3 Days in Siem Reap – Things to Do and Places to Visit

June 20, 2013 by


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Siem ReapLooking back at my recent 9 month round the world adventure, it’s hard put my finger on what made Cambodia one of my favourite countries (the other being Canada.) I can only surmise that it was the blend of experiences, people and food that I encountered there.

One of my favourite stops on my journey through Cambodia was to the north-western city of Siem Reap, a popular destination on the tourist route thanks to the ancient temples of Angkor.

I arrived in Siem Riep last March after an eight hour journey from Si Phan Don (4000 islands) in Laos. After a night in a guesthouse recommended by my tuk-tuk driver (I think it was owned by his brother!) I moved to the modern Siem Riep Hostel.

Mainly I was tempted by the allure of a pool but after a few weeks staying in guesthouses by myself, I wanted somewhere where I could easily meet people and make friends. And that’s what I did. Within an hour of checking in to the SRH I was in a tuk-tuk with my new roommate Roxy, headed 25 kilometres out of town to the Cambodian Landmine Museum.

The Cambodian Landmine Museum

cambodian landmine museumImage courtesy of fmpgoh

Situated in a small village north of the city, the landmine museum is run by an NGO that works towards eliminating landmines in Cambodia and helping those afflicted by landmine injuries to receive an education. It’s both a fascinating and sad place to visit and really opened my eyes to the trauma that the Cambodian people suffered and continue to suffer over the past fifty years.

While not a fun topic, the museum is really informative and has great displays. It also demonstrates why finding and destroying landmines is still so difficult. I highly recommend a visit to the museum. It can also be combined with a trip to the Banteay Srey Butterfly Farm ,which is located just a few kilometres down the same road. There are also a few Cambodian Cusine restaurants on this road if you get peckish. A round trip in a tuk-tuk to the landmine museum will cost around $18 which I would say is definitely worth the cost. Our tuk-tuk driver told us a lot about Cambodian history and the effect of landmines on the Khmers (Cambodians).

After a full afternoon’s sight-seeing, a dip in the pool back at the SRH was much needed (the dusk kicked up by the tuk-tuk along the rural roads makes you feel quite sticky!)

Exploring the Ancient Temples at Angkor

Angkor ThomLike many people who visit Angkor Wat, I got up before dawn and took a taxi with 3 friends to the temples complex in order to watch the sunrise over the temples. It felt very special waiting for the coming light and even though it was a cloudy morning and the sunrise wasn’t that spectacular it was a great experience and a fabulous atmosphere.

Group shotThe four of us shared a tuk-tuk and driver for the morning (the one who had taken us to the landmine museum) and we had such a great time. We stopped of at various temples, allowing 30-40 minutes to explore each one and take in the incredible amount of work that went in to each one. As the morning wore on it got hotter and hotter and we started to appreciate that we had got up before dawn to begin our exploration of Angkor Wat. Our driver was great and once again provided us with a history of the temples and the symbolism of each one.

One of the great things about Angkor is that you can get up close to the temples and explore, instead of having to look from afar. Our little group made sure to take lots of fun and group photos so as to not get too tired of temple gazing.

After a brief lunch during which our driver showed us some great magic tricks, we ventured to the last few temples, namely Ta Prohm, the temple where the Tomb Raider movie was filmed which boasts some spectacular scenery and some of the biggest trees I’ve ever seen. By 2pm we were exhausted and retired to the hostel for a much needed swim and lie down, although I couldn’t help feeling I would have liked to do it all again the next day.

A one day ‘Angkor Pass’ costs $20, with a 2-3 day pass costing $40. There are many options for exploring the temples at Angkor so I would recommend getting a 2-3 day pass and visiting a few temples each day at leisure. You can hire bike, tuk-tuk or even walk around the complex at your leisure.

Exploring Ta ProhmStrolling Through the City

After arriving in Siem Reap I have to say I was more than ready to eat something a little different from Laos cuisine and after meeting up with new found friends at my hostel who all felt a bit like me, we decided to have thoroughly western cuisine for once and chose Viva Mexican restaurant for our evening meal.

Despite feeling a little embarrassed that I was eating Mexican food in Cambodia I have to say my meal (pulled pork burrito washed down with a large strawberry daiquiri) tasted incredible and just what I was after! We stopped by ice-cream parlour Blue Pumpkin (yummy!) on the way home for a treat and some much needed air conditioning!

Mexican foodSiem Riep is a lovely city for strolling and exploring. I took evening walks along the banks of the Siem Reap river, admiring the colonial and Chinese style architecture and popping into the markets and small art galleries I found along the way.

Siem Reap riverBy my third and final evening in Siem Riep I was craving the rice dishes I had become accustomed to during my two months in South East Asia so I scouted around for a restaurant that was popular with locals and decided on a bustling eatery on Hospital Street where I dined on Lap Khmer (marinated beef salad) and bananas in coconut milk with sesame for dessert. I took another long walk after dinner and wandered back to my hostel to relax and write down notes from my three wonderful days in Siem Riep.

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About Lexi Johnson

Lexi is an overland travel fanatic. She has been living and travelling abroad for 8 years. She blogs about her adventures and shares travel tips at lexitravels.com. You can also find her on twitter @lexitravels.

  • Angkor Wat sounds incredible – and I and no idea Tomb Raider movie was filmed there! That’s definitely going on my list of things to see in SE Asia :)

    • Angkor Wat looks so awesome – I’m yet to actually visit it myself so was really jealous reading Lexi’s post!

    • anat

      tomb raider was filmed at ‘ta prohm temple’ all the site is just amazing and the nature around is breathtaking ;-)

  • Victoria Armstrong

    Everyone who loves to visit lovely travelling places then siem reap is the best place to visit once

  • Lexi Johnson

    I had no idea about the Tomb Raider thing either…..that was the most impressive temple!

  • Hi Lexi, would you happen to take note how much tuktuk rides are around the city?

    • DaReggie

      $2 for anywhere within city limits

  • Pingback: Traveling to Cambodia and Siem Reap()

  • Chris Ball

    Awesome, love Siem Reap. Obviously, the temples are unreal in Angkor, but the town of Siem Reap and surrounds are also pretty cool :)

    I actually work for an adventure travel biz that offers tours in Cambodia. Got some cool stuff near Siem Reap, like a tour of the less touristy Koh Ker: https://www.adventurehoney.com/Experience/1-day-trekking-near-siem-reap-in-koh-ker-1271 AND a cycling tour of Angkor Wat: https://www.adventurehoney.com/Experience/1-day-angkor-cycling-tour-1270

    Might be interesting if you’re in the area… happy travels!

  • Vicky

    I love your blog and always wanted to go to Cambodia and in South East Asia.
    You
    might like this video on tips to visit Siem Reap in only 2 days which
    is complementary to your video : http://youtu.be/qkumhbeZVyE

    • anat

      nice video! a great little book to read about angkor: It is called ‘the ancient secret of a royal triad decoded’ to be found at the monument books.

  • turniphouse

    Thanks for the info! Your blog is very helpful!

  • The Blond travels

    I’m going to Cambodia in 2 days and just gathering information. I think visiting the landmine muesum will be really interesting. The cost of day trips are pretty high, I think but I’m sure it will be worth it!

  • Rodrigo Franceschini

    Thanks for the tips , I am about to go to Cambodia and I wrote all them up …. Great

  • KASEM THIANTHONG
  • Chai Puyod

    Hi! How much would a good price be for a tuk-tuk ride around the Angkor temples?

    • DaReggie

      $15…price quoted today by my tuk tuk driver

  • anat

    thanks lexi for sharing your experience. cool :-)

  • Nathanz

    Thanks Lexi for sharing the information. The tips are really helpful in planning the trip to Siem Reap. Angkor Wat looks amazing. One can also visit http://greatescapecambodia.com/ for some challenging escape game while in Siem Reap.

  • JM

    hi! how much is the taxi fare to the temple complex and how much did you pay the tuktuk driver as he drove you around the complex? thank you!