How to spend one week in Siem Reap
If you want to see South-East Asia at its most beguiling, you need to visit to Cambodia. Whether you’re travelling by land and have successfully tackled the (s)Cambodian boarder, or arriving by air from a neighbouring country, nothing adventure awaits you. Because of it’s bustling nightlife, rich culture, laid-back atmosphere and affordability, Siem Reap is an ideal first stop before making way to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
Where to stay
Funky Flashpackers Hostel
Guests will be hard pressed to not be impressed by the impressive features at the Funky Flashpacker Hostel. The clue is in its name: this hostel is slightly more upmarket than the average backpacker hostel and includes a moderately sized swimming pool, swinging lounge areas an impressive rooftop bar and plenty of nightly entertainment.
Giant murals of music legends Madonna and Amy Winehouse and 90’s cult film characters are graffitied by local artists, giving the hostel a nostalgic feel that appeals to its 20-30 year-old age group. Private rooms cost €15.87 per night while a single bed in a dorm cost from €3.31 per night (via hostelworld.com). The hostel is situated on a quiet street with plenty of small restaurants and shops and is within walking distance to the Siem Reap Night Market as well as Pub Street. Funkyflashpacker.com.
Siem Reap is synonymous with drinking culture and partying, but the small town has more to offer for those less inclined with cheap hangovers. The Hideout Hostel is a great option if you plan on filling your days with activities and need a quiet space to rest at night. The hostel is ideally located less than ten minutes from Funky Flashpackers but lies on a residential, quiet road. Spend a day by the pool on one of the large bean bag beds and dine on tasty in-house food. When the sun sets, take part in a free walking tour of the night market or rent a bike and explore the local landscape. Private rooms start at €23.80, while dorms start at as little as €4.41 (hostelworld.com). Hideouthostels.asia.
Where to eat
The Missing Sock Laundry
At The Missing Sock Laundry guests will find a dry-cleaners to the front and one of Cambodia’s best casual dining cafés out back. You won’t find too many Cambodian delicacies on the menu, but you will find a delectable selection of thick, fresh, butter-soft, melt-in-your-mouth waffles. Try them with signature scrambled eggs and a famous cup of (strong) Cambodian chow. Themissingsockscaf.wixsite.com.
Any weary traveller will enjoy a morning feast of eggs, avocado and crispy bacon on freshly-made rye bread. The café screams about its excellent coffee (spoiler: it is excellent), but the food shouldn’t be overlooked either. Get a head start with a delicious and healthy smoothie bowl, or the coco one for a sweeter tooth. How do you like your eggs? The friendly, local staff will cook them to perfection, whatever way you like. Breakfasts and coffee for two averages around €6.80. @brother.bong_cafe.
There is no shortage of great Indian food in Cambodia, but ‘The Indian’ is arguably the best. Located a stone’s throw from Pub Street, The Indian is a small restaurant owned by a friendly Indian family who have settled in Siem Reap. All the chefs are of Indian heritage so you can be sure that the food you eat here is the real McCoy. For vegans and veggie’s, try the saucy veg korma dish with a side of naan. For meat eaters, the succulent buttered chicken with a side of jasmine rice will leave you wanting more. The Indian, Street 9, Siem Reap.
What to do
Cambo Beach Club
Did you know that Siem Reap has its own in-land beach? Cambo Beach Club is Siem Reap’s newest chill-out zone with real sand, a fifty-metre swimming pool and a separate plunge pool and three and five-meter diving boards. The man-made beach resort opened in January this year and is an ideal pitstop for young children, teenagers and adults (lifeguards are on duty throughout the day).
A door tax of €5 goes toward food and drink for the day (some alcoholic drinks cost less than €1), and there’s intermittent entertainment throughout the day, too. Though with ice-cold slushy mojitos and a diving platform, you can create all the fun yourself. Cambobeachclub.com.
If you have never tried Yoga before, the Blue Indigo Yoga Retreat is a great place to start. Just a few minute’s walk from the centre of Siem Reap, this calm, serene resort will help you to rebalance, reenergise and reconnect. Free Hatha yoga classes take place every morning at 6:30am and will help build strength and increase flexibility, all before the sun rises.
As well as pay-as-you-go classes, the retreat also offers extensive 3, 5, 7 and 15-day packages. Blueindigoyogasiemreap.com.
The Ankor Wat temple complex is the most prominent feature of Cambodia and one of the largest religious monuments in the world, measuring 162.6 hectares. The collective of temples is ideally located just 6 kilometres outside of Siem Reap, so it’s accessible if time is an issue. The usual tourist or traveller option is a sunrise or sunset tour. A third option however, and arguably a less time-sensitive one, is to rent local bicycles and explore the region yourself. The ticket office is located 4 kilometres outside of the complex, so make sure to get your ticket before you arrive at any of the entrance gates.
If you plan on making it to the top of the mountain for sunrise or sunset, its advised to get there early. Only 300 people are allowed up the infamous platform at a time and it can be a lengthy wait. The view is, of course, worth it. Be weary of pick-pockets, avoid elephant riding at all costs and bring plenty of water.
The Floating Village
A trip to the floating village, or Kampong Phluk, offers travellers a unique opportunity to learn about and understand rural communities in Cambodia. The village, which is home to some 2,000 people, is famous for its houses built on stilts. The village gets its name from being submerged under five feet of water during rainy season, but during dry season (January to May), the tall, skinny silhouettes of the huts is a haunting sight to behold. A half-day excursion brings you up the river, through the village and out onto the giant Tonlé Sap lake (which is over 120km long!) for a breath-taking sunset.
It’s impossible to visit Siem Reap without enjoying the buzz and liveliness of Pub Street. You’ll find lively bars, up-market cocktail bars, casual dining cafés and trendy restaurants. The Angkor What? is the street’s most popular nightclub and it’s where many of the pub crawls start and end. Expect debauchery, loud music, plenty of dancing and super-strong buckets, well, by the bucketload. On this street, the party continues right around the clock.