WHAT TO DO IN SIEM REAP
There's much more to Siem Reap than being the often overlooked neighbor of Angkor Wat. While it's not a bustling metropolis like Hong Kong, there's plenty to do to fill up your days and nights.
STAY AT THE SHINTA MANI I absolutely adore this hotel! Shinta Mani Club serves up delicious cuisine morning, noon and night at Kroya and Bensley’s Bar has a cool vibe where you can chat with locals. There’s also the oh, so refreshing pool that is open till 11PM.
COCKTAILS AT FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS CLUB / FCC Just a few blocks from Shinta Mani is FCC, an airy colonial building that was the former French governor’s mansion. It’s a breezy spot to kick back ice cold Angkor beers and you can peruse the galleries downstairs with colorful Buddhas and prints for sale.
DRINK KHMER SPIRIT It is a smooth liquor that I find it to be quite tasty (and I never say that about straight alcohol). It also states that is doesn't cause headaches or make you sick. How can you go wrong?
ANGKOR THOM It’s not as famous as Angkor Wat, but Angkor Thom’s “Great City” was the final and longest-lasting capital of the Khmer empire. As you approach the grounds there is a massive stone entrance that opens up to the Bayon ruins and the intricate detail of the faces on Prasat Bayon were simply mind-blowing! Try and get to Angkor Thom early, by the time we got there at 8AM it was flooded with buses of tourists.
BOUTIQUE SHOPS AND GALLERIES There is a lovely row of boutique shops and galleries on the corner of Oum Khun and Shinta Mani Street filled with unique homewares made by local artisans. We picked up saffron-hued placemats and a bright wooden red gecko. On Saturdays and Sundays from 4-9 PM there is the MADE IN CAMBODIA street market with stalls featuring everything from clothing to khmer spirit, and there is also food and live performances.
FISH PEDICURE I know what you're thinking, and you're absolutely right! The fish pedicure is an odd, strange beauty treatment, but it actually works. Warning, it does tickle like crazy, but your feet will be as soft as butter. There are a handful of spas where you can do the fish pedicure near Pub Street and it costs around $3 for 30 minutes.
QUAD BIKING SIEM REAP Four wheeling through the countryside of Cambodia was a heart-warming experience. As you drive kids wave and yell ‘Hello’ as you whiz past miles of rice paddy fields. However, the tour at times can feel quite generic. Our guide took us to an open field where we met up with other groups taking endless jumping photos, while others sat on a water buffalo so emaciated that it looked like his legs would buck at any moment. Looking back, it may have made more sense to book with a private operator instead of one of these larger tour groups.
THINGS TO AVOID IN SIEM REAP
SHOOTING GUNS Shooting guns in Cambodia is shady business. You get picked up in a nice, air-conditioned SUV and drive an hour out to the countryside. But when you get there, it is a dark, run down bunker that looks like an abandoned subway tunnel. The guns were woefully under-maintained and jammed on every other shot.
SUGAR PALM Suggested by many as the best restaurant in Siem Reap, we found the overall experience a bit lackluster. While my curry dish was delicious, the cocktails were unoriginal and our server was an erratic mess.
ANGKOR WAT AT SUNRISE There’s something about sharing this majestic experience with five thousand of your closest friends. I joke, but it’s similar to going to the Louvre in Paris and attempting to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. Watching people take pictures of other people taking pictures of the Mona Lisa. I have heard through the grapevine that sunset at Angkor Wat is less crowded. If you get there a few hours before you should have plenty of time to explore all levels. Unfortunately, you can’t ascend to the top levels of Angkor Wat till 8:00/8:30 in the morning.