Guide to Exploring Siem Reap on a Budget

by Audrey on April 15, 2013

Heading up to Siem Reap to do a little bit of temple hopping? Well, there’s more to do in this little town than you’d think. Sure the temples of Angkor may be the main attraction, but if you linger here for a few days, you’ll find that this is a city with great food, a bustling night market, and sleepy dirt roads worth exploring on a bike. Here’s how to make the most of your time in Siem Reap!

What to See and Do

Apsara Performance – Apsara is a Cambodian classical dance which tells a story through music and dancing. One of the best ways to enjoy the Apsara performance is to go with the dinner show option which takes place nightly at the Grand Hotel d’Angkor. For $12 you can enjoy an endless buffet, which includes both local cuisine and western food, and the performance is well worth it!

Apsara performance in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Temples of Angkor – There’s one thing that draws people all the way up to Siem Reap, and that is the ancient temples of the Kingdom of Angkor! Angkor Wat for sunrise is not the only temple worth rising early for; there are countless others scattered through the countryside which are very much worth exploring. The best way to maximize your time temple hopping is to get a three-day pass. This allows you to explore as many temples as you want for three days over the course of a week. (You can also get a 1 day pass, 2 day pass, or 7 day pass). A little tip from personal experience: aim to visit the temples really early in the morning! Not only does it get extremely hot later in the day, but you might be able to beat the crowds at the lesser known temples if you can rise before the rest.

Smiling face at Bayon, one of the temples of Angkor

Night Market – If you’re looking to stock up on souvenirs to take back home, the Night Market is a great place to check out. Wander through the various shops and browse for silk scarves, hippie pants, cooking spices, Angkor Wat t-shirts, and beaded bracelets. The market really gets going in the evenings, and you can even pick up some snacks along the way like chocolate banana crepes.

Doctor fish foot pedicure in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Dr. Fish – Walking down Siem Reap’s main street, it won’t be long before you notice all the water tanks with little fish swimming around in them. Some of them have funny messages that say things like, “Feed me your dead skin!” If you’re not too ticklish, you may want to try dipping your feet in one of these tanks and letting the fish nibble the dead skin off your feet.

Where to Eat

Home Cocktail – Don’t let the name fool you! They may be trying to lure you in for a cocktail, but it’s the food in this restaurant that really stands out. You’ll get the most bang for your buck by choosing one of the set meals (you can choose between various European and Cambodian sets), which offer you a three course meal. And you can’t go wrong with the amok fish curry served inside of a coconut!

Three course meal at Home Cocktail in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Curry Walla – If you’re craving a sampling of various Indian favourites, we recommend you go with one of the curry sets at this particular restaurant. You will be given an enormous tray with chicken curry, vegetable curry, dahl (lentil curry), rice, naan, and a yogurt sauce. Pair that with one of their sweet lassis and you will eat like a Raja!

Happy herb pizza in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Happy Herb Pizza – Once upon a time there may have been a certain herb grown in the highlands that was sprinkled on these pizzas, but that is no longer the case! That doesn’t mean they don’t know how to make a good pizza here, no! Try the ‘everything’ pizza and get the perfect thin crust pizza with chicken, ham, pineapple, spinach, tomato, cheese, and olives on it! You won’t even miss the happy herb. ; )

Angkor Palm Restaurant – If you go to this restaurant get the ‘Set Dinner for Two’. You’ll get a tray with little plates which give you a taste of the local cuisine: green curry, amok (steamed fish cooked in a banana leaf), mango salad, spare ribs, fried greens, and fresh spring rolls. All of this is accompanied with rice, and a delicious dessert of fried banana and tapioca. You will walk out of the Angkor Palm Restaurant holding your stomach but with a big smile on your face.

Korean food at Daebak in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Daebak – After living and working in Korea for the past year, we just couldn’t resist the opportunity to eat at a Korean restaurant in Siem Reap. We went with our good old favourites of sundubu jjigae (spicy tofu stew) and dolsot bibimbap (rice and vegetables in a stone hot pot). It was nice being able to drink green tea, and indulge in kimchi and other side dishes again.

Where to Sleep

Ta Som Guesthouse – This guesthouse is a place where you feel at home right away. Located about a 15 minute walk from the center of town, Ta Som Guesthouse sits on a quieter street and is the perfect place to unwind after a long day of temple hopping without necessarily feeling like you’re too far from the action. They serve a full breakfast with baguette, omelette, jam & butter, fresh mangoes & papaya, and tea or coffee. The staff are also some of the most helpful that we have ever encountered. A ride to town on a rickshaw is only $1.50.

Have you been to Siem Reap?

Do you have any recommendations?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Hogga April 15, 2013 at 10:19 pm

weed pizza? Wow.

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Audrey May 3, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Yup, it’s out there. 😉

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Micamyx|Senyorita April 16, 2013 at 5:06 am

I wasn’t able to watch an Aspara Dance show when I stayed there for 8 days 0_0 Tsktsk. It means I need to visit again soon! 😀

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Audrey May 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm

I hope you get to see a performance next time around. If not in Siem Reap, perhaps elsewhere in Cambodia. 🙂

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Binaya Acharya April 16, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I am happy to see your site . Informative , social friendly ,
Thanks a lot
Binaya

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Jennifer April 18, 2013 at 12:13 am

Great article on Siem Reap. I loved the food in Siem Reap when I visited last year – lots of restaurants serving traditional Cambodia food at a great price – from memory my favourites were fish Amok and Lok Lak! yummy! I’m gutted I missed the Aspara performance though, sounds like a cultural bargain 🙂

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Audrey May 3, 2013 at 3:57 pm

The Apsara performance was great. It was nice getting a little glimpse of the culture through dance.

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