As I am not generally a big fan of large cities, I expected to enjoy Siem Reap (the second largest city in Cambodia) a lot more than Phnom Penh. This was not the case. Angkor Wat aside, I didn’t find anything particularly interesting to do within the city itself. There are numerous temples to see, but I was starting to get seriously temple-d out at this stage of my travels. It is also difficult to get excited about these smaller temples after seeing the Temples of Angkor!
The one museum that I would’ve liked to visit was the Cambodia Landmine Museum. It is unfortunately located about 25KM away from Siem Reap and I didn’t really feel like travelling all the way there on tuk-tuk just for that. I did enjoy walking through the Night Market (good for souvenirs and knick-knacks) and Old Market (lots of fresh food and fruit) but was done after half a day. What else was there to do?
Escape from the city centre, that’s what!
I decided to head out to the surrounding countryside on a bicycle tour, which turned out to be well worth the time and money.
We arrived in the small town of Roluos after a 30 minute drive from the centre of Siem Reap. Following a quick stop to collect our bicycles, we set off on a 1.5 hour ride around the village to check out local life out here in the countryside.
After giving back our bicycles, we made the 1 hour drive to Kompong Khleang, one of the floating villages around the area. As it is currently dry season, the level of the Tonle Sap lake is fairly low, so we were clearly able to see the wooden stilted houses of this kompong. During the rainy season, water levels can rise by 5 metres, hence the need for building the houses on stilts.
After lunch at a local homestay in the village, we were taken out on a wooden motorboat to tour the Tonle Sap lake. Located on the side of the lake we were on is a literal floating Vietnamese village. These guys have built their houses (as well as shops, hospital, school and hair dresser!) on floating objects rather than stilts, allowing them to move locations, up and down the river and onto the lake depending on the season. Ingenious.
We were treated to a local snack on our drive back to Siem Reap – sticky rice with black beans, cooked in bamboo. It was delicious! It’s no wonder there were so many road side stalls selling this.
This tour was a great way to end my time in Siem Reap, leaving me with a good taste of local life and local food! I would highly recommend doing something similar if you’re looking for something a little different to do in Siem Reap.
Be wary though, as there are a number of floating villages around Siem Reap that tour companies will typically offer to take you to. Kompong Khleang is one of the least visited villages, which was just perfect as it meant far less tourist boats to contend with on the Tonle Sap (we only saw three other barely filled tourist boats during our time there). I had heard some horrible traveller stories about Kompong Pluk for instance (seemingly the most advertised), so be sure to do your research before signing up!