You think of Siem Reap and you think of Angkor Wat, right? Well there are lots of other happenings and goings on there that we got involved in or heard about during our one week in town.
Siem Reap is the gateway to the magnificent Angkor temples (check out the amazing photos from our temple adventures here). So it has grown rapidly over the last fifteen years and continues to do so as more and more tourists visit the temples each year. Therefore the town’s development seems to have been solely driven by the need to cater for these tourists and there is a debate over the merits of such expansion. The debate usually goes something like – bad for local culture, good for locals’ pockets. However, that is a way too simplistic view of things and I will have to throw in my two pence worth when I’ve properly done my homework. Until then, we’ll just toe the line that where there are lots of tourists there are usually lots of fun things to do! We’ll even be so bold as to make some recommendations in case you’re heading to Siem Reap, 8 to be exact:
1. Places to stay
If you’re young or young at heart and want to party the night away after trekking round the temples all day, then look no further than MAD MONKEY HOSTEL. You can soothe your tired temple trodden muscles or your morning after the night before sore head in the pool/bar area, drink until your liver hates you even more in the rooftop beach bar (although at 30 I felt slightly old given the other patrons were all about 18-21 and I wasn’t too impressed by the choice of music either – but each to their own!) and then collapse in your cheap, clean and comfortable room. We only paid 12 dollars per night for a double room with a private balcony and a decent enough wifi connection. Dorms are available too.
If that’s not your scene and you fancy somewhere a bit more sedate and don’t want to be woken by young pissed up travellers having sex against your door at 2am, then just park your behind at HOME SWEET HOME GUESTHOUSE. For only 10 dollars per night we got a spacious, modern double with a huge bed and the guesthouse has a pretty little dining/bar area with good/cheap food and drink. There was no wifi in our room, although the communal areas had a good connection. There are no dorms in this guesthouse by the way.
Just a wee heads up, our rooms in both of those places were fan only, but if you’re a big cheese and can splash out a few dollars extra a night you should be able to get air con in either establishment.
2. The place to eat: Blue Wave Restaurant
The Blue Wave Restaurant had the tastiest Chicken Amok, beautifully presented in banana leaves, that we came across in the whole of Cambodia! Anytime I got an amok dish afterwards that didn’t come in banana leaves, I was not impressed and sulked like a big kid.
Other great dishes we tried on our various eating expeditions to Blue Wave were the Banana Flour Soup and the Red Coconut Curry, all at very affordable prices for the budget traveller (less than US$5 for most mains). The atmosphere was pleasant also as the staff were very friendly and there were always other travellers to chat to as well.
3. Boogie on down in Pub Street
Lots of loud cheesy bars, lots of loud cheesy music, lots of erm…loud cheesy travellers – you’ll love it or hate it (I hated it sober and loved it drunk!).
We didn’t find out about this place until we were getting ready to leave, so couldn’t make it there unfortunately. It’s meant to be really good craic and although I understand it’s a tad tacky, at least it’s authentic Cambodian tacky! Apparently to get there, you jump in a tuk tuk and ask your driver to take you up along Sivatha Boulevard to Route 6, then turn towards the airport. At the first set of traffic lights, turn right and you’re there. It should only take about 10 minutes from the tourist Pub Street.
5. Night Markets
There are various night markets that are great for a stroll around in the evening to work up an appetite before, or burn off some calories after, dinner. Our favourite was the Art Center Night Market, which has loads of delicate carved trinkets, huge temple art and a nice laid back feel compared to the pushiness of some other markets.
Be warned though, in some of the food markets watch out for furry little things scuttling around your feet. I nearly had a heart attack and was point blank laughed at by Emily and all the old local ladies when I jumped as a rat darted past me!
6. Go watch Phare, The Cambodian Circus
My biggest regret about Siem Reap is that we didn’t get to see Phare, The Cambodian Circus! A couple we met had been and said it was amazing and that the acrobats were incredible. But having just shelled out a large amount of cash for Angkor Wat passes, we decided to give the US$15 each circus tickets a miss for budget reasons. In hindsight a big mistake, don’t make the same one!
7. Watch tourists squirm while fish bite their feet
Or brave it out and dip your toes in the tank yourself! This lot though it seems were pretty hardened and nonplussed fish feeders…
We had enough of Pub Street one night about 2am and headed home still wanting to keep the night alive. We managed to find this little gem of a bar (near Blue Wave Restaurant) that stays open until its light! You can play pool, request your own music and have a laugh, although it’s not for the prudish as its frequented by some old sex tourists and hookers as well as the standard late night drinkers!
If you’ve been to Siem Reap, and surely many of you have, let me know what you think – anything to add or do you think we’ve missed the mark on the above? All comments are welcome kids…
Thanks for reading
[THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON OUR PREVIOUS SITE ON 4 APRIL 2014]