Unusual Things to Do in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Statues of ancient gods line the road in front of Angkor Thom in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Statues of ancient gods line the road in front of Angkor Thom in Siem Reap, Cambodia | © Gary Blake / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Alex Robinson
25 July 2021

Aside from the inevitable visit to historical Angkor Wat, the city of Siem Reap, in Cambodia, has many unique experiences to offer its visitors beyond its impressive temples.

Drawn to the irresistible lure of Angkor Wat, visitors to Siem Reap can often forget to explore the town and surrounding countryside’s diverse offerings. Temple Town has so much more to offer beyond the beauty of Angkor, from swimming in waterfalls to dirt-biking through the countryside and zip-lining past gibbons hanging from the treetops. Here are a few of the unusual things to do in Siem Reap.

Khmer Ceramics & Fine Arts Centre

Art Gallery
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PFR284 Cambodia, Siem Reap, Khmer Ceramics Centre, artisan making a ceramic piece
© Dorling Kindersley ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Cambodians have been making sophisticated ceramics since the Third Millennium BC. By the time Angkor Wat was constructed in the 12th century, it was trading finely-glazed pottery – far more sophisticated than contemporaneous Europe’s – with China and Siam. The Khmer Ceramics & Fine Arts Centre was founded in 2006 to revive the art. Production techniques exactly mirror those of Angkor, and the centre has even built a reproduction clay dragon kiln. There’s a shop on site and the centre offers two-hour pottery classes.

The Cambodia Landmine Museum

Museum
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J8863H The Landmine Museum, Siem Reap province, Cambodia
© Rosemary Harris / Alamy Stock Photo
Cambodia is one of the most heavily-bombed and mined countries in the world. Decades of conflict saw the United States drop munitions, the Khmer Rouge mine the jungles and the Vietnamese leave unexploded ordnance. Dozens of farmers are still killed or injured by UXOs every year. This moving museum tells the story of the casualties of conflict and serves as an education centre for young Khmer people. The money from tickets supports a relief centre and school for children.

Bees Unlimited

Zoo, Park, Natural Feature
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W4FP12 Closeup Huge Beehive of Giant Honey Bees on a Branch. Rafter Beekeeping
© Cherdchai Chaivimol / Alamy Stock Photo

Wild giant honeybee-honey has been harvested in Southeast Asia since prehistoric times. But the species is notoriously aggressive and doesn’t take to hives. Cambodians are among the few peoples to perfect the art of cultivating them, constructing tree-pole rafters on the edge of secondary forest at precise angles, which the bees favour, and then smoking out hives for honey. Come and join a tour, then you can try some of the honey, which is considered among the world’s best.

Fish Spa

Health Spa
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BMRMNR Tourist having a foot fish massage in Siem Reap market in Cambodia
© Liba Taylor / Alamy Stock Photo

Most people use a pummice stone for foot massages, but in Siem Reap you can pay to have freshwater fish chew the dead skin and calluses off your toes. The procedure is simple: you sit down with a book, take off your shoes and plunge them into a tank filled with fish, which creates a tickling sensation and leaves your feet marshmallow-smooth. Treatments can be combined with a standard massage or, if you’re feeling bold, a full-body fish-tank immersion.

Kickstart Cambodia bike temple tour

Sports Center
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EJPTR9 View of Bayon Temple in late afternoon light. Bayon Temple is located in Siem Reap Cambodia.
© Nokuro / Alamy Stock Photo

Only a fraction of the temples and ruined palaces around Angkor have been unearthed. Dozens of others remain unexplored or barely visited, in remote forests, reachable only on trails or dirt tracks. Contact the company Kickstart Cambodia, and they’ll take you there on scrambler bikes. Tours take a minimum of four days, starting with Angkor itself and getting increasingly remote – visiting the pyramids in the ancient capital at Koh Ker and the ruins that dot the remote Dangrek mountains.

Phnom Kulen National Park

Park, Natural Feature
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KW4TAE Tourists at Phnom Kulen Waterfall
© shukugumo / Alamy Stock Photo

This is some discovery: lush rainforest, ruined temples submerged in rushing mountain rivers, giant reclining Buddha statues… Phnom Kulen National Park is packed with sights. The Khmer golden age began here in the 9th century when Jayavarman II declared himself King of Kings, founding what would become the Empire of Angkor. The park can be visited in a day trip – it’s less than an hour from Siem Reap, and agencies in the town offer tours.

Tonle Sap Lake and the floating village(s)

Natural Feature
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MKW0HR Kompong Phluk Floating Village, Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia
© Petr Svarc / Alamy Stock Photo

Just 30km (18.6mi) from Siem Reap is southeast Asia’s largest lake, dotted with floating villages. Tonle Sap is a biosphere reserve, home to nearly-extinct Siamese crocodiles and myriad birds, including six near-threatened species. Try to come at the end of the day when village fishermen are on the water on their dugouts, casting nets over the water. At this hour, with the sun orange over the horizon, the bird life is at its most prolific.

Phare, the Cambodian Circus

Theater
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ENWA4C Acrobatic talent at the Phare Cambodian Circus, Siem Reap, Cambodia
© dave stamboulis / Alamy Stock Photo

Roll up, roll up, the circus is in town – every night at 8pm, in fact. And this isn’t your typical circus, Phare, the Cambodian Circus is the product of an NGO school and Professional Arts training centre, Phare Ponleu Selpak. Plucking youngsters from poverty, the centre provides training in a range of performing arts, including circus, with students putting on Cirque du Soleil-style shows for you to enjoy – with Cambodian flair throughout.

These recommendations were updated on July 25, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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