Afternoon Cruise, Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Weekend in Siem Reap

The weekend is upon us here in Cambodia and with it thousands of visitors who have arrived from around Asia. A weekend in Siem Reap is enough to get a taste of the town and nearby temples, but don’t try to cram in too much. Visit knowing you’ll be returning one day.

Here are our tips for a weekend in Siem Reap aimed at sampling the best of Temple Town.

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Sala Lodges and Maison Polanka offer a taste of traditional Khmer culture in style. If money is no object, the Amansara, Park Hyatt and La Residence are the most luxurious sleeps, while Raffles oozes history and has a stupendous swimming pool. Shinta Mani Resort’s pool comes close plus it boasts a flamboyant Bill Bensley design. Hotel Be is a chic bolthole in Siem Reap’s colonial heart. Sojourn is set amongst the rice fields out of town.

FRIDAY NIGHT

Start with sundowners at the riverside Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) Angkor, followed by rose and lemongrass martinis at Shanghai-inspired Miss Wong. Dine at Cuisine Wat Damnak, to feast on Chef Joannès Rivière’s beautiful Cambodian cuisine, the finest in the country (book ahead). Resist the urge to kick on – you need to rise early in the morning.

SATURDAY MORNING

Book a tuk tuk for 4.30am for sunrise at Angkor Wat and get a one-day Angkor Pass. Don’t let the crowds spoil your experience – this is one of Asia’s star attractions for a reason. Embrace it and enjoy contributing to the collective sighs of travellers awestruck by the sun’s illumination of the world’s largest religious monument. After, scramble Angkor Thom and Bayon, and Ta Prohm before trundling back to town for lunch. See our guide to experiencing Angkor Wat and the Angkor temples.

SATURDAY LUNCH

Linger over delicious, traditional Cambodian food, including Siem Reap’s scrummiest fish amok, on the balcony of an atmospheric Khmer timber house at Sugar Palm restaurant.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON

Explore sprawling Preah Khan, a former monastery and residence of King Jayavarman VII. Romantics should skip the crowds up at Phnom Bakheng and hop on one of Kongkear Angkor’s gondolas (above), inspired by the traditional boats dating back to Jayavarman VII’s reign. Boats depart from Takao port west of Angkor Thom Gate and cruise around the moat; book ahead for canapés and cocktails.

SATURDAY NIGHT

See the hugely entertaining Phare Cambodian Circus for a quirky, high-energy Khmer Cirque du Soleil-style circus. Be there at 7.40pm to get a good seat; the one-hour show starts at 8pm, so have your tuk tuk driver wait so he can take you directly to riverside Chanrey Tree for refined Cambodian cuisine (try delicious prahok k’tis). Sip Khmer cocktails at Asana bar in the last antique Khmer house in the old centre. Up for more? Check our some of our other favourite bars in Siem Reap, including boho French expat spot, Laundry Bar; Picasso’s, Siem Reap’s Cheers; or hippy hang-out Soul Train.

SUNDAY MORNING

Stroll through a tranquil village set amidst the rice paddies and get an insight into how challenging life can be for Cambodians on a two-hour Treak Village Walk and Talk with Beyond Unique Escapes.

SUNDAY LUNCH

Delight in creative, contemporary Cambodian tapas in the garden at Marum, a training restaurant ran by Friends International. I love the red ant fritters served with a prahok dip.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON

Slip into Old Market in the historic heart of Siem Reap. Busiest in the mornings when villagers sell fresh produce and locals shop, it’s more relaxed in the afternoon when vendors are napping. After, browse some of the fabulous shops around Old Market. Don’t miss Senteurs d’Angkor, Kokoon on ‘Market Street’ (2 Thnou Street), Christine’s (above Laundry Bar), and Gardens of Desire, Smateria and Wild Poppy on Alley West. Hire a tuk tuk to take you to Ambre, Eric Raisina’s and Theam’s House.

SUNDAY EVENING

Sample Cambodian street food at local markets and food stalls on River Garden’s Street Food Tour (from 5-7pm), which ends with a picnic with the locals on Road 60, which Cambodians fondly call ‘Khmer Pub Street’, as it’s where they go to eat and drink beer, but it’s much more family-friendly than Pub Street.

If it’s wet during your visit, see our guide to things to do in Siem Reap when it rains. If you’re keen to explore on two wheels, see our Siem Reap cycling guide.



There are 12 comments

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  1. Sand In My Suitcase

    We were happily enjoying Siem Reap vicariously through your writing (and we love the idea of staying at Raffles or Amansara) – but we were pulled up short by the red ant fritters :-). George has nibbled on fried grasshoppers in San Miguel de Allende (salty, crunchy and tasty, he says). And he’d be game to try those fritters. But Janice would pass and choose other tapas. Now, where were we? Oh, we’re going to the Old Market…

  2. Lara Dunston

    The red ant fritters are really delicious. They’re like little savoury cakes rather than fried fritters and the ants are tiny with an ever-so-slight crunch. You wouldn’t even know they were ants if you didn’t read the menu. Old Market is wonderful – hope you enjoyed it! 🙂

  3. Lara Dunston

    Thanks! That boat ride is very relaxing. And surprisingly not a lot of people do it for sunset. Tour groups tend to do it earlier in the day but it’s magic at sunset.

  4. Sharon

    Love your suggestions. We aren’t going to Siem Reap for another 7 months but I’ve looked at tons of websites, blogs, etc. and find your ideas the most helpful. We will copy your Friday itinerary exactly and many other suggestions. Still trying to decide if we do 2-days exploring The temples or just 1 long day if we only have 4 days there. I’ll keep checking your postings for more ideas. We booked at Sala Lodge and I’m glad to see you think so highly of it.
    Thanks.
    Sharon

  5. Lara Dunston

    Hi Sharon – thank you for the kind words! You are going to love Sala Lodges – it’s so beautiful. There is so much to do in Siem Reap these days – and we will be posting more stories soon on all the many other things to do – but the temples are still the real highlight. If you have 4 days, I would recommend you do one long day on your first day (perhaps the Beyond Unique Escapes Angkor Uncovered tour) and then see how you feel.

    If you fall in love and find you can’t get enough of the temples, then you could do some independent exploration with a tuk tuk driver to see different temples or to visit some more off the beaten track sites. Or vice versa: do the star temples on your own by tuk tuk and then do a tour to some of the further afield temples. Then, depending on your interests you can easily fill another couple of days. We love Beyond’s Treak Village Walk and Talk. We also enjoyed Triple A Adventures’ full day Floating Village Tour, which includes a lovely bike ride as well as the boat cruise.

    Do check back for more stories in a few weeks and please make sure you let us know when you’re in town.

  6. Derrick

    This was a really good post and gives a great idea of things to do for the weekend. The detail is fantansitc. Really helps plans things out. I am thinking about heading to Siem Reap this July with 2 younger teenage kids in tow. One of them with love it, the other is a bit of an adventure junky. Do you have any recommendations what families could do over a weekend (or a week) in Siem Reap? Any suggestions or ideas would be wonderful, especially if there is something like zipping over trees for my son.

  7. Lara Dunston

    Hi Derrick – nice to see you here and thanks for the kind words! I’ll do you a post on ‘Siem Reap for Families’. Hope that works! We do have zip-lining over the trees and kids love it. I’ll email you when the post is up. Thanks for dropping by!


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