Siem Reap, Beyond the Temples

13 November 2019

With around 1000 temples in the region, Siem Reap has long attracted visitors who want to investigate Cambodia’s archeological treasures. But if you want a break from the temperature, there are plenty of other attractions to discover.

Bike Hire and Bike Rides

The surrounding countryside is flat rice fields, just perfect for a cycle trip. You can find bikes to rent everywhere, but, particularly if it’s been raining, seek out a dedicated hire shop which can provide the right bike to attack the mud you’ll find on some of the dirt roads. A decent day trip is to the Pearaing Biodiversity Conservation Centre However, the “centre” is a lake sanctuary with no facilities, so pack lunch and plenty of water.

Biking in Angkor Wat. Photo: Getty Images

Theatre and dance shows

Bambu Stage is one of the smallest theatres in Siem Reap, so don't expect grand Broadway style spaces, but it has charm and creativity in spades. Highly recommended is the Angkors Temples Decoded show, a whistle-stop tour of how the temples were developed and the meaning behind them; essential viewing before a trip to any of them. Bambu Stage also offer day time workshops in traditional Cambodian shadow puppets – these puppets are stunning so even if you don't get to a show, have a look at the small shop here to see them up close.

On a larger scale, Phare circus was founded in 1994 by young artists who had learnt their skills in a refugee camp; their arts training school now boasts 1200 students and their circus troupe provides professional opportunities for graduates. This is modern circus, so think physical feats of daring and astounding flexibility, comedy, and acrobatics.

Phare circus, Siem Reap. Photo: Getty Images

Pub Street

Siem Reap has evolved over the decades  to cater for the tastes of western tourists and nothing does so more than Pub Street in the centre of the city. Lined with western style bars and restaurants the area is gaudy and loud. Initially overwhelming, it is actually reasonably tame, but it is a good destination for a bit of excitement or just a stroll. Keep your eyes open for the vendors selling roasted tarantulas and the signs offering two dollar foot massages.

Pub Street, Siem Reap: Photo: Getty Images

Made In Cambodia Market

There seems to be a market on every corner around Pub Street, many of them with stall owners who request every passerby to look at their wares, but a two minute walk across the river will take you to a small, much more relaxed market where quality control is strong and all the goods are made in Cambodia. Many of the stalls have fixed prices; those that don't will be happy to engage in some good natured haggling. Some of the stalls and shops sell goods made by social enterprises – including one that reuses spent bullet casings – and some others by the artists themselves, and where you may get to see them at work. The market also features daily performances from Cambodian musicians and performers.

Artbox 3D Art Museum

Essentially a huge warehouse with trick 3D painting on the walls, Artbox could be a godsend if younger members of the party are bored and/or suffering from the heat. It’s a massive selfie wonderland where you can use the forced perspective murals as a backdrop. They have everything from a gondola ride in Venice to a rope bridge over a bottomless pit to an attacking tiger, and even King Kong. Make sure your phone is fully charged to take full advantage of every novelty photo opportunity it presents.

Artbox 3D Art Museum. Photo: supplied

José Barbosa

José Barbosa is a broadcaster, writer and video producer for The Spinoff.