Originally I had only planned to spend two days in Siem Reap. Like most people, I thought Angkor Wat was all there was to this town and didn’t realise there was so much more to do here and ended up extending my stay twice, staying a total of six nights. I could have stayed longer, but the rest of Cambodia was calling me.
The first thing I did in Siem Reap was dirt biking. It was a little pricey but worth every penny. It was such a unique way of seeing Cambodia and it also meant I got so see temples not everyone gets to see, including one that you can only get to by going off road! There was no one around and it hasn’t been restored so you can see perfectly where the jungle has taken back the land where the temple was built. It’s much like Ta Prohm but without all the tourists. We spent the entire day driving around Siem Reap and once we got back to town I was filthy and exhausted and knew I was going to be hurting the next day but I’d had such an amazing time. I went with Cambodia Trails and their bikes and gear are well maintained, and they tailor the ride to suit your skill level. It was my first time off road on a dirt bike and while it was hard work at times, I only came off twice (as did the American guy I was riding with) As long as you can ride a bike, then you’ll be just fine.
Tonle Sap Lake
Given I was in Cambodia in dry season I wasn’t sure if it was going to be worthwhile doing the lake or
not, and while I think it would be better during the wet season I still enjoyed it. Having heard a lot of horror stories of this place being a tourist trap I decided to book a tour for $18USD and hope for the best, and it paid off. It started out a little rocky with them picking me up on time and then driving all over town looking for other people (including driving back past my hotel twice) and we got to the lake an hour and a half after we were supposed to, but it ended up being amazing. During the dry season, you have to get off the boat half way to walk through the streets of the town which are all underwater during the wet season, then it’s back onto the boat and time to head off to the floating restaurant. From here you can take a small boat into the mangroves. Its $5USD per person ($10USD per boat) and lasts about 15mins. You do get pestered to buy from the floating vendors but I still really enjoyed it. After this is was back onto our original boat to get a little bit away from the restaurant to watch the sunset, and then it was back to shore and back to town. During the wet season you can get the boat all the way from Siem Reap to Battambang and see the villages that way, but during dry season it’s a good idea to do the tour and then just get the bus as you’ll save yourself about six hours!
The last thing I did begore leaving Siem Reap was Angkor Wat. I mean you can’t come here and not see it! I’d done a lot of research and there is a lot of mixed reviews on how long you should spend here. For some people one day is enough; others spend three days and still want more time! Personally I felt that one day was enough. Sadly, I’ve seen so many ancient wonders that the awe I once had for them has started to wear off, but I think had this been one of the first ancient sites I’d been to I would have happily spent three days exploring. And don’t get me wrong, it’s stunning and definitely a must see. The main temple of Angkor Wat is huge and something you must see, just be prepared that there will be hundreds of people there so that takes away a little of its wonder. The other temples, while there will obviously still be other tourists, aren’t as busy, so they’re more enjoyable. If you are strapped for time I would recommend Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm (where Tomb Raider was filmed) and Angkor Thom. If you hire a tuk tuk driver (which should cost $15USD) they all know the best temples and will probably take you to these three anyway, but you can also hire a bicycle or motorbike if you want more freedom and flexibility. The ticket office isn’t at the entrance to the complex so if you do do it yourself, make sure you purchase your ticket first.
Angkor Night Market
If you’re looking for souvenirs or clothes, then this is the place to get them. I found this to be the
pushiest market in Cambodia (you can’t even look at anything without someone pouncing on you shouting “buy something lady, buy something” and thrusting whatever item in you were looking at in your face) but having said that it’s also the cheapest market I went to in Cambodia. At all the other markets I tried to get them down to the Siem Reap prices, but they just wouldn’t go that low even when I walked away, so anything you want to buy, stock up here! The restaurants here are pretty average as well so it’s a good idea to eat a few streets away where the food is better quality at cheaper prices.
The rest of my time in Siem Reap was spent hanging out in the bars on Pub Street, or just chilling in cafes (for any other vegetarians out there hit up Peace Café – just make sure you’re armed with insect repellent) reading a good book and watching the world go buy. There was a great atmosphere here and it’s a good place to slow down and just enjoy the activities on offer at your own pace.