The Adventures of Cupcake and the Queen: 12 Things to Do in Siem Reap, Cambodia
After exploring Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam for a few days, our adventure continued as we rode a bus for 14 hours to get to the beautiful city of Siem Reap, Cambodia. This was truly a one-of-a-kind experience—from crossing the border, to dealing with difficult tourists we were stuck with the whole ride going there, to arriving and being amazed at the kindness and hospitality of the Cambodians. Of the places we’ve been to, Cambodia is definitely on top of my list. I really encourage everyone to come here at least once. The experience will leave you in awe, and will make you wish you had the same simple and peaceful lifestyle as their people. When you do visit, here are 12 things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Crossing the border from Vietnam to Cambodia
Main road where our hotel is located
1. Be mesmerized by the temples.
Despite the long and tiring trip, seeing the temples—especially Angkor Wat—up close and personal made it all worth it. I used to just dream about visiting them—awed by the pictures I see on magazines or online. Because of this, visiting Siem Reap was really part of my bucket list and I’m so lucky I was finally able to fulfill that dream.
The trees have their own life in Ta Prohm Temple
We saw three temples: Ta Prohm Temple (more popularly known now as the Tomb Raider Temple), Bayon Temple, and Angkor Wat. We spent the morning in Ta Prohm and Bayon Temple, before having lunch and visiting Angkor Wat in the afternoon. We were very fortunate to have a tour guide, Sun Sava, who did his best explaining the history of the Khmer civilization, and their daily life in Cambodia. Since it was a private tour, we got to bond with Sava as well—who showed us contemporary life in Cambodia.
One of the libraries in Bayon Temple
Angkor Thom Gate
I really took advantage of the Cupcake and his camera
(A little tip for visitors: if you want to go all the way up to the highest tower of Angkor Wat, I suggest you wear appropriate clothing. Before leaving the hotel, Sava asked me to change out of my sleeveless top into a shirt so that I could be allowed to go up.)
2. Visit the Angkor National Museum
A friend recommended that we visit the Angkor National Museum before going to Angkor Wat—because the museum will expound on the Khmer civilization and make you appreciate Angkor Wat all the more. So right before lunch, we headed over and spent almost two hours reading up on facts. There was a gallery that boasted hundreds of statues found inside the temples, a gallery that showed the great kings of the Khmer civilization, and numerous galleries that educate you on Hinduism—the religion that eventually replaced Buddhism in Cambodia.
3. Ride and feed an elephant.
Perhaps one of the highlights of our trip! It was the Cupcake’s first time to ride an elephant, and my second (the first was years ago when I went to Bangkok, although I never got to feed the elephant). So what we really enjoyed was feeding our elephant, Gu Yi, with a cluster of bananas right after the ride, and seeing the twinkle in his eyes.
4. Watch the Apsara show.
After visiting the three temples, we were brought straight to Angkor Mondial Restaurant where we not only enjoyed an eat-all-you-can dinner, we also experienced watching an Apsara show. An apsara is a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.
The dance of the Apsara Divinities is a Khmer classical dance created by the Royal Ballet of Cambodia in the mid-20th century under the patronage of Queen Sisowath Kossamak. It was very entertaining to watch, and guests were even allowed to take photos with them after the show.
5. Food trip in Pub Street.
We spent half a day in Pub Street eating seven kinds of meat (beef, pork, chicken, fish, squid, shark, and crocodile), and elephanccino (coffee in giant mugs). If you want authentic Khmer cuisine, this is the place to be. Pub Street is also where all the partying happens (they sell beer for $ 0.50!)
6. Experience the street food.
Nothing is more unusual than the streets of Siem Reap, particularly the ones surrounding the Old Market. You’ll find vendors selling bizarre delicacies like their own version of banana pancakes, fried grasshoppers, crickets, tarantulas and snakes, and even magic ice cream!
Of course, I tried them all (except for the snakes).
7. Ride the tuk-tuk.
For $4.00 ($2 per person), you can ride a tuk-tuk from your hotel to Pub Street, Angkor Night Market, or the Old Market. The drivers are friendly and are immensely persistent to bring you to wherever you need to be. Most of them are even willing to wait for you so that they can take you back to your hotel (or bring you to your next destination).
8. Shop in the Angkor Night Market.
The Angkor Night Market comes to life as soon as the sun sets. This is the perfect place to buy trinkets, little gifts, and pasalubong for family and friends. I was able to buy pashmina scarves with intricate designs of elephants, cotton pants, and a variety of souvenirs.
9. Shop in the Old Market.
Unlike the Angkor Night Market, the Old Market houses more of tools, paintings, home furnishings, and other household goods. They’re also open during daytime.
10. Get a foot spa from Dr. Fish
During our visit to the Angkor Night Market, we decided to get a foot spa care of Dr. Fish! Though we have this in the Philippines, these were found in almost every corner of Angkor Night Market.
11. Get a foot reflexology massage.
Another thing you will find everywhere in Siem Reap—spas and foot reflexology massages. In just one day, the Cupcake and I got three massages (in our defense—we were bored, wanted to relax, and needed to kill time because our flight got delayed to midnight)! Hahaha!
12. Drink an Angkor beer.
Though I’m not a beer drinker, the Cupcake really likes their Angkor beer. In most of the massage places in Angkor Night Market, they give you a free can if you avail a 30-minute massage. What a way to spoil their customer!
Now that you’ve read my article, I hope it enlightens you that there are so many things you can do in Siem Reap aside from temple-hopping. It is really one of the most beautiful and humbling places I’ve ever been in. I miss it so bad, and I hope I can come back again soon. I could do everything all over again, and still be amazed by the experience.
If you’d like to visit Siem Reap as well, here’s an article I wrote on how to plan for a Vietnam-Cambodia trip with Php 20,000. Feel free to leave your questions in the comment box below!
12 Things to Do in Siem Reap
PHOTO CREDITS: Angkor National Museum Grabbed from Alex in Wanderland. Angkor Night Market Photo Grabbed from Trip Advisor. Old Market Photo Grabbed from SiemReap.net. Angkor Beer Photo Grabbed from Into the Void. All other photos by Cayo Fragada.