11 off the beaten track experiences in Siem Reap
Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Bayon Temple! And after that, Temple Club, Temple Bar, Temple Restaurant, Temple Transport, Temple Hotel etc… We totally understand that temple 101 is not as interesting as the very first one! Luckily, there are a lot more things to do in Siem Reap than just temples! In this article, we offer some options for the adventurers who are willing to take a few risks. We are talking, authentic off the beaten track experiences in Siem Reap! You will look back at these experiences for years to come!
1. Cambodian Buddhist Water Blessing
Before the adventure starts go to the 3-Hours Cambodian Buddhist Water Blessing because you might need it!
The monks living at the pagoda will let you choose from 2 forms of blessings. The first begins with the monks chanting harmoniously as they wish you good luck, safe travel and a long life. It is accompanied by a light sprinkling of water. The second is a longer ritual which involves vessels of blessed water being poured over your head while the monks chant. For this ritual, you will be provided with a sarong to change into so that your clothing remains dry.
At the end of the blessing, your wrist is adorned with special red ties that signify the blessing performed.
We suggest you do the second because you can use all the blessings you can get on our next off the beaten track adventure 😉 Besides, the heavens aren’t open everyday! So book the Buddhist Water Blessing Ceremony a few days in advance on Backstreet Academy!
2. Literally go off road with a Honda Dream Motorbike (125cc)
Traverse through little backstreets and country roads to see the real Cambodia! Get away from the main tourist areas to hidden gems like remote temples (oops, you can just skip that!), local villages and unspoiled natural locations!
With the Khmer Way Motorbike Tour you get to see the real Cambodia. You see how the majority of Khmers live in the rural countryside, away from mass tourism and where locals welcome you instead of just trying to make a quick buck off you. You will see some beautiful spots! Get on back roads and track through villages, enjoy picturesque scenery, and get an impression of the daily life of the inhabitants surrounding Siem Reap.
They fit 4 people and a large jerrycan on the bike! What is your maximum?
3. Face your fear, eat bugs!
The Khmer Rouge came into power in 1975. They immediately ordered two million citizens from the capital to move to the surrounding villages to work as peasants. This was to be ‘year zero’ in Pol Pot’s vision of a new rural, classless society. A result of an extreme form of Maoism. The people were forced to live and work in inhumane conditions, being served a bowl or two of borbor (rice porridge) a day. People were forced to find other sources of nutrients! One that was in abundance, were insects. Spiders, crickets, grasshoppers and water beetles provided an important source of energy for millions of men, women and children who suffered from malnutrition during Pol Pot’s regime.
Today these delicacies are fried to crispy perfection. However, during the Khmer Rouge period it was illegal to eat any other food besides what was provided. If caught, it meant likely execution or punishment. And fire to cook the insects would certainly reveal the unauthorized activity. So these were eaten raw!
So you already have it much better today with the grubs being marinated with a ton of natural spices, chilli and lime before being fried to a nice crisp. Be brave and try out sampling some of these creepy crawlies at the Fear Factor Challenge in Siem Reap! It is an adventure you will never forget!
4. Village Activities – Ox Cart Tour
During this experience you will not only be able to ride an Ox Cart but you will also learn about traditional activities like farming and fishing.
Ox Cart Adventure Tours has a strong passion to help retain traditional and cultural knowledge and skills. They collect and preserve old farming and fishing tools to show you how local people work the land, grow food and catch fish. Some of these tools date back to the Khmer Rouge days! At that time, farmers had to make everything by hand and keep all tools and ox cart harnesses in tip top condition. The ox carts used on this tour are still made and maintained by hand using these traditional methods.
Extra tip: If riding the Ox cart is not adventurous enough for you, you can ask them if you can ride the buffalo (we have heard they might allow it!)
5. Fly! Take a balloon ride above Siem Reap
Abandon the road entirely and use the day to take a magical balloon ride! Fly over all the beautiful temples places Siem reap has to offer! This will give you a whole other perspective of this gorgeous city!
6. Hunting and Fishing: Living off the Land
If you’re really looking for an off the beaten track experience, look no further! Go hunting, set traps, make slingshots and have great fun with a whole village of passionate Khmers!
The village is a bit outside of Angkor city and is called Kouk Dong. It is surrounded by peace, serenity and loads of greenery. The activities you will do are amazing, but the people even more so! This is exactly what you will love about Cambodia! We can not encourage you more, just book the experience! Hunting and Fishing: Living off the Land
7. Khmer Warrior Initiation
From making your own weapon with fire, to pounding a lion (we’re kidding, no hurting of animals is allowed), this day of Khmer Warrior Initiation has it all in store for you!
Weaponry and martial arts are two of the most recognizable traits of a Khmer Warrior! This experience brings some of that ancient art back. This experience will get you closer to the warriors of ancient times!
Weapons played an important role in the battles waged by the Khmers. In becoming a Khmer warrior, you will first get an opportunity to make your own knife, with Ty (our blacksmith host). You will burn, mould and sharpen your knife until you have your own, self made, weapon!
After this, you have a sumptuous meal at a local restaurant and move on to the next stage of the warrior initiation; making crossbows! An effective weapon of choice, their utility has not yet faded from the culture. It is still used for hunting in the jungles of Cambodia.
Last you will learn the Khmer martial arts, or Bokator, from a local master. Bokator, literally translates to ‘pounding a lion’. It is said to have been the origin of the much popular Muay Thai in Thailand! If you are looking for an active, off the beaten (yes, pun intended) track experience. We think you have found it!
8. Unexplored evening market and street food tour
This is one of Siem Reap’s best kept secrets! And we are telling you…
Every evening after 5 pm, when tourists go to pub streets. Local residents gather at Road 60 after a long day at work for an evening festivity like no other – Siem Reap style! Under the rows of street lamps that line the highway, a one kilometer stretch of local markets makes an appearance every evening. Usually it is accompanied by a spectacular sunset that lights up the sky. Food stalls offer a variety of local bbq and snacking options. The night market sells everything from phone chargers to leather jackets. There is even a fun fair, where classic games like shooting balloons and a mini Ferris Wheel are the main features of the market. It’s a mostly local affair, and not overrun by tourists, making it one of Siem Reap’s best off the beaten track experiences!
Join this unexplored evening market and street food tour to have a local bring you around for the best local food and also find out about local Khmer life!
9. Phnom Kulen Tour & Picnic
Phnom Kulen is considered by Khmers to be the most sacred mountain in Cambodia. It is a popular place for domestic visitors during weekends and festivals. For travelers however, it is a different story! The hilltop only opened up to travelers in 1999 and, so far, is not sought out by many. However, since you are interested in going off the beaten track, we thing you will find this experience well worth it!
Phnom Kulen lies about 50 km north east of Siem Reap. It takes approximately 2 hours to drive there. On the hilltop there are 56 Angkorian temples made of bricks and volcanic stones, but most of them are in poor condition. (Sorry, you cannot completely get around the temples, they are everywhere haha). The water is considered holy and Khmers like to bottle it to take home with them. Feel free to do the same! The source of water eventually flows in to Tonle Sap Lake and is said to bless the waterways of Cambodia.
Before reaching the mountain you travel along the valley “Mountain of Lychees”. You will see two waterfalls and witness the thousand Linga. It runs along the river of Siem Reap and has a lot of figures of Yoni and Linga spread out at the bottom of the river. You even get to enjoy a delicious local lunch! And, before you go back, you get to see a beautiful large statue of the sleeping Buddha (Preah Ang Thom). Phnom Kulen Tour & Picnic sounds quite worth the 2 hour drive off the beaten track, right?!
10. Stone Carving: Appreciating the Angkor Temples
Ohh nooo, is this no temple post, actually also a bit about temples?! Well yes and no. No, because this is an off the beaten track experience where you will not visit a temple. But yes, because after you have done this, you will actually appreciate the next temple you visit even more! You truly get to understand the craft of stone masonry, the meaning behind all the intricate details and even traditional techniques that have never been shown to outsiders!
Therefore, we decided to not keep this Stone Carving: Appreciating the Angkor Temples experience away from you. Even though it has a bit of temple included haha. Also, nothing beats holding a chisel and mallet.
11. Cambodian Spice Cocktails
After all these off the beaten track experiences you might want some relaxation. What better way than with drinks!? Not just any drinks, but self-made local cocktails! Before you make the cocktails, you try a bunch of the key ingredients raw (galangal, sombai, finger root, turmeric, tamarind, kompot pepper, kaffir leaf, rice paddy herb). This is great to help familiarise with the new tastes. It is a nice relaxing experience in a hidden oasis off Pub Street. You’ll get 3 of your own cocktails to drink for just $15! Book the Cambodian Spice Cocktails Experience ahead to avoid disappointment!
Well this sums up the 11 Off the beaten track experiences we have for you in Siem Reap! Have even better ways to go off the beaten track in Siem Reap? Let us know and we’ll add it to the list!