There are so many things to do in Siem Reap that when you arrive at first you may be pleasantly surprised. A lot of people don’t expect much from Cambodia due to its turbulent history but its so good to see Khmer people moving forward and fast developing their tourism industry. I wanted to pick some of my favourite things that we did in Siem reap, excluding Angor Wat as I dedicated a full post to it here, so I hope you keep on reading.
Visit a local village
Out of all the things to do in Siem Reap, first and foremost we visited a local village to see how these people live. I must admit the entire visit to this city brought a whole lot of mixed emotions ranging from really happy to extremely sad. A visit to a local village was on a sad spectrum, unfortunately. As we stayed with Shinta Mani for the first few days, they really took it upon themselves to show us all the good work that they do with a Khmer community and the ways they help local people overcome poverty with the power of education.
A very big issue with local villages is that they are so poor and can’t afford a school that most of them end up living in such poor conditions and most of the time without basics such as toilet and clean water. The hotel has so many guests that donate money for these villagers to get things like wells, the ability to go to school and even bicycles for these kids to be able to get to school easier. In most cases schools are at least few kilometres away and as a small child under 10 years of age, this can be quite straining. Unfortunately, they can only afford one bike per family as things such as getting them clean water from building wells and helping them build homes comes as a priority.
I felt so sad to see how these kids show so much happiness and willpower living in such poor conditions that I really wanted to help raise awareness as much as possible. They don’t have shoes to wear at home and paper and crayons to draw on but instead, they play barefoot using mud and soil to express their creativity and entertain themselves. They seemed very happy and friendly to us despite these conditions which touched my heart. We bought them some food and gave money to their families to buy things such as medicine and more food. I loved that Shinta Mani puts so much importance on education as in Cambodia, if one family member gets a job in the hospitality industry or any other industry, they can support their entire family. To goal is to educate them and get them to work so that they can provide for the entire family and send even more kids to school. You can have a look at the foundation and what they offer here.
I have to admit in whole honesty, that I didn’t know much about the history of Khmer people and what they went through in the past 30-40 years, and first few days really opened my eyes and made me feel so happy and grateful for things like being able to study what I wanted, having a job that I want and the ability to travel the world and try help less fortunate in my best ability.
Take a cooking class
Cooking classes are really popular in Thailand and we were considering to do one there, however, since we didn’t know much about Khmer dishes, we decided to get one at Kroya restaurant in Shinta Mani and it really ended up being one of the favourited things to do in Siem Reap. It really came as a massive surprise to me how with little ingredients we managed to prepare such delicious dishes.
The nicest thing about this cooking class is that we started with a visit to a day market filled with predominantly with fruits, vegetables and spices but also with fish, meat and even bugs. The market was so well stocked with fresh local produce and according to the chef who took us here, everything sells in one day. This is due to all nearby hotels and restaurant buying from the market to prepare food for all the tourists that come here.
A typical meal in the Khmer cuisine consists of a soup, salad, fish course or a meat dish, salad and rice. Desserts are usually based on the fresh fruits and coconuts to satisfy those with a sweet tooth. Main spices used to cook these dishes are turmeric, lime leaves, ginger, lemongrass, chilli and galangal.
Once we got back to the market, we got onto the cooking part preparing mango salad, fish amok, beef soup and sticky rice dumplings. It was soo good to learn about the local cuisine and the main spices that they use to make dishes so delicious. Amok is my favourite and we got a whole bag of amok spice to take home with us as well as a booklet containing all recipes of the dishes we made. It goes without saying that we really enjoyed devouring all that we cooked. I honestly can’t recommend the cooking class enough so make sure you add one to your own list of things to do in Siem Reap.
Visit Pub Street and a Night Market
Last on my list of things to do in Siem Reap is the Pub Street and a night market. It goes without saying that you will come here if you find yourself in Siem Reap. The bright lights of all the bars and restaurants can make you forget that you in Cambodia this is the thing that will make you so happy. Beer is so cheap here like literally 50 cents for a glass and the clubs are so westernised is not even funny. We went out a few times for dinner and drinks but make sure you go before 6 pm to get the happy hour prices.
The night market is perfect if you want to buy local products and souvenirs and expect to huggle too.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post and please leave a comment below if you plan to visit Siem Reap and have any questions. Also, let me know if you like my photos.