temple park. Don't worry about finding the ticket booth. It's almost guaranteed your hotel or guide will ask if you have one before the journey begins and will take you to it as a part of your "small loop" or "big loop" package.

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The most important thing you need to decide is whether you want a one, three, or seven day pass. Most tourists will pick a one or three day pass. The prices are $37, $62, and $72 US dollars, respectively.

The best option of which will of course depend on how many days you want to spend seeing temples. If you buy a three or seven day pass, that pass is only good from the beginning of the start date. In other words, the pass is good for seven days, not seven trips to the temple. So be sure that you have time in your schedule if you decide to buy multi-day pass.

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2. French Cuisine

Cambodia was previously a part of the French Colonial Empire. It was during this period that Cambodian society began picking up elements of French culture. That can certainly be true of its cooking. Today there are many notable French restaurants throughout the city that have cooks from or trained in France.

During my trip I tried "Olive". The prices are a fraction of what you'd pay for an equivalent restaurant in the US or other developed nations, but with the same standard of quality. Use Google Maps to find a French restaurant near you. It'll be good for a romantic night out or if you're craving some delicious Western cuisine.

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3. Rural Communities

On my trip I wanted to explore the rural communities surrounding the city, but I didn't have time to do an organized trip. Instead, I talked to my hostel and they helped pair me with a local driver.

The local driver took me on the back of his motorbike to the outskirts of the city and then the countryside. You'll be surprised how fast you can reach the rural areas from the central core of the city. Depending where your hotel is located, it will probably only take about 10 - 20 minutes for your environment to start feeling totally different from Siem Reap's inner core.

Here you can witness the beautiful countryside and see how the local people really live. For me, I appreciated seeing the mix of traditional lifestyle and development. People will be excited to meet you. My driver took me to his friend's home where we enjoyed fish and beer.

If you meet a friendly driver (and there's many around the city) try asking them for a personal tour of the countryside rather than joining a group tour.

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4. Phare, The Cambodian Circus

While it's unlikely someone told you already that you need to go to the circus if you're in Siem Reap, I am here to tell you that's exactly what you need to do. 

After I finished seeing the temples I went searching for new things to do and I came across a flyer advertising the show. I decided to give it a try, and I'm sure glad I did! The show is a mix of music, dance, and traditional Cambodian culture.

On the company's website there are multiple tickets you can select from. My recommendation is to buy the most affordable ticket available. All the seats in the house are great and no matter where you end up you'll be able to enjoy the show.

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5. Pub Street

If you end up making your way to Siem Reap, there's a good chance you'll end up on Pub Street at some point in your journey. The street is undeniably popular with younger crowds, but has options for all ages and stages of life.

While the street is certainly busy later in the evening and on weekends, there are also many daytime options for travelers. Those include local cafes and several international dining options. Here's a good place to solve that international craving you have after a long trip in Asia - such as grabbing a burrito.

The time of day has a big influence on the street. So if you're looking to get your party on, make sure to visit here late on a Friday or Saturday night.

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About the author:

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Alexander graduated with his bachelor's degree in political science from Portland State University. He is a graduate student studying international relations at Peking University. He is currently based out of Saigon, Vietnam.