How to spend 3 full days in Siem Reap, without spending all of it at the Park!
DAY 1: Silk Farm and War Museum
There is a FREE tour and shuttle that will take you to and from the Silk farm starting at the Artisans Market in Siem Reap. We hopped on the 930am bus and toured the farm for about 2 hours. It was pretty interesting to see the process that goes into making silk.
You will start from the beginning, seeing how the worms are fed and kept, their cocoon stage, the harvesting of silk, the cleaning, weaving, and lastly, the end products. I was sad to learn that the silk worms died in the process though.
The War Museum is the only one in Cambodia. It costs $5pp for foreigners. There you will find many tanks, land mines, artillery guns, ammunition, and informational exhibits displaying photographs from the time period. There is a free guide that can lead you around. We had to wait for the next guide, and because Simon was sick, we chose not to wait and toured the area ourselves. You are able to climb the tanks and hold the guns and ammo. It’s kind of a small museum, with a BUNCH of tanks. It was interesting. You probably only need 1-2 hours to tour it and take photos.
*TIP: Hire a tuk tuk to take you there and back. They will wait for you of course while you walk around. We were dropped off by the Silk Farm bus and all of the tuk tuks already had customers. We had to walk out and down the long side road before we came across another tuk tuk available for hire. It was hot. We felt stranded. I strongly advise you don’t let anyone just drop you off.
DAY 2: Angkor Archaeological Park : Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, Angkor Thom
Unfortunately for us, we arrived the same day that admission costs went up for the park! We ended up buying a 3 day pass, which is a decent deal if you actually go for three days. We were so templed-out that we only did ONE DAY. It was a long day spent walking around, making our way past crowds, taking photos, and riding from one site to the next. Cramming everything into one day is probably why we didn’t want to look at any more temples for the remainder of the trip. Plus, being short on time, there’s more to see in Siem Reap!
We hired a tuk tuk driver through our guesthouse for $15 for the day, leaving around 9am. We did the small circuit, and hit Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, Ta Keo, Angkor Thom, and Angkor Wat. It was very cool to see the temples, but they did all look alike. My favorite temple was the Bayon because of all the face carvings.
The distances between the temples are kind of far, and if it’s hot, I can’t imagine biking it. You can rent a green bike/scooter in town if you really want to go for it. The tuk tuks, however, are able to meet you at the opposite end of the temples so you won’t have to double back. Each has it’s pros and cons.
Tours to the park are abundant. All of the hotels and guesthouses know this is the main attraction for Siem Reap and many offer options that you can book directly with them.
Grab a map of the park and look up photos online to see which sites you most want to see. The small circuit is the most common, and is what we did. It took a good long day and that’s going quickly through the sites and without a guide – so keep that in mind.
Wear comfortable shoes. Bring water. Knees and shoulders need to be covered- be modest. Expect crowds. If you are travelling light- there are food stands and water/smoothie kiosks outside several temples.
For my fellow geocachers, yes there are caches in the park! We got lucky and grabbed a travel bug to take back home :)
*TIP: Outside most of the temples, there are people selling clothes and art. I saw HUGE paintings going for $20 after I had spent $40 in the city for much smaller ones. Be on the look out for these deals!
*TIP: You can purchase tickets and use them the evening before your first official day begins. If you want to head to Angkor Wat for sunset- this is a good option.
DAY 3: Countryside Biking Tour with Khmer for Khmer Organization
We wanted to get some pedaling in and take in the surrounding countryside, so we opted for a bike tour. After looking up several tour operators, we decided to go with KKO. KKO profits go to the local school, which provides free education to children in the surrounding community, and also to their vocational training center.
We did the half day tour due to our limited time. It was just under 4 hours. We had Julius as our guide, a volunteer from Germany. He took us to the KKO school where we saw the children playing. He filled us in on their education and backgrounds, and then answered questions we had. We also got to take a peek at the sewing vocational building on the same property.
We rode to a market and got to sample some local food (not very tasty, but definitely interesting to see the differing standards other countries have for food storage! No ice for one!)
We also checked out a mushroom farm (great source of income for the locals), lotus farm, pagoda cemetery, and farm ducks that were being let out for bathing.
The bike ride was mainly on dirt roads, so we got to see local homes and farms, cattle, chicken, and rice paddies!
My favorite was the pagoda cemetery and the mushroom farm.
The tour was great for a taste of Cambodian culture. I would have preferred to go on a longer tour and more in depth, but we only had limited time!
Pub Street and Around
Of course you’re going to go into town! In this area you will find a bunch of restaurants, shopping (all places tend to sell the same things I noticed), music, and food stalls to try insects and grab a Nutella banana crepe! You can fit this into any day or evening.
*TIP– Get a massage! They are cheap and plentiful. You can even try a fish “massage” where they clean the dead skin off of your feet!
Phare Cambodian Circus
This was a fun way to spend a night. We ended up going after a long day at Angkor- but you can fit this into any evening! We purchased tickets through our guesthouse after seeing rave reviews on Tripadvisor. You will witness acrobatics along with music and several performances. Ticket prices were $35pp but will be seeing an increase to $38pp October 2017. There’s a restaurant and popcorn available for purchase on site. The theater provides fans for free.
*TIP: Arrive early, lines start forming and it’s first come first served unless you reserve your seat for extra $$. Sit closer to the front of the stage so you can see better. There are columns that block some views, so get there early.
After spending a few days in Cambodia, I’m glad we were able to get a taste of the culture and highlights in Siem Reap. There’s definitely more to see and do, but if you are short on time, this may be a good and balanced way to spend it!
What do you think?