Things to do in Siem Reap (aside from Angkor wat)
Siem reap has the tourist community that you’d expect with having the group of Angkor temples nearby. There are hotels, guesthouses and hostel dotted all over the place. But this busy little town has more than just the Angkor group of temples. Here’s how we enjoyed Siam Reap with kids.
How to get there?
We ended up taking another minibus. But this time we booked Mekong express and they were much better. Although we were sat further back so to miss any dramas!!!
The journey took around 4 hours with 1 stopover. It was a comfortable and easy journey.
Where to stay
Somewhere with a pool! Even in a budget, this was a non negotiable for me. I’d read that after the temples then cooling off in a pool was essential, and with kids – I’d have to agree!
But being on a budget meant we ended up in a backpackers called Siem reap pub hostel. It was actually quite nice to be somewhere with an atmosphere, and it wasn’t too noisy. We had a nice compact, but basic room with air con and comfortable beds!. There was a restaurant/bar downstairs which catered good food, but portions were a bit small.
The only downside was that the pool, whilst appreciated, was not well maintained and had several broken tiles. Not ideal for kids, especially younger ones. We just told the boys not to put their feet down and to be careful. We came away with only a small cut – but it served a purpose!
Things to do
Aside from the obvious Angkor group of temples where you can read about our experience here. There are a few other things to keep you occupied when you’ve had enough of the temples.
Lilys Secret Garden Cooking school
My kids love getting their hands dirty and I love the local markets. So we booked to attend a cooking course. (www.lilysecretgarden.com) I booked a space for Ethan and also for me and Jasper – just so that I could help him and Ethan. This just meant we had to share the food we cooked for our lunch. Perfect.
The cost was $25 per person. A little higher than I was expecting but we had a full morning out and lunch included. We were picked up at 8.30am and taken to a local market out of town. Before we entered we were given a sprig of lemongrass to help with the smells – we did need it at times (that fish paste!!)
Whilst Chris was talking us through his shopping list we were dodging scooters and people. This is a market that people drive around to collect their shopping!! Crazy. Chris explained about the different vegetables and the imports and also the costs. He was very friendly and answered all the boys questions.
After this we travelled to their cooking school. It was a lovely bamboo outside area with enough cooking stations for us all. Very nicely set up. https://www.lilysecretgarden.com/
We then spent the next 2 hours whipping up a lovely 3 course meal of:
1) Fresh spring rolls with chicken and homemade peanut sauce.
2) Lort Cha: wok-fried thick short rice noodles and chicken.
3) Pumpkin in coconut cream and egg or glutinous rice balls filled with palm sugar.
I particularly enjoyed making the fresh Cambodian spring rolls! .
It’s a great activity to do with kids as it’s very hands on and they get to listen to someone else for a change!
Everywhere we turned there was a night market in Siem Reap. They were only small and sold the usual tourist souvenirs and elephant traveller pants! But they varied in price. Closer you are to pub Street the more the price goes up.
But as it mentions these are night markets and so only open at 6pm.
During the day there was much larger market near pub Street. We took a wander through but it felt very touristy. Some lovely things in there, but my backpack can take no more! Ha ha!
Crazy, busy area with bars and expensive restaurants. Some of the roads around here are closed and there are a few markets and stalls in the vicinity.
But overall it’s the place that people come to have a few drinks! We wandered up and down the street to get some atmosphere and listen to the loud and overly exuberant music! Our favourite part was watching everyone run for cover when the rains came down!
Walking around Siem Reap
It’s actually a lovely little town and has some nice alleyways (like this one with beautiful umbrellas acting as a shade) and the riverside was nice for a stroll.
Plus you are never short of a place to stop for a coffee. It’s sometimes just nice to sit back and watch the world go by.
Other things to do:
Phare Circus – as mentioned in my previous post, we had attended the ‘beginner’ circus in Battambang. I believe this is the polished version, but more expensive and as we’d already been we didn’t go. But it’s had very good reviews if you aren’t too tired after temples. www.pharecircus.org. It’s easy to organise tickets through your accommodation or online.
Pottery Class – this was recommended to us by another family & is a nice creative activity. Once you make your item, you are then able to have it finished off and take it home. As it was we didn’t have time for this and we certainly didn’t have room to take it home!! www.khmerceramics.com
Silk farm – we’d read this suggestion on another website. It’s listed as a free activity and was suggested that the shop at the end was not pushy about you purchasing anything. However, I tend to feel uncomfortable with these set ups and would prefer to pay a nominal fee at least. www.artisansdangkor.com
Wat Preah Prom Rath – within the city centre is a Wat to visit. This is completely overshadowed by the Angkor Group of temples so tends to get overlooked.
Where to eat
As I mentioned above, Pub Street has many eateries but all were over our budget price range. Instead, if you stick to the streets just outside here you’ll find some cracking places, including breakfasts for $1!!
Golden Pumpkin – when we are overwhelmed with eateries we tend to turn to Trip advisor for some ‘assistance’. My research found this restaurant, not too far from our hostel. It was a nice little restaurant on the road and the prices were reasonable, but not the cheapest we’d found. The dishes were presented very well, although not as delicious as we’d previously had.
The missing socks laundry cafe – we went here with the aim of stopping for breakfast. But actually it was quite up market and only served waffles (that were a bit expensive). However, there was a good selection of coffees and juices. Plus there was an air con room to escape the heat. However, the real quirky side was the fact that you could do your washing while you sat and had a coffee!. But for us it wasn’t quite what we were looking for.
Two sisters – just slightly further down the street was another more basic restaurant called two sisters. It didn’t look much from the front but the menu was enticing. Only $1 for an omelette and baguette. By this stage we were starving and so decided to give it a go. It was just so cheap. Actually the food was very nice and good portion sizes and the coffees weren’t too bad either!
Siem Reap Pub Hostel – within our hostel itself was a little restaurant, they served a number of western and cambodian dishes. The prices were o.k. and the food tasted o.k. but the portion sizes were very small for the price.
Khmer hidden home restaurant – next door to our hostel was a small family run restaurant. It was actually where I took my laundry to be washed. The gentleman was very pleasant and recommended 2 local dishes. They were huge and catered for all 4 of us. We also received free rice and free fruit as well as iced tea! It was not what we expected at all.
The Red Angkor Restaurant – remember I mentioned that you needed to just step back from Pub street. Well, this is just a 2 minute walk away. It had a large and varied menu with local Cambodian dishes, the beers were cheap (only 0.50c) and cocktails for $1 and it was run by a local family.
Deep fried crickets were free!!! Ha ha, the owners brought them over for us to try. If course I did!! Bleurgh. Ha ha!!
The staff were very welcoming and friendly. It was actually so good that we went back 3 times – which is unheard of for us! In fact, we met with another travelling family in there, the Wyld family.
They certainly lived up to their name, as we had a rather loud and drink fuelled evening – lots of fun and something which we all really enjoyed!
I’m not sure why I had read that Siem Reap wasn’t all that. I found it to be a great little town with a good atmosphere. It was easy to get around and once you had finished with the temples there was plenty to do in the evenings or during the day. We spent 5 days in Siem Reap and although the pool did provide entertainment we weren’t short of things to do.
I would agree that the area can be very touristy, but this is the hub for one of the main attractions in Cambodia. I really can’t imagine that people come here expecting to get the place to themselves! But in all honesty, the crowds weren’t that bad – not when you compare it to the likes of Forbidden City in Beijing!!
Overall, we found Cambodia to be very hospitable, friendly and welcoming. We really enjoyed our time in Siem Reap!