Siem Reap was undoubtedly one of my favorite places to visit in Cambodia. The major attractions in Siem Reap are the vast swathes of temples and ruins, with Angkor Wat being the crown jewel. This is the sole reason tourists from across the globe flock to this small and unassuming town.
However, Siem Reap has so much more to offer than just ruins and temples. Of course, the ruins are the primary attraction, as they should be. But if you spend several days in this city, as you should, there are a lot more things to do in Siem Reap.
From exploring desecrated temples to dingy bars and clubs, from talking to monks to cavorting with drag queens… these are my favorite Siem Reap activities.
You can use Booking.com to find affordable hotels in Siem Reap.
Table of Contents
A compilation of things to do in Siem Reap isn’t possible without starting with the Angkor Archaeological Park. The world took notice when Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft traipsed around these ruins in ‘Tomb Raider’, and it hasn’t looked away.
There’s no way to explore all of the ruins and temples in these parts. There are literally thousands of them. However, if you approach your hostel/ hotel desk or tour companies, they’ll be able to give you temple run packages. These will include transportation to and from the premises, along with an exploration of the major ruins.
The primary attraction here is Angkor Wat, which is a UNESCO cultural heritage site. However, you’ll need to wake up real early if you want to capture its beauty during sunrise.
Ta Prohm, locally dubbed the “Tomb Raider Temple”, is another important temple.
Since these are the most popular temples, they’ll be swarming with other photo crazy tourists like yourself. If you want to get some pictures in solitude, or simply sit in quiet, find other temples.
To do that, you should branch out. Start walking (or riding), and don’t stop. Ditch the map and simply trek inwards. The deeper into the forests you go, the thinner the tourist crowds will get. Eventually, you’ll find yourself alone amongst desecrated tumbledown ruins.
This is what I loved the most. Since these aren’t the “popular” spots, they’re not as well maintained as Angkor Wat. However, I quite enjoyed how, well, ruined these ruins were.
One Day Pass: $37
Three Days Pass: $62
Five Days Pass: $72
I highly recommend getting at least the three-day pass. Trust me, you’ll regret it if you don’t.
The Angkor National Museum should ideally be visited and explored before the Angkor Archaeological Complex. Especially if you want to understand the history of the Angkor complex, rather than simply marveling at it aesthetically.
I fall into the latter of those categories, all about the aesthetics. However, visiting the Angkor National Museum provides you with some much-needed context. You understand why these massive temples were built, by whom, and to what end. You also understand more about the Angkor civilization in general.
The entrance fee is $12.
You can read about the Angkor National Museum in detail in this excellent blog post by Alex in Wanderland.
Siem Reap features one of the biggest freshwater lakes in all of Southeast Asia. As such, there are several floating villages here that are fascinating to explore. You’ll find a lot of houses built on stilts from which people go fishing.
Chong Khneas is the more “touristy” of the two. It’s believed that most of your tourist money here goes to tourist companies rather than the locals. Furthermore, you might also get pressured to purchase things you don’t need.
Kompong Khleang is the more “authentic” of the two villages, and you’ll get a better glimpse of the local community and their work ethics.
Due to time restraints, I didn’t get the chance to explore these. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least give it a shoutout in my list of Siem Reap activities.
You can read more about these floating villages in this article by Triple Adventures Cambodia.
Cambodia still has over 5,000,000 landmines active on the ground. The Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Facility is an NGO established by an ex-child soldier named Aki Ra.
After he returned home from fighting, he decided to defuse most of the landmines he’d been made to plant. He defused most of them on his own, by hand.
This NGO now continues that work on a much larger scale, clearing landmines across Cambodian villages. The museum holds a vast number of these landmines from the Khmer Rouge times and the Vietnamese occupation.
In addition to that, they also fund the creation of schools and dormitories for at-risk Khmer youth.
This is fairly self-explanatory. Walking around at night with my earphones on was one of my favorite things to do in Siem Reap. It was right up there with walking around the ruins of Angkor.
Siem Reap, at night, is the most beautiful city in Cambodia. It doesn’t matter where you go. Ditch your GPS and simply follow your instincts, or the crowd, or the flashing lights. Take a stroll along the riverside or wander amongst the colorfully decorated bridges.
It’s hard to explain the sheer magic of this quaint little city in words. So I’ll simply allow my bad photography to do the talking.
Even though I highly encourage you to walk about at night, you should also practice caution. You might aggressively be asked to get a $3 massage in some of the streets. And by aggressive, I mean really, aggressive.
Walking down one of the streets I was asked by a ladyboy to get a massage. When I refused she blocked my path and pinched my nipples. I still don’t understand why they consider casual sexual assault to be an effective marketing technique.
Of course, you may say that that was an isolated incident. Only it wasn’t. I had my ass slapped on two separate occasions when I refused their services.
Pub Street is the center of the backpacking universe in Cambodia. It’s Cambodia’s answer to Bangkok’s infamous Khao San Road. It’s lively at all hours of the day and night. Lined with street vendors, bars, clubs, and restaurants, there’s plenty to keep you busy here.
Pub Street is also pretty hard to miss. There are several entrances to it and all of them have “Pub Street” written in giant neon letters. They don’t much care for subtlety here.
During the day you can go to any of the roadside cafes to while away your time. Or you can shop for cool Cambodian bags, “Alibaba” pants, and souvenirs in the shops. You get these for as cheap as $4 or $6 per piece.
It’s also a great place to simply take photographs. One notable alley features a canopy of colorful umbrellas hanging in the skies.
There are a lot of massage parlors in Pub Street. You can get a deeply relaxing massage here for just $3 to $6 an hour!
You can also get your feet nibbled at by tiny little fishes. It might sound icky but it’s really quite pleasant. Apparently, the fishes eat away all your dead skin cells.
Just be careful not to thrash about too much. Trust me, you don’t want the life of an innocent fish weighing on your conscience.
One of the prime attractions of Pub Street is to eat $1 fried scorpions and tarantulas from street vendors. You’ll find them scattered all along Pub Street.
You can only photograph them if you also purchase one.
I didn’t have the heart to try it. But you can let me know down in the comments what your experience was like.
One of the most popular things to do in Siem Reap while exploring Pub Street is to get a cocktail at Miss Wong, a Chinese-themed cocktail bar serving western and Chinese food. In addition to being one of the best bars in Pub Street, it’s also very LGBT+ friendly.
If you’re looking for a queer night out in Siem Reap, BARCODE is a must-visit club at night. They have a stunning lineup of drag performances serving 80s diva glamour realness. They have lip sync renditions of gay classics such as “I Will Survive” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
BARCODE also has a Men Spa on the upper floor. As such, you can unwind in the hands of a muscular masseuse at the end of the day.
If you’re looking for a gay-friendly hotel to crash at later, you can check out DOM Siem Reap. It’s Siem Reap’s most budget-friendly luxury gay hotel.
You can find the current DOM Boutique Hotel rates at Booking.com.
If you’re looking to buy cheap clothes, food, and souvenirs from a single location, explore Angkor Night Market. This is the main night market in Siem Reap. You’ll find pretty much anything you need here.
Well, that’s my idea of what are the best things to do in Siem Reap. You might have your own opinions as well on what belongs or doesn’t belong on this list.
Feel free to comment down below and let me know what are your favorite Siem Reap activities!
I can be quite socially awkward occasionally. Sometimes, during these intermittent periods of social waywardness…