Appetisers at AHA, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Copyright 2014 Terence Carter / Grantourismo. All Rights Reserved.

Savour Siem Reap — A Bespoke Culinary Experience Crafted By Lara

If you don’t want to waste a meal in Siem Reap, you want to taste authentic Cambodian food and not the Thai-Cambodian fusion most tourist restaurants offer, and you’re keen to sample street food and learn how the locals eat, then book my Savour Siem Reap bespoke culinary experience.

Savour Siem Reap — A Bespoke Culinary Experience Crafted By Lara

Along with my bespoke Inside Siem Reap and Shop Siem Reap experiences, I also offer food-focused Savour Siem Reap itineraries aimed at food-lovers, foodies, street food fanatics, home-cooks, chefs, restaurant owners, and people who simply love to eat well when they travel.

My Savour Siem Reap experiences are specifically for the kind of people who hate to waste a meal when they’re on holidays, people for whom food forms an important part of their travel memories, whether it’s sampling street food at markets and local stalls or savouring gastronomic meals in the best restaurants, taking cooking classes or doing street food tours.

Unbeknownst to most visitors to Siem Reap, there is plenty here to satisfy food-lovers – fragrant markets, authentic street food, cooking lessons, street food tours, restaurants serving up refined Cambodian cuisine, off the beaten track eateries, laneway cafés and bars, Khmer cocktail making classes, and shops selling covetable culinary objects, from kitchen utensils made from coconut shells and handmade basketry to Cambodian pepper, spices and coffee, and cotton kramas that make cool table runners.

Why Savour Siem Reap with Lara

Wasting a meal is easy to do in Siem Reap unfortunately. Just take a look at the Trip Advisor listings. You’ll invariably find everything in the top ten but authentic Cambodian cuisine, from German to Brazilian, Indian to Italian. Yet what most visitors to Siem Reap want to try when they’re in town is Cambodian food, one of the most misunderstood cuisines in the region.

Strangely enough, the best Cambodian restaurants aren’t at the top of Trip Advisor’s list and some are bewilderingly buried deep within the listings. The best local food stalls don’t even make it to the site. Guidebooks don’t always provide the best advice either. Some of the most popular recommended restaurants for travellers are serving up a sort of Thai-Cambodian fusion because they think tourists won’t understand Cambodian food and they know they’re more familiar with Thai. And they’re right. But that’s no reason to pass off Thai as Cambodian. Cambodian food is infinitely more interesting in my opinion.

As food and travel writers, Terence and I spend much of our time working on food stories and researching Cambodian cuisine. We’re currently developing a Khmer cuisine cookbook with old local cooks and we’ve eaten at almost every restaurant in Siem Reap (and drank at almost every bar). We have our finger on the pulse. That means I can help you to eat and drink well while you’re here. Because we all know, there are few things more disappointing when we travel than a bad meal.

How it works

Contact me to let me know what your requirements are before you leave home and I’ll work with you to create a unique, bespoke, food-focused itinerary just for you.

Let me know what your interests are, whether it’s learning about local produce or cooking Cambodian food, sampling street food and home-style cooking, trying Khmer desserts or savouring contemporary Cambodian cuisine, tasting local rice wine spirits or learning to make Khmer cocktails.

Once you do that, I’ll create a bespoke itinerary crafted around your specific interests. If you’re a chef or restaurant industry professional, I can also introduce you to chefs so you can go behind-the-scenes, organise visits to artisanal producers, markets, organic farms, and arrange cooking experiences.

If you simply want to eat great food, and not necessarily Cambodian, whether it is Italian, Russian, French or Japanese, if you’re travelling with kids, or you have dietary restrictions, I can help there too. And if the temples and local experiences are still the primary focus, and you just want to punctuate them with really great eating, then let me know.

I will then provide you with a bespoke handcrafted itinerary created just for you, including detailed recommendations for suitable eateries, activities and experiences. I will make suggestions for the most appropriate tour companies or guides to match your interests and budget, and if you require I can also make introductions. Or if you prefer to go it alone, I can recommend tuk tuk drivers and craft self-guided experiences you can do independently.

What the experience includes

This is not a tour and I am not a guide. Think of me as a curator of experiences, a host, or even your new friend in town. Here at Grantourismo we are advocates of Responsible Travel. We don’t believe that expats should be leading tours in a developing country like Cambodia where unemployment is high and locals working in tourism earn as little as US$80 a month.

As a travel and food writer who has tried dozens of tours in Siem Reap and Cambodia, it’s my job to direct you to the best local travel companies, tour operators, tuk tuk drivers, and Cambodian guides who best match your interests, style of travel, and budget, and if you book my experience, I will curate those into a well thought-out itinerary.

My experience includes:

  • a detailed bespoke itinerary that enables you to plan your trip;
  • pre-trip advice;
  • pick up from your hotel soon after you check in and a tuk tuk ride to orientate you to Siem Reap and point out things that will interest you, so you can hit the ground running;
  • some time at my favourite café or bar where we can discuss the itinerary and your stay; I can introduce you to Siem Reap, Cambodian cuisine and customs; share my strategies for dealing with tuk tuk drivers, bargaining at markets, and eating street food safely; answer your questions so you don’t waste a meal; and you can pick my brain.

How to make a booking

Feel free to leave questions in the comments below, however, if you want to make a booking or make an enquiry contact me at laradunston@me.com

If you want more of a general experience or an itinerary crafted around interests other than eating and drinking, read about my Inside Siem Reap and other bespoke experiences on our Itineraries, Tours and Retreats page.

I also offer a Sip Siem Reap itinerary, which I call my ‘bar crawl for grown-ups’, and a Shop Siem Reap experience covering art, crafts, jewellery, fashion, accessories, fine art photography, design, home decor, culinary products, and more. The focus is on Made in Cambodia products and visits to ateliers and workshops to see artisans at work or meet designers can also be arranged.

Read the reviews

“I like to eat, and Lara delivered above and beyond with a beautifully crafted itinerary featuring the best of Cambodian cuisine. This is what Lara and the GT team do best, combining international knowledge with local insight to help you find those hidden gems you’d never happen across on your own.” Jerrold Cheam, Australia/UK

Read about the ‘girls getaway’ itinerary I crafted for Australian foodie Sandy and her friends on her blog Tray Tables Away.

“My partner and I have always spoken to each other about the joy of travelling to places where we have friends living. There is something wonderful about having them introduce you to that side that you only get to know from being there for an extended period and that you rarely see in your limited time as a traveller. We didn’t have any friends in Siem Reap that we could call on but we have certainly come away from our trip feeling like we did. Lara is not only an amazing wealth of knowledge about the city and surrounds, she also showed us a side of Siem Reap you couldn’t hope to discover on your own. As a major added bonus, Lara is a really lovely person; someone who immediately puts you at ease, like you’ve maybe already met before. On top of that, she really genuinely cares that you have your best possible travel experience. During our travels she checked in with us and helped us refine our itinerary as we went, which for us was invaluable because she quickly understood what interests us and was able to give us more of what we love. Lara is passionate about Cambodia and she knows the place, I would highly recommend her to anyone wanting to scratch below the surface in this fantastic place, she is worth every cent. There are many hidden gems in Cambodia and Lara is certainly one of them.” Peter L., Australia.

“As a repeat visitor to Siem Reap, I had more than just temples on my mind for my latest visit. We wanted to enjoy some nightlife, try some truly fantastic Khmer cocktails and get a real feel for the energy of the city. Taking Lara’s tour was like visiting with an old friend who also just so happens to be a Siem Reap insider — she filled us in on expat life in Cambodia, introduced us to local movers and shakers, and brought us to hidden gems we never would have found on our own. It was the highlight of our weekend — and that’s not just the hand-crafted Khmer cocktails talking.” Alex (AKA Alex in Wanderland), Thailand

“Lara is brilliant! She provided me with a detailed bespoke itinerary that she added to and adapted to as I needed. She has a very broad and in depth knowledge of all things culinary in Siem Reap as well as any other activities that you may care to pursue while visiting this wonderful city. Lara genuinely cares about you as a client. She checked in with me regularly to see if everything was going well and was ready to offer alternative solutions or advice about any aspect of my trip and followed up with arranging bookings or reservations as needed. Lara contributed enormously to making my holiday in Siem Reap very, very special.” Sally E., Australia

“Lara’s unique and vast knowledge of Cambodia puts her in the perfect position to create a bespoke itinerary for visitors to Siem Reap. The focus on authentic experiences (an overused term but in this case apt) helps the visitor to understand a little more about this wonderful country. I only wish we had more time to follow all of Lara’s recommendations.” Victoria (AKA Singapore Foodie), Singapore.

“I want to thank you so much for making my holiday so great. One of the best I’ve had. I haven’t really liked travelling solo much in the past but I didn’t feel like I was solo having you there. I did everything I wanted to, and things I didn’t know I could because of your help.” Chef Lauren, Australia.

“Sincere thanks for all that you’ve done for us. Incredible. Words cannot describe how much we enjoyed the tour and talking to you! The wealth of information and your charm, the afternoon and evening just flew by. Dinner at Sugar Palm was great, we had a blast and the food was amazing. Our day was great, we took your advice to do the tour early and it was the best decision. Guide was solid too. Hope to see you again and thank you for the glorious recommendations. Again, sincere thanks for everything and we can’t say enough how great everything turned out.” Riccarda, Fabio & Lavinia, Germany.

“Lara, thank you for introducing us to Siem Reap and embracing us with your keen reassurance and insight, making sure we saw, tasted, heard, touched, glimpsed, felt, interacted, and grooved with all this place has to offer! What a terrific, enthusiastic, insightful night!!!! Lara, your role in connecting us to a place and people we could not do in such a short time is appreciated- thank you. Your gift was an introduction to a place in time that is Siem Reap, leaving us at the door you opened, with curiosity and a little less apprehension! Thanks for readying us to discover this amazing part of the world! Okun!” Lisa & John, Australia.

“Lara’s advice and guidance were invaluable and we had such a wonderful time. Lara helped make our trip to Siem Reap extra special and we can’t thank her enough. She helped us with restaurant reservations, finding the best guides, tuk tuk drivers and shops. Her local knowledge was extensive to say the least. She was also incredibly friendly and charming. My husband and I will definitely recommend this to anyone!” Kara & Dan, Indonesia.

“Lara Dunston is knowledgeable in every respect… from temples to bars, restaurants to tuk tuks and everything in between, Lara knows Siem Reap. We’ve come to rely on her expertise elsewhere in South East Asia as well. We’ve been traveling in Vietnam for the past three weeks and her guidance has been invaluable, especially when it comes to food. From street to haute, Lara’s suggestions have been superb. Again, we can’t thank you enough Lara.” Andy and Betsy, USA.

“Lara is a well-traveled resource. She has really experienced the cities she’s visited and loves to share that knowledge with others. She even went so far as to make recommendations for my next stops. Her passion for crafting unique experiences for others was very evident. She really knows her stuff and tries to tailor her suggestions to what interests you most. I enjoyed meeting Lara and appreciated all the great ideas she shared. I’d say the one drawback is that Lara is in demand and thus has a pretty tight schedule so you’ll have to be a bit flexible in working with her. Thank you, Lara, for making my trip to Siem Reap even better. Your advice in Battambang was also wonderful! You have a lovely spirit and your passion in helping others was great to experience!” Katrina, USA.

“I really really really loved my birthday night, and you played a major role on it! Thank you so much for being such a great host, we really felt welcomed in Siem Reap also, thanks to you!” Inês, Timor-Leste.

“Hi Lara, on behalf of the guys we thank you so much for your insight to Siem Reap. Even though we didn’t get to try everything you listed, we enjoyed the ones we tried, and it exceeded our expectations. Thank you again and hopefully we will see you in Cambodia again.” Manny, Korea.

“Lara is a wealth of knowledge! Having spent time living in and writing about Siem Reap, she’s able to offer the best advice on where to eat, shop and visit. She was able to craft a shopping tour suited perfectly to my interests, and I even got to meet the designers and craftspeople responsible for the beautiful items I was buying. What’s more, Lara took me to ethical shops and workshops, where the quality of the goods was high and the workers were well looked after. Thank you, Lara!” Emily, Australia.

“I was put in touch with Lara through mutual friends, and she provided lots of options for my trip before we met. It meant that I was able to adjust quickly and avoid any newcomer’s mistakes. Throughout the trip she stayed in constant contact and continued to provide suggestions based on my location and the weather. Most of all she approaches people on as clients but as potential friends, and that’s what we are now.” Nicholas, Singapore.

“My wife and I, along with a friend of mine decided to visit Siem Reap but we knew nothing about the town other than the famous Angkor Wat temples. So I started researching online for information and hit the jackpot!! when we found the gorgeous Lara D! Lara took care of everything for us, she crafted an extensive twelve page bespoke itinerary for our entire visit, which included everything from temples to floating village tours, excellent galleries, cafés, restaurants & bars that most tourist are not even aware off! We had some incredible Cambodian cuisine at these restaurants, which also turned out to be some of the best food we had in our 14 day travel through south east Asia! In the evenings, after long day of visiting temples we went to these super cool bars that she had recommended in our itinerary, to our delight we found out that most of the patrons at these bars were expats living and working in Siem Reap and tourist like us who had the inside track thanks to Lara! Pretty much all these places knew Lara or aware of her and they welcomed us as personal friends of Lara D! We loved it. One evening Lara came out with us to celebrate, even though having prior engagement, she put her own private evening plans on hold just to take us out to some of the best cafés & bars in Siem Reap. It goes without saying we had an incredible time that night, but more interestingly, we realized that we wouldn’t have been able to find these hidden gems without Lara period. And after few days of visiting the temple ruins, we decided to go shopping which was completely hassle free because in our itinerary Lara had included names of boutique stores to shop, we brought back some of our best souvenirs from these places. Furthermore, at the beginning of our trip Lara had recommended a tuktuk driver for our entire stay in Siem Reap. The tuktuk driver was superb, not only was he trustworthy but took an incredibly good care of us, he stayed with us from sunrise to sunset and beyond well into the night. Having our own private driver saved us from the hassle of having to negotiate fare everyday with random tuktuk drivers. I used to think that just reading through lonely planet book of a city or going through tripadvisor recommendations one can make a solid travel plans, Lara shattered that thought. Now I know how important it is to have professional travel guide when visiting any place for the first time and especially when you visit Siem Reap. So if you plan on visiting Siem Reap contact Lara and she will take care of everything and anything you can ask for, she is really that good. We couldn’t have ask for anything more from Lara, her magic kept us rolling through Siem Reap without any trouble, inconvenience or stress, she put all her energy and drive to craft an itinerary which revealed us Siem Reap that no guide book, tripadvisor or travel websites can match. It speaks volume of Lara’s talent as a professional travel writer. Simply put, she is the best professional guide, travel & food writer in Siem Reap. If you decide to visit this incredible place in Cambodia, then let Lara be your eyes & ears to reveal this magical place for you. Lara, thank you for everything you have done for us, we couldn’t have enjoyed Siem Reap the way we did without your itinerary and personal guidance. We will be back in Siem Reap as long as you are there!!!” Souvik, USA.

Need accommodation in Cambodia? See our recommended hotels in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh and Battambang, all tried and tested.



There are 14 comments

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  1. Sebastian

    Lara’s in-depth local knowledge of Siem Reap was invaluable to me when my girlfriend and I were planning our Cambodia trip last year. Her suggestions clearly showed a lot of research and her opinions on places, both to eat and drink as to where to stay, displayed not only great on-the-ground tips but a good understanding of what we were after. Needless to say this saved hours of (often frustrating) time researching on the internet, where I was coming up with wildly varying information about what’s good and what isn’t. I think Lara’s an excellent resource for a Siem Reap visit (and indeed, for the rest of Cambodia) and I wouldn’t hesitate for a second in recommending her services to people who are looking for the best local experiences.

  2. Lara Dunston

    Thank you so much for the kind words, Sebastian. It was an absolute delight helping you plan your trip and so lovely to see you here in Siem Reap. But then you were our invaluable resource when we were in Jerez a few years earlier, so I had to endeavour to be as helpful as you were to us. Nothing like Local Knowledge, right? Looking forward to seeing you again in Spain.

  3. Heather

    Any traveler that loves food should always make an attempt to discover their destination’s local food culture … so much to experience, especially in places like Cambodia!

  4. Lucas Malovic

    Even I agree with you guys, when your in another country definitely you need to experience local food and their culture.
    I never experienced Cambodia. do you ever experience wild life?

  5. Lara Dunston

    Glad you agree! We have experienced wild life here in Asia, Australia, South America, Africa, but not yet in Sri Lanka – we’ll actually be heading there soon on a food tour, so we’re really looking forward to trying the local food – but we’d also love to see the wildlife, so I will get in touch. Thanks for dropping by!

  6. Bobbi Van

    Hello

    Friends of Eric Raisina in NY mentioned you to us this week…Oh how I wish we had that Conversation two months ago when we planned our trip…however it is what it is and I have had so much joy reading your blog and seeing life through
    your eyes. How do we read you to discuss Siem Reap and Vietnam??? We arrive in Siem Reap Dec. 23th and then Vietnam Dec 26th – January 9th..

    Thank you

    Bobbi

  7. Lara Dunston

    Hi Bobbi – lovely to hear from you! And thank you so much for the kind words. Much appreciated. I was at Eric’s first anniversary party on Friday night – wonderful show and fun party!

    If you’re interested in me helping you plan your trip – and I’d be delighted to – you can just click through on any of the links above to book a Vayable experience with me. If you’re a foodie, you want Savour Siem Reap; if you’d love to browse more beautiful fashion, jewellery and accessories boutiques like Eric’s, see artisans and craftspeople at work (painters, woodcarvers, silk weavers, jewellers), and/or buy/see art, handicrafts, and design objects, then you should book Shop Siem Reap. If you want a combo of both things plus temples, then book Inside Siem Reap.

    Once you book an experience we can start discussing your trip and once I know more about your dates, duration of your stay, interests, etc, I will create a draft bespoke itinerary for you to consider, then I’ll meet you when you arrive. I can also help you with Vietnam ideas, as we lived therefore we moved to Siem Reap. Look forward to seeing you in Siem Reap!

  8. Lara Dunston

    Hi Janine

    Happy to clarify any confusion… how can I help? As it says, the “Savour Siem Reap” experience involves me creating an itinerary, planning a trip, and providing support while people are here. In those itineraries I recommend my clients use Cambodian guides and Cambodian-based tour companies. I feel very strongly about that. I live in Cambodia, this is a poor country, there is a high unemployment rate, and I don’t believe foreigners do Cambodians any favours by stealing their jobs as guides.

    Regarding the Backyard Travel tour, there will be an excellent Cambodian guide leading it, who we have used before when we’ve done Backyard Travel tours, and he is wonderful with a wealth of knowledge about his country, its history and culture that I could never match. He’s a professional guide. I’m not.

    The tour will be punctuated with daily writing and photography lessons/workshops by myself and Terence – writing and photography is our expertise (in addition to writing professionally I was an academic teaching writing for many years in a university setting, and Terence and I also have relevant degrees), so that’s where we’ll provide guidance and support. I’ll be on the tour for 100% of the time and Terence will be on most of it, and we’ll be there to share that expertise, as well as what we have learnt related to the cuisine and culinary culture of Cambodia during our work as food and travel writers. But we are most definitely not leading the tour.

  9. Alyson

    Hi there, we just arrived in Siem Reap tonight and dinner tonight was…yuk! Could you point us in the direction of some decent food? My husband is an executive chef, I’m just one of those annoying foodies. Do you have a blog post that would be for us? We would obviously mention you in any posts of ours about our food experiences here. Thanks!

  10. Lara Dunston

    LOL, Alyson, did you realise you’re asking for food/restaurant tips at the end of the post promoting my bespoke itinerary service for foodies? Aside from my work as a food and travel writer, one of the ways I make a living is by crafting personalised itineraries and most of my clients are actually chefs, including some of the world’s best chefs 🙂

    Nevertheless, there is loads of info on the site on eating out in Siem Reap, revealed by a quick scan under ‘Siem Reap’ or a quick search for ‘Siem Reap food’ or ‘Siem Reap restaurants’ etc, which bring up results such as these:

    Our Culinary Guide to Siem Reap
    – probably one of the most comprehensive guides to eating out and all things foodie you’ll find out there – based on years of experience:
    http://grantourismotravels.com/2014/07/29/our-culinary-guide-to-siem-reap/

    Cambodian Street Food in Siem Reap
    – a selection of the delicious Cambodian street food (i.e. no banana pancakes or fruit shakes) that was found in abundance at the water festival and is typical of Siem Reap street food.
    http://grantourismotravels.com/2014/11/08/cambodian-street-food-in-siem-reap/

    Dig around a bit and you’ll find lots more.

    Where did you eat tonight???

  11. JoelleG

    Lara, on this blog you’ve often said you believe that food and other
    local tours should be led by LOCALS.

    Or does that rule only apply to other expats leading food tours in Siem Reap.

  12. Terence Carter

    Joelle, I’ll answer that for you. It’s very simple. Lara does not lead food tours. We have long been advocates of responsible and sustainable tourism and would never lead a tour in a country as poor as Cambodia with such high unemployment rates.

    Lara creates bespoke culinary itineraries for visitors, tailored to meet their interests. An itinerary is a planning tool — a document that they use to organise their trip. In that itinerary, Lara recommends a number of suppliers, including street food tour operators if the client is interested in street food.

    With street food tours, as with other tours, Lara only recommends responsible operators who employ and empower Cambodian guides.

    I’ve deleted the name of the operator you mentioned as we don’t provide a space for the promotion of tour companies we haven’t tested firsthand and there are a number of excellent and successful street food tour operators in Siem Reap that Lara does recommend.


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