Things To Do in Siem Reap, Cambodia (that have nothing to do with temples)

Angkor Wat is great, yes. But is there anything else to do in Cambodia aside from traversing temples?

 

In my 5-day trip to Siem Reap, my girlfriends and I discovered that there are other things to see in the city other than pagodas and bas-relief structures that are just as interesting and fun. When in Cambodia, try to do the things on this list.

Ride a tuk tuk

Go around Siem Reap in true Khmer fashion by riding a tuk tuk, an auto rickshaw which is Cambodia’s most popular mode of urban transportation. It’s a motorcycle with a built-in cabin at the rear.. The ride can get a little bumpy when passing rough roads but it’s cheap, safe, and fun! Getting a view of the streets of Siem Reap with the wind blowing on your face, traveling by tuk tuk can be quite exhilarting – especially when you’re riding with friends. When I rode the tuk tuk after getting stoned (more on that later), my first thought was “So this is what Cinderella must have felt like when she was riding the magic carriage!” Okay, maybe it’s not exactly what I’d call magical (everything seems more magical when you’re high), but it’s a nice experience, especially if you have a nice and entertaining tuk tuk driver, like our driver “Tom.” We didn’t hire Tom, nor did we find out about him prior to our trip, but when he saw us in Pub Street, he volunteered to be our “official” tuk tuk driver. If you’re planning a trip to Siem Reap, you might want to add him up on Facebook and ask him to be your personal tuk tuk driver. Look for his name: Sok Sheang Heng. Don’t ask me how he got the nickname “Tom” when there is nothing close to a “Tom” in his real name. I have absolutely no idea!
What Batman is doing when he’s not being a superhero.
Oh, but it’s not just a batmobile. It’s a LUXURY batmobile!
Feel like the Caped Crusader when riding this tuk tuk..

Not a Batman fan? How about a Superman tuk tuk?
Perhaps this tuk tuk driver likes to drive fast, so you’d feel like you’re flying!
Here’s a tuk tuk for the Transformers aficionados. So… does this particular tuk tuk transform into a Cambodian autobot?
Our fun, crazy, and hopeless romantic tuk tuk driver, Tom! I think he fell in love with our friend Teetap. Haha!

Get a fish massage

Walking around in temples sure is tiring! What better way to relax after a full day of touring temples than to get a foot massage? But you know what’s more interesting than a normal foot massage? A foot massage care of our friends from the sea!
It’s common to see large fish tanks along the streets of Siem Reap. For as low as $1-2, you get your tootsies pampered by the little sea critters. All you have to do is soak your feet in the tank and let the fishies nip at your dead skin. I don’t know how safe or hygienic this is, though. But if you want smooth soles at a really cheap price, and you don’t mind the tickling sensation, go for it! You get a pedicure and the fish get to snack on your feet!
Those people on the poster look quite happy and satisfied with their fishy foot massage. Wait… George Clooney had a fish foot massage?
Don’t let your dead skin go to waste. For you, it’s just dead skin. For the fish, it’s lunch or dinner!
No piranha. Good to know!

Hang out at Pub Street

Lined with bars, pubs, and restaurants, Pub Street is the busiest, liveliest, most colorful area in Siem Reap. It’s the most happening place for a night out, whether you want to eat, drink cheap beer, or party. It’s a great venue to meet people of different nationalities and fellow travelers. Everyone here seems to be young (or at least young at heart) and carefree. If you don’t mind the noise and the crowd, you’ll love the energy at Pub Street.
The busy and bustling Pub Street
Even late at night or in the wee hours of dawn, I felt safe walking around Pub Street.
My girlfriends and I having a blast at Pub Street

Eat and be merry (or “happy”)

Cambodian curry (left) and amok (right), a traditional Cambodian dish

Whether you’re in the mood for authentic Khmer food or other international fare like Vietnamese, Mexican, Italian, or American cuisine, you’ll surely find a restaurant to satisfy your cravings in Siem Reap. Try the amok, one of Cambodia’s most popular and traditional dishes. Get a high (literally) from the happy pizza – pizza sprinkled with some special “herbs” (if you know what I mean). And if you want to chow Fear Factor style, there’s a wide selection of creepy crawlies and other outlandish snacks: fried tarantulas, grilled crocodiles, crispy frogs, and more! Appetized yet? (Read more about my dining experience in Siem Reap here: From Amok to Happy Pizza: Eating in Siem Reap)

Affordable spring rolls from The Soup Dragon. This dish is already good for 2-3 persons!
Unforgettably delicious chimichangas from Viva! Mexican restaurant.
“Happy pizza” from Angkor Special Pizza, made with cheese, meat, and… marijuana! The effect was about 2 to 3 hours late, but oh man, when it hit, I felt like I was in another dimension!

Attend Cambodian cooking classesIf you want to do more than just eat Khmer dishes, why not try learning how to cook them? Go on culinary tours and even visit local markets where you can get your ingredients for your recipes. You will be taught and guided by Cambodian chefs. When you get home from your trip, you can impress your family and friends by whipping up a delicious Cambodian meal!Party!

Party the night away at Pub Street! If you just want to chill out over drinks in a casual and cool bar, you can hang out at Angkor What?. If you want to let your hair down and trip the light fantastic, get down at Temple Bar. Either way, you’ll have fun and meet other people who are also out to have a good time.

Get your party mode on at the vibrant Temple Bar!
We wrote our group name on the wall of Temple Bar. Cambodia, the Cambachelorettes are coming at ya!
Punky looks a bit miffed about the fact that these guys were getting more action than her that night.
Dudes on the left:
Dude 1: “Look! Those guys are making out!”
Dude 2: “You want to?”
Dude 3: “Okay.”
There were guys who like guys, and then there were girls who like girls. What kind of bar did we go to, anyway?!
Bumping and grinding with my new (and tall) friend. She moves like Beyonce!
Dance-off with this, er, lady (?) Gosh, her shorts are shorter than mine!
Party party! Fun!
 Cool lights on the dance floor!

Watch the performance of Apsara dancers

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Apsaras are female nymphs and spirits in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. They are depicted as beautiful, graceful, and ethereal deities who are excellent dancers. Because they are so important in the Khmer culture, they are present in many of the bas-reliefs of the Cambodian temples. Watch the elegant moves of the apsara dancers and be mesmerized by their splendid costumes. There are various theaters and bars in Siem Reap where you can catch their performances. In fact, Temple Bar, which I mentioned earlier, showcases these apsara dancers from 7:30 to 9:30 PM. Unfortunately, we were not able to watch because we had to catch our flight on the way home.

Go shopping

At Pub Street and the nearby alleys, you can find myriad of stalls selling clothes, souvenirs, food, and more at affordable prices. Buy something nice for yourself or your loved ones back home and take a piece of Cambodia back with you.

Cambodian snacks
A sea of spices! If you cook (like me), you’ll go crazy over this.
Trying on some “Cambodia pants.” A lot of women in Cambodia (whether tourists or locals) were wearing these over-sized pajama-like pants.
I tried on these Cambodia pants and I loved it so I bought it! 

There is so much to do at Cambodia, and if only we had more time, we could have explored more of what the country has to offer. If you’re planning a trip to Siem Reap soon, make sure you get a kind and experienced tour guide like ours. Our tour guide, Samreth Kao (or just “Sam“) was everything we could ever want in a tour guide. He sure knew his temples — he impressed us with his in-depth knowledge of Cambodia’s history and culture. Because of his knowledge, he was able to explain everything to us so well, and in turn, we learned so much and appreciated Cambodia so much more. He was caring too — he would bring us bottles of water every time we went to temples because he knew that we would be tired. Best of all, he was very patient and wouldn’t get annoyed at me and my girlfriends because we would take about a hundred pictures in every stop or whenever there was a photo-worthy subject or background. Well, at least we hope he really wasn’t annoyed… or maybe he was but he was very good at hiding his annoyance! He also tied up with a driver named Sary Nem who was our van driver during our entire stay. Sary was very friendly and sweet, like a cute and good-natured grandpa. He was not one of those drivers that would just drive you to your destination. He actually interacted with us and joked around with us. Because of the two of them, our trip was richer and more memorable.

To get in touch with Sam, you may contact him here:

Website: http://angkortouring.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/samreth.kao

E-mail: kao_samreth@hotmail.com

Mobile: +855 12 763 462 (Please note that there is no cell coverage at Angkor Wat. If you are not able to contact Sam, try again another time or send him an SMS or e-mail)

One of my favorite photos of us with Sam just because our expressions are so funny! It looks like Sam is boring us to death, but I promise you, he was very good. We had to wake up at 4:00 in the morning so we were still in zombie mode.
Posing with Sam at Bayon Temple.
Sam tells us stories about Angkor Wat
With our cute and kind driver, Sary! Too bad we didn’t have a clearer photo with him.
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Comments

  1. Samantha says:

    I’m getting really excited for my trip to Cambodia in March. Looking forward to doing lots of things – temple and non-temple related!
    Samantha recently posted…12 Festivals in Korea You Must Attend This YearMy Profile

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