The Darling Nomadess: 48 Hours in Siem Reap

Monday, October 24, 2016

48 Hours in Siem Reap

Siem Reap is near the top of my "must travel to" list. With it's culture that is vastly different than my American lifestyle, and temples of Angkor Wat, you can bet your money that I'd definitely spend a few days, at the least, in this Southeastern Asia city! Thankfully, my friend Leah at Urban 20 Something has spent a significant amount of time in the city and put together a "48 hours in Siem Reap" city guide for me! 


If you’re planning on visiting Cambodia soon, you’re in for a treat. It’s such a special country with some of the most beautiful, historical sights in the world. Not to mention, among the gentlest and kindest people on earth. When in Cambodia, remember to be kind to the people and the country, and it will be kind back to you. I was lucky enough to spend nearly 2 months volunteering in Siem Reap, and I miss it all the time. Enjoy it!

Siem Reap is an interesting city. It’s not nearly as big as Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. Yet, because of its proximity to Angkor Wat, it’s certainly becoming a buzzing hub. I absolutely love Siem Reap, and am confident you will, too. Added bonus, it’s one of the safest cities in Southeast Asia. Here’s what you can’t miss, and some tips and what to do and what not to do.

Your Schedule

Day 1:

8:00 AM- 1:00 PM- Angkor Wat
There are two circuits tour drivers will take you on to see Angkor Wat. The Small and the Grand. Though the Grand is longer (as it sounds), you can take the same amount of time on the Small. Do this by going to the temple of Angkor Wat with the Small temple. It is the biggest of the temples, so you’ll want to spend an hour or two there alone. On your first day, do the “Small Circuit” of the Temples. I do recommend the earlier the better, and you can even go at 4:30 AM for sunrise. All depends on how jetlagged you are. Be mindful of the heat and all the walking. I think you’ll enjoy it more if you can rest and take your time. You may not finish the entire circuit before you’re ready to call it a day, but that’s okay (I think!). I’d rather take my time with temples than rush through in that heat just to see every single one.

1:00 PM- 2:00 Lunch  
Try Malis Restaurant along the river or Genevieve’s Restaurant right in town. Both excellent and a nice view! You might get luck with a breeze, too.

2:00-5:30 PM- Unwind
Relax by the pool, maybe a nap after Angkor Wat, get ready for dinner. You can chat with other tourists if you like. Or, keep to yourself and read by the pool while taking a dip.

6:00 PM- 7:30 PM- Khmer Cocktail Class
Take a cocktail class at Asana just off Pub Street. You learn a lot about Khmer spices and ingredients, and about cocktail making in general. The class is $15, but that includes your 3 homemade, delicious cocktails. The bar that hosts it, Asana, is in the only traditional Cambodian house right downtown! It’s a sight to see on its own.

7:00 PM- Dinner
Since you’re downtown, go ahead and have dinner in the Pub Street Alley, just south of Pub Street. It’s a great break from the craziness of Pub Street but is still vibrant and the food is excellent. You can try Cambodian BBQ or some of the amazing Cambodian Amok Curry (my personal favorite dish in the country!).

8:30 PM- Drinks
Go have one or two drinks on Pub Street, just so you know what it’s like. No need to stay for more than that! Plus, I much prefer to get there before 10 PM when things start to get really crazy. Angkor What, Cheers, and Temple are the most iconic Pub Street bars. If you’re still up for going out after, I recommend Picasso’s, Miss Wong’s, Charlie’s, or YOLO. They’re still pretty touristy, but have excellent cocktails and sooner attract the Expats than 20-year-old backpackers. All are in walking distance of Pub Street.

Day 2:

7:00 AM- 12:00 PM- Angkor Wat
You definitely can’t do the whole thing in one day. Today you can spend time on the Grand Circuit, as well as any spots you may have missed the previous day. The most famous temples (other than Angkor Wat) are: Angkor Thom, Bakong, and Bayon. Don’t miss those!

12:30- Lunch
Try Sister Srey or the Hive for lunch (both close to the river). They have excellent food that’s natural and healthy. Especially great if you’re craving fresh veggies since those can be hard to get in Southeast Asia!

1:30- Old Market
While downtown, after lunch head to the Old Market. It’s south of Pub Street and along the river. I much prefer it to the night market, it’s quite a sight to see. You’ll find all your tourist booths that you will in the night market and Angkor Wat with elephant pants, paintings, and scarves. But, you’ll also find… everything else under the sun! You’ll find fruits, hanging animals at the butcheries, barber shops, tailors, book stands… everything! Have fun shopping and don’t forget to bargain!

6:00 PM- Dinner at Cuisine Wat Denmark
Enjoy a delicious meal on the other side of the river at one of the most beloved restaurants in Siem Reap. You’ll find a mix of Asian fusion and traditional Cambodian cuisine, plus great cocktails and a nice atmosphere.

8:00 PM- Phare- the Cambodian Circus!
Make sure to leave 20 minutes for your tuk tuk to take you from dinner to the circus! Phare is put on under the model of the NGO school and professional arts training center Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang. They transform the life of underprivileged, poverty stricken youth in Cambodia by teaching them art and giving them the opportunity to train and participate in this. It’s extremely well done and impressive, and you’re supporting a great cause. A wonderful way to end your two days in Siem Reap.

Dos and Don’ts

-       Mind the dress code. Angkor Wat has recently reinforced its dress code and will not let people in that aren’t following it. Have your knees and shoulders covered. I recommend keeping that dress code throughout all of Siem Reap. On pub street you’ll see short dresses and tank tops, but it’s insulting to Cambodian culture and religion. You’ll especially note this when seeing the monks walking around. Have some respect!
-       Set a price with tuk tuk drivers before you agree to go with them so there’s no confusion after the trip.

-       Ride an elephant at Angkor Wat. I can’t stress this enough. They are NOT treated well, they are exhausted, and they’re depressed. Those hot, isolated conditions are terrible for elephants. Read this  heartbreaking article about a working elephant that fell over dead this year from exhaustion for more info. If you must ride an elephant, do so in Chiang Mai or Laos, where they have ethical elephant sanctuaries.
-       Give to the women on Pub Street with babies hanging from their necks. This is called the Milk Scam. These mothers will say they don’t want money, just milk, then when you buy milk, they return it and keep the cash. It’s been said they drug babies to look sleepy and sick. It’s heartbreaking, but supporting the scam will only make it worse.
-       Drink tap water. Some of the more touristy restaurants buy ice that is okay to consume. The rule of thumb is ice with a hole in the middle is okay, crushed, stay away.
-       Buy “Happy Pizza”. It usually means weed. Be careful.
-       Walk off paths in the suburbs of Cambodia. Landmines are still all around and haven’t totally been kept track of. So, be careful.

Have you been to Siem Reap? I would love to hear your suggestions, too!

With Love,

About the author: Leah blogs at Urban 20 Something about using travel experiences to boost your career. Whether you want to volunteer abroad, have studied abroad, just love to travel, and anywhere in between, Leah has some helpful advice for you. You can get access to her entire free library of travel resources here.


  1. YES about not riding the elephant.. I'm always saddened when bloggers promote something that is honestly so horrible.

  2. I didn't realise there was a circus, that sounds like an incredible experience!


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