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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.