6 Unique, Chill, And Cultural Things To Do In Siem Reap, Cambodia
“Visit Angkor Wat, shop at the Old Market, go to the floating villages, or eat a bug … etc.” When we were looking for unique things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia, these were the suggestions that kept popping out in the search.
I was annoyed.
Why? Because these are the TYPICAL things that tourists would do in Siem Reap. Not that I didn’t enjoy wandering around in the temples of Angkor Wat or bargaining at the Old Market, but we were looking for more: Something that’s off the beaten path. I was also eager to get some cultural fix and to learn more about Cambodia.
After speaking to other travellers and expats and doing some extensive research, we found some cultural activities that we thoroughly enjoyed. We would like to share them with others who are interested in unique and cultural things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
6 Unique, Chill, And Cultural Things To Do In Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Visit Angkor Silk Farm
We spoke to a French woman who plans to open a silk farm with a guest house in Vietnam at our hotel, and we learned about the Silk Farm from her. The farm was a long tuk-tuk ride from the centre, but the visit was well worth our time. We received a 40-minute FREE tour that guided us through the entire silk production process, including the silkworm plantation. I have a whole new level of appreciation for the silk industry after the tour. On top of that, now I can differentiate the qualities of silk.
If you want to get silk products that are handmade in Cambodia, you are at the right place. Their gift shop has plenty of beautiful options. It’s pricier than what you’d find in the markets, but what you pay here goes directly back to the workers. (According to our guide, the silk products in the markets downtown are almost all factory-made from Vietnam and China. Don’t get fooled!)
Tuk-tuk price from downtown Siem Reap: $12 USD for a round trip.
Entrance fee to the Silk Farm: Free with a complimentary guided tour.
Location: Airport Road (Off the National Highway 6.)
Take a class with local artisans
We took a knife-making class with local blacksmiths at their roadside shack through Backstreet Academy. We loved every minute of it, and we highly recommend the experience to everyone who is looking for something different to do when in Siem Reap. While we had a good time, the class also gave us an opportunity to see the authentic side of Cambodia and to learn more about local Cambodian’s life.
The online booking process was painless, and it was a unique and educational experience. The Academy provided a translator/coordinator to help with the communication. More importantly, half of our payment went directly to our teachers.
There are many other classes you can choose from on the website. I really wanted to take the bamboo flute-making class, but the time didn’t fit our schedule. We took a Khmer Musical Instrument Class that was also hosted by the Academy in Phnom Penh instead. I will write another post about it.
Prices and Locations vary base on the class.
Rent a scooter and ride to Phnom Kulen
Phnom Kulen or the Kulen Mountain is the most sacred mountain of Cambodia. Located 2 hours scooter ride north of Siem Reap, many Cambodians come to visit the giant Reclining Buddha and give offerings to the temples. At the temple, there’s also Khmer traditional music performance.
Our hotel told us that we should buy the tickets at a ticket office in Siem Reap BEFORE we go since they don’t sell it at the National Park entrance. (Internet information says otherwise.) Also, the $20 USD entrance fee to Phnom Kulen is different from the standard Angkor temple pass and is valid only on the same day. Don’t take a tuk-tuk because it cannot enter Phnom Kulen National Park, and the distance between the ticket check-point to where the attractions are is LONG unless you are ready for a full day hike. (The tuk-tuk drivers won’t tell you this and will happily charge you $45~$50 for the day.)
Besides the Reclining Buddha, the waterfall is the playground for locals, and it’s the best spot to cool off from the sun. The River of a Thousand Lingas is also worth visiting. The River features carvings of sacred Sanskrit texts that represent Shiva, a Hindu deity. The sandstone carvings have been there for more than thousands of years, and people believe it’s meant to bless the river water that runs through it.
Restaurants at Phnom Kulen are pricey. If you plan to spend the day there, I suggest bringing your own food like the locals do.
Scooter rental price: $12 for the day (came with a full tank) + $4 for gas.
Entrance fee: $20 USD/person. Ask your hotel/hostel where to buy the ticket.
Take a chill afternoon in Kandal Village
We saw Kandal Village’s ad on the back of a tuk-tuk and decided to check it out. Kandal Village turned out to be a quiet, small street that has several boutique shops, cafes, spas, and eateries. Most of the stores here are run by expats.
I highly recommend Casa Sur, a quaint coffee/tapa place that serves delicious $1 USD coffee with free refills. They also serve wine and Spanish/French food. All things are reasonably priced if you want to take a break from Asian food. We had a relaxed time and a nice chat with the French owner. It’s the place to be if you are looking to get away from the craziness down in the centre.
Location: Hap Guan Street.
Speak to local students and relax next to Wat Damnak Pagoda
Wat Damnak is the largest pagoda in downtown Siem Reap. It was a royal palace of the Khmer Empire. Later, it became a Khmer Rouge military depot from 1975 to 1979. It is now a monastery, so visitors should dress conservatively when visiting. Wat Damnak also houses a primary school, a library, a Mandarin school, and a sewing academy for young local women.
Despite being in downtown Siem Reap, it was very peaceful inside of Wat Damnak. Many young people were there studying. We spoke with a Cambodian student who was studying Mandarin. We grabbed some coffee, laid on the grass right next to the Pagoda, read our books, watched the children ran around the Pagoda and had a chill afternoon.
Location: Wat Bo Road.
Shop, eat and see traditional Khmer performances at King’s Road Angkor, the Made in Cambodia Market
We stumbled upon Kings Road Angkor our first day in Siem Reap. It is also known as the Made in Cambodia Market. As the name suggested, all the souvenirs here are made in Cambodia. We bought several kromas (Khmer scarf made of silk or cotton) and a beautiful blanket that was just finished by a Cambodian weaver at Kroma House. The scarfs were from $3~$7 USD, and the large blanket was $15 USD. There are also plenty of restaurants at all price ranges and styles for you to choose from.
Moreover, there is a FREE traditional Khmer music and dance show in the courtyard every Saturday at 6 pm. Needless to say, this was what caught my eyes.
Location: Siem Reap River Road East.
Find out more on their Facebook.
Feel free to leave me a message if you have any questions about the above activities in Siem Reap, Cambodia! I am more than happy to help :-)
Originally published at Notes of Jo.