Despite what some travel websites say, Siem Reap makes for a great tourist destination all year round. Wet seasons average to about an hour of rain a day, which in turn bring cooler weather and, crucially, less tourists!
So whether its ancient temples, vibrant culture or the unique flavor of Khmer cuisine that you crave, here is a guide to ‘reap’ some of the best things that the northwest capital of Cambodia has to offer.
Home to the largest religious structure in the world, Angkor Wat means “City of Temples” in Khmer and was constructed by Khmer King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century. Amongst the myriad of temples, be sure to catch the 54 towers of The Bayon, the royal grounds of Elephant Terrace and the jungle covered Ta Phrom, as seen in the movie Tomb Raider.
Those planning to cover as much as possible of this of Hindu monument should hop on a tuk tuk, Asia’s three wheeled taxi of choice, and also hire an English-speaking tour guide to tell the stories behind the famous Buddhist scenes etched as bas-relief in the temples.
Head out early to Pnohm Bakheng to catch a breathtaking sunrise. For the crowd-averse, we’d recommend the lesser-known Prasat Phom Krom in the evenings to catch sunset.
Get a taste of Khmer art by visiting the Buddhist-inspired lacquer art galleries of Angkor Artwork E&T Stocker, the iconic Cambodian photography at McDermott Gallery and the rotating local artist showcases at Theam’s House. Cambodian Landmine Museum would appeal to history buffs, with admission proceeds going to build schools in villages.
While you’re at it, why not up some of the finest silk souvenirs at social enterprise Artisans Angkor?
Families would enjoy Phare Circus, featuring performances that combine dance, theater and original live music, which were founded in 1994 by a group of former Khmer Rouge refugees.
Tired of covering Siem Reap by foot? Grasshopper Adventures offer guided tours that range from cycling through the countryside to even kayaking to Tonle Sap, a floating village by the Mekong River.
Spice up your culinary repertoire by signing up for a local cooking class at places such as Lily’s Secret Garden, which cover native classics such as red curry and Lort-Cha, a local take on stir-fried rice noodles.
For fine dining options, look for Chef Joannes Riverie at Cuisine Wat Damnak for his take on Cambodian cuisine. Praised by The New York Times for their use of locally sourced seasonal ingredients, Chef Joannes switches up his tasting menus every fortnight, with six-course tastings around $30 USD.
The fusion cuisine offered at Mie Café contains elements of the familiar and unfamiliar, offering dishes like Krill Ravioli, lathering yellow curry over squid ink ravioli.
If traditional Cambodian food is up your alley, head on over to Chanrey Tree to sample a national favourite Amok, fresh fish with a spicy coconut custard and steamed in a banana leaf. For the adventurous, opt for the frog leg version of Char Khroeung, a meat stir-fry with exotic Khmer spices such as lemongrass, turmeric and lime leaf.
Those looking for a nightcap should seek out Miss Wong or Asana Old Wooden House in the old market district. Both establishments specialise in a bevy of unique cocktails, with the deco of Miss Wong resembling a vintage Shanghai bar and Asana Old Wooden House looking exactly as its name implies.
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