Siem Reap is best known as the gateway to Angkor Wat and the rest of the Angkor Ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The UNESCO site includes not just the temples but also hydraulic structures, canals, and reservoirs that together make up close to 400 sq km in what is arguably one the most important archeological sites in Southeast Asia.
Given the extent and breadth of the Angkor ruins and their importance to the former Khmer Kingdom, Siem Reap has become a tourist wonderland, packed with hostels and boutique hotels, day and night tours, and plenty of thumping beats from nighttime bars. But beyond those magnificent ruins, travelers often get in and out of Siem Reap without exploring a bit more of what the ‘tiny’ town has to offer. Here are my suggestions for rounding out your temple visits in the region.
The Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Facility was established in the late 1990s by ex-child soldier Aki Ra, who, after years of fighting, returned to the villages where he had planted landmines and began defusing them by hand. From this beginning, an official NGO was established to clear landmines in villages throughout Cambodia. The museum raises money both for the landmine clearing, and to fund its newer school and dormitory for amputee children.
Must try A Taste of Cambodia list
Sample some of Siem Reap’s finest street food on an evening of some of its night markets. Taste the seasonal fruits grown in and around Siem Reap, such as dragon fruit, mango, and tiny (but sweet) pineapples. The brave can try the stinky king of all fruit – the mighty durian! Learn about the spices used in local recipes, and hear about traditional remedies.
Try a local picnic spot and wander around the food stalls, where you might find fried tarantulas, fried crickets, green mango with chili and salt, ducks eggs, and much more.
Save room for dinner at a local restaurant to sample local delicacies, before ending at a dessert stall where fruit shakes, fruit served with sweet condensed milk, and baked puddings are a specialty.
Most tourists head to the western side of Angkor Wat to watch the sun go down and see the outline of the buildings reflected in the moat. Travel instead to the east side of the complex and you’ll leave the crowds behind and be presented with equally stunning views.
The outline of the temples will be silhouetted against the glowing orange and red of the sky – a truly striking photo opportunity.