If you’re reading this then you probably have a day or two spare in Siem Reap after visiting the Angkor Temples, and while many travel guides and blogs are of the opinion that there isn’t much to do in Siem Reap once you’ve seen Angkor, we beg to differ. Here is a list of 5 things to do in Siem Reap that we’re certain you will enjoy and won’t find anywhere else. This is it, you can stop looking for what to do in Siem Reap now, we’ve got it covered. 😉
1. Iron Pencil Sketching
There’s no better way to commemorate your trip to the Angkor temples than by having sketched the Angkor Wat by yourself under the guidance of master Khmer artist. But this will be no ordinary sketch, you will be using iron pencils that are dipped in hot charcoal and burning palm leaves with a canvas made entirely out of palm leaves. And it gets better, iron pencil sketching is an art form that Bunhak the artist has discovered himself and it’s safe to claim that there is no one else in the world who practices this style of art. Learn how to sketch with Bunhak’s iron pencils and you will see how his eyes light up as he experiences the thrill of sharing his art with you and you will just be blown away by how amazing this all is! Sure, you can still buy a souvenir, but wouldn’t you rather make your own souvenir? 🙂
2. Fear Factor Challenge
Definitely not what you would expect when you ask someone about what to do in Siem Reap. The practice of eating insects came about during the Khmer rouge regime where many had to eat insects to survive due to the severe starvation. After the war, necessity turned into tradition and people continued cooking it as local fare! A local delicacy enjoyed by many Cambodians, they love to eat it with the national beer or with the traditional rice or palm wine. Sure, you’ve seen street vendors selling them, you’ve probably even tried some in your travels around Southeast Asia but how about learning to cook these creepy crawlies? What if you could fry them to perfection and garnish them with basil, garlic and a host of other Cambodian spices? The best part? What if we told you that you can do all of this at the house of a local street vendor, we kid you not. We’ve found a local, Ratana, who has created the Cambodian version of the Fear Factor Challenge where travellers learn how to cook insects the Cambodian way out of his little home in the outskirts of Siem Reap. You can of course eat your tarantulas and beetles, after. 😉
3 Living off the Land
How often have you been to a city and wished you could do as the locals do or live like the locals do? Often time’s travellers look for activities in Siem Reap that given them a glimpse of how the locals live and go about their daily lives. We’re certain you have too, but are you really ready? We’re not talking about a homestay or cooking classes. We’re talking hunting and living off the land (even if only for a few hours). Yes, that’s correct, you can go hunting with slingshots and crossbows alongside locals in the outskirts of Siem Reap. And the right local to take you hunting is Sy Lark in this village of Peal Sneg which is 30km from the city of Siem Reap.
4. Khmer Warrior Initiation
In a time when much of Southeast Asia was rife with battles and conquests between competing kingdoms, the Khmer soldiers stood out not only as the fiercest warriors but also as a key element in the success and expansion of the Khmer empire. Carvings on base relief on the temple façades are adorned with depictions of warriors waging battles in ancient times. Weaponry and martial arts being two of the most recognizable traits of a Khmer Warrior. The Khmer Warrior initiation brings some of that ancient art back through an experience where you will learn to make knives, crossbows, bokator and even learn to grill like a proper Khmer warrior of ancient times.
5. Work with a Khmer Coppersmith
As travellers we’ve all haggled hard in souvenir shops with varying degrees of success, but amidst all the haggling to get the ‘best price’ we often fail to notice and appreciate the locals who make the souvenirs we buy – their stories, their struggles and their passions. One such local in Siem Reap is Chea Chan Sarouen, in addition to being super-talented coppersmith she’s also a gem of a person! She had been teaching travellers to make their own copper bracelets for close to a year now through her daily classes. There’s no better way to learn about Khmer history and art than through a local who lives and breathes this ancient tradition every day.