7 May 2016

Cambodia | Where To Eat, Sleep, Shop and Relax In Siem Reap


I hope you have so far enjoyed the series of post from my explorations of Cambodia's Angkorian temples.  While checking out the sights may be at the top of your list when you visit Siem Reap, getting a good place to rest is also an important part of planning your trip to Cambodia. I also covered some tips and accommodation options in terms of hotels, hostels and in general, where to stay in Cambodia's Siem Reap in another post. In this post, I will be covering your options for entertainment, food and where to relax when not temple running Angor Wat and surrounding temples.

Siem Reap is lively whether it's during the day or late in the evening. I actually found it to be even more lively in the late evenings. Possibly because everyone had come back from their explorations of Angkorian Temples. While you are in the city don't be fooled into thinking that all there is to see are old ruins of these temples. You will also find modern temples within the main town that you should definitely check out. As far as what to do when you are not temple running I have posted details below on where to eat, shop, relax and seek entertainment in Siem Reap.

EAT


When it comes to food, there is plenty! From hawker stalls to Italian, Khmer, Mexican and many Western cuisines such as Italian, Spanish, and French food. The majority of your time will be spent in Siem Reap's Pub Street. Pub Street is Siem Reap's  main party hub where you will find restaurants, bars, spas and massage places as well as the markets. Most of the streets don't have names in particular but the majority of it is known as Pub Street, when you ask your tuk-tuk driver to take you to the main town, that is the only name they will every need. There are many places to eat. I have listed a couple of my favourites to get you started. There is rife competition to get customers and you will find that most places have really loud music, as if to entice people in. I found that the harder they tried to get you through the door the less effort goes into the food. So make sure you explore the bars and restaurants in the side and back streets. 


Kaya Cafe - A nice cold ice cream on a hot day in the city makes this place a must for a stop off. They do traditional Khmer desserts too. All freshly made daily. You will find this little gem in Hospital Street off the Old Market.

L'Annexe - French cuisine and really great quality too. Be sure to leave room for desserts. It's also not too far from Pub Street.

Picasso Bar and Tapas - A touch of Spain with this little tapas bar. You can find this close to Gelato Lab and Co.

Cambodian Cookout - If you are up for learning how to cook Cambodian style foods then this is the perfect option. You get to learn how to cook a three-course meal and eat it too while also experiencing local life in the countryside.

The Touich Restaurant and Bar - A mix of Khmer and western cuisine. It's a little away from Pub Street but the food and setting are worth the trip.

Khmer BBQ - If you manage to find the place then you can walk along the same alleyway and just cross over the road to find Gelato an Co for dessert. The food at Khmer BBQ is good and it offers a little more peaceful dining where you can actually hear the person you are talking to, compared to the places on the main streets. Definitely one to check out. Free wifi too.



Jardin des Delices and Green Star  - Both of these of serve  up really great food and score highly with many diners.

Gelato and  Co -  If  you love your coffee and fancy quality ice cream to cool your down in Cambodia's hot and humid weather this is the place to be! They are super friendly, and it's a little treasure in a rather chaotic place. Another plus is that they offer free internet.(Will be posting more pictures of this place soon) Slightly hidden in an alley way but make the effort to find this place as its too good to pass up.

Others: Angkor What?, Red Piano, Soup Dragon(these three are popular in the city), Sala Bai, ConCert, Miss Wong, Blue Pumpkin and Project Y(Y for yoghurt. This place is a self-service yoghurt place that also helps and funds school and college for Cambodia's youth. I would highly recommend it.)

SHOP

Pub Street with all its rolls of restaurants and bars, you also have markets that are open from morning till late evening. Here you will find everything from cheap souvenirs, clothes, jewellery with synthetic and semi-precious stones. You have shops where you can have your own shoes made for a mere $15.

Artisans d'Angkor -  If you are after super quality craftsmanship, as well as want to see how some of the crafts are made then this is one place to check out. Items from luxury silk scarves, sculptures, and spices. Artisans d'Angkor is a professional training school that was started and originally sponsored by Cambodia, EU and French Foreign Ministry to provide training in Angkorian  arts to many 18-25 year old illiterates. What you will find here is remarkable crafts from skilled and talented locals. Visiting the school is free. You can find the school near Angkor Wat and the Old Market. Artisans d'Angkor run free tours with French, English, Japanese, German and Khmer speaking guides. A must if you want to take any quality crafts as gifts or just want to see how a lot of the items you may find in the markets are made. Open 7.30am to 6pm

Angkor Night Market - Bright, colourful and alive! Angkor Night market was created as a way to alleviate poverty and improve lives of the Khmer people. You will find paintings, clothes, jewellery and crafts made by local artisans. You will get used to exploring in the day and spending your evening in the markets. Just make sure you refine your haggling skills. Open 4pm to midnight.





Old Market - Very much similar or in-line with Pub Street in that it is a maze of shops, dining spots, and where day life ends and night-life begins. It's also not far from Pub Street and stretches along the river.

Khmer Ceramic Center - This place is similar to Artisans d'Angkor in that it also doubles as a training school to teach local youths in craftsmanship skills and in a way retaining traditional Cambodian skills. This place provides an insight into Khmer Ceramic arts and culture. You will find top quality and hand-made ceramic items  like serving bowls, decorative bowls, cosmetic bottles, oil burners, tableware and other accessories. Open 8am to 7pm.

RELAXATION


After long days temple-trekking, when the evening comes and all the tuk-tuks are heading back with tired tourists the place you want to head to is Pub Street. A little TLC after freshening up at your hotel is the only way to get the evening started on a relaxed note. You will want to explore the many options of R&R within Pub Street's many alleys. Here you will find pedicures with those flesh-eating fish, reflexology treatments, hand, foot and body massages at $6 for hour's massage. Pub Street is lined with places so you will always find availability without having to book. The foot massages are a true God send after much exploring of temples all day. Having a massage will put you in good order to head out again the following day of more explorations. If you can't bear to pull yourself from your hotel room , most hotels will have people on call who will come to your room and massage your feet but for the price they charge you will more than likely just get them to do the whole body without having to break the bank. A lot of the luxury hotels offer spa options but for the prices most of them will charge for this, you might as well head to Pub Street. A lot of the places are clean and the massages are good enough to have you purring like a cat and cost a fraction of the price at large hotels.

ENTERTAINMENT



While exploring the temples you will have noticed a lot of carvings and statues that feature Apsara dancers. A visit to Cambodia is not complete without seeing the traditional Apsara dancers perform in front of you. There are a few restaurants that have daily shows with Apsara dancers reenacting scenes from those that are carved out on the temples or old stories about Apsaras.  Some performances are free and some come at a price ranging from $30-40, but this will be with high-end hotels that offer 3-course meals as part of that price. Within Pub Street you can find places like Temple Balcony(everyone knows this place if you need to ask for directions), it has daily performances from 7.30-9.30pm and the dancers are really good. The food wasn't that great and nothing to sing home about but the dancers made up for that. Other places you can head to, to see the dancers are Apsara Theatre and Raffles Hotel. Apsara Theatre has skilled dancers in a great setting and beautiful customs. The theatre's shows run daily at 8pm. Raffles Grand Hotel also has impressive classical dancing and martial art performance all with amazing food to boot too. Be aware that their performances run on certain days. Being that it is a luxury hotel, expect luxury prices too.



GETTING AROUND

Getting around is fairly easily. There are taxis, although not too many so the transportation at your disposal will be that of the tuk-tuks. There is no public transport system in Siem Reap. There may be no public transport locally but buses are available when travelling to other cities. There are a lot of motorbikes which I believe can also rented but as the cost of having a tuk-tuks and driver is a lot easier I found that to be the best option. In addition to having  locals who know where they are going when showing you around all the temples. You will also do a lot exploring on foot. It's fairly easy to get around on foot as well as safe. Just make sure you keep your bags secure as there are incidents of bag snatchings.

Bicycles - You can explore the temples at your own pace by bike. You can rent out bikes for the day at $1-2 a day for a normal bike and recent models and mountain bikes for $8-10. Places like Old Market, Wat Bo Road and White Bicycles NGO all have bike rental services.

Tuk-tuks - A one-way journey to most places in the city will only cost $2-3 but you can also book a tuk-tuk and driver for the day for the price of $20-25. They will take you around all the temple and wait around for you outside the temple and ready to move on to the next when you are done.

Taxi - Most taxis whether booking them from the airport or from your hotels or even the main markets will favour long journeys.  They are super picky which can be frustrating at times. I am not particularly patient if someone is going to be picky or dictate the distances they want to travel when that should dictate by where the customer wants to go. You will most likely be using tuk-tuks are there aren't that many taxis in the city anyway. 

CITY TOUR GUIDES


Most of the hotels, villa, hostels can arrange for a tuk-tuk and guide for the day's exploration but if you are more of a DIY or want to venture outside the popular tourist routes, you can book your own guide. Trip advisor has a list of local guides in Siem Reap and overall Cambodia.


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