Andrea’s Guide To Siem Reap! (After working in Siem Reap for one year)

August 2009

The best Khmer food:  Khmer Kitchen b/t the Alley and Old Market St. (favorites include Khmer Curry, Fried Pineapple, Cashewnut Milkshake); Home Cocktail (two locations--North of Pub Street and on Wat Bo road;  cheapest drinks in town and great food!).  Surprisingly enough, the Singing Tree Café, in its new location just around the corner from ANZ downtown and the old market, has a section of wholesome Khmer dishes with some of the best tasting Khmer dishes in town.

The best French restaurant:  Abacus (great meat with interesting sides, some pasta).   Interesting desserts. (On way to airport, turn right after Allson Angkor); Have also heard that Samot is good for seafood by French chef (passageway alley West side of Sivatha) .  Le Meric  is expensive but very good (reserve swinging tables suspended from ceiling).

The best Indian food:  Maharajah on road North of Pub St. (favorites include chicken or veg. Korma, Palak Paneer & veg. Masala)

Best German Food:  Tell Restaurant (Thuringer Sausages, Chicken Zurichoise, Aepler Magroni).   Molly Malones has good potatoes with toppings and chicken kiev if you’re in the mood for more Western food.

The best Thai food:  Sawasdee on Wat Bo Rd. for its combo of garden-y atmosphere and good food (galangal chicken) (still not the best Thai food, but favorite in Siem Reap)

The strangest restaurant: Dead Fish Tower (has live crocodiles, multi-level, free/short apsara dancing  show, food not bad--good sausage-like hot dogs; great thai salads, good fish & chips)

Best People Watching:  From second floor of In Touch or second floor of Red Piano; Soup Dragon has a third floor for a really high view

Best Mexican:  Viva near Old Market (Veggie or Meat Burritos) and cheap margaritas/beer

Best Soup: Soup Dragon (also good vegetarian menu)

Best Ice Cream: Best sundaes: Swensons (by river); and best sorbets:  Blue Pumpkin and Cafe De La Paix (including mango, passion fruit, strawberry; near old market) (Also Dairy Queen at airport) (Also, La Malraux on Sivatha has great atmosphere--try ginger ice cream w/ black sesame seeds)

Closest Thing to Starbucks: Common Grounds coffee shop behind Riviera Hotel is an NGO (great cinnamon rolls and mango danish).

Good Desserts:  Butterflies Garden Restaurant (try papaya bread pudding with coconut ice cream; also chili lemon cashews)

Good Tapas:  Soria Maria on Wat Bo Road (only $1 each on Wednesday nights) (All drinks $1 on Wednesday too, which makes this a good place to start your Wednesday evening); Aha has a great reputation.

Pizza:  The Pizza Company (pan pizza is best; near old market), and The Temple on Pub Street (Greek pizza is yummy with greek olives, feta and fresh green peppercorns)

Best quiet place for a drink:  Second floor of Chili Si-dang on the East side of the River, N. of Bopha Angkor Hotel (hear it has Thai owner and good Thai food)

B.B.Q. Suki is a yummy experience.  It has a buffet of raw meats, veg, tofu, fish for grilling at your table.  Includes buffet of Cambodian salads and stir-fries.

Best Vegetarian selection – Singing Tree Café in West Alley (continuation of pub street alley) and also Chamkar (inside the pub street alley) are probably the best spots for vegetarian meals. 

Best Breakfasts…

Best Latte in Town:  at Café De La Paix (expensive at $2.50, but big and soo good) (adjacent to Hotel De La Paix, on Sivatha. N. of Pub St. area) Also great pastries and tarts (chocolate cashew tart is AMAZING at $1.50).

Best Khmer breakfast:  Soup Dragon (and cheap too at 5000R for most local breakfast options, including Chinese Noodles/Pho).

Best European Breakfast:  Blue Pumpkin (pricey but good value: eggs, tomatoes, fruit salad, juice, coffee, yoghurt) (also great ice cream, pastries, and ginger bread for later in the day)

Best Expensive Breakfast:  Hotel De La Paix Café on Sivatha Rd. (Eggs Benedict/Eggs Florentine ($4.50) and Giant Lattes ($2.50) are to die for!) (extra-good pastries too! Try almond croissants; peach tart);  Hearty bread.  (Many talk about Blue Pumpkin, but Café De La Paix beats Blue Pumpkin).

Best Ridiculously Expensive Breakfast:  Breakfast buffet at the Victoria Hotel ($16/pp) is loverly! 

Many places on Pub Street have great eggs/bacon at a good price (e.g. Khmer Family Restaurant left of Rajana 1, and Red Piano, etc.)

Best Atmosphere:  Abacus (French; both outdoor and inside air-con); Kamasutra (Indian; cool bathroom); Viroth’s (Khmer) outdoor; Butterflies Garden (Khmer/Western) (very few butterflies, but nice garden-y setting); Hotel De La Paix (have your coffee in the lounge area/art gallery; check out swinging tables at back)

Activities:

Best Free Stuff: 

Beat Richner's Concert at Jayavarman VII Children's Hospital Every Saturday night at  7:15. Dr Richner, a concet cellist and doctor at the hosptial, lectures and plays music for awareness on the situation of children's health in Cambodia. Admission is free and attendees can donate money (or blood at the hospital) if they are so inclined. 

Angkor Children's Hospital Donate blood here (or at the above) and you will get a nifty T-shirt(same at above hospital). They only take 300 ccs, so anyone, as long as they are in good health, can donate.  No appointment needed.

Artisans D’Angkor (AA) near downtown/psaa chaa has a tour of their workshops (and they have free shuttles to Silk Farm leaving from AA at 9:30 and 1:30); this has been a favorite of visitors.

If you’re still hankerin’ for more artists at work, also check out Khmer Ceramics Revival on the road to the temples(30m after the traffic light), and/or Lo Yu Yu past Bakong Temple on right (right off of National Road 6 toward Phnom Penh) for ceramics and weaving workshop next door.You could also check out the Angkor Pottery Centre featuring traditional and contemporary ceramics produced by women potters.  They are on the Airport Road almost opposite the airport.

For anyone interested in fabric - a visit to the Institute of Khmer Traditional Textiles is a must. Just out of town towards the lake - most tuk-tuk drivers know it.  In the undercroft of a house many of the traditional skills associated with the production of fine silk are being re-learned after being almost lost during the Khmer Rouge years.  The IKTT also has a whole village out of town where the entire process including the growing of mulberry trees has been re-established.

Walk along the River from Old Market To Royal Gardens (go in Wat Prom Rath; and see shrines at Royal Gardens) and head back on the East side of the River.  If you want to see real Khmer life (and you don’t mind walking), continue North along the River past the Royal Gardens for a few more kilometers , cross a bridge and return on the East side.  Could also rent a bike for this. 

Psaa Leu (Upper Market) on Nat’l Road 6 toward Phnom Penh is the biggest, most bustling market and interesting for visitors from the West.

Visit Wat Bo to see a working wat and hang out with the monks (guidebook suggests 4 pm, M-Th; the monks do like to chat in English).

Best Kid Places:  Sokimex indoor play area on Sivatha Rd. and 3rd floor of Angkor Trade Center (2000R); second floor play area of The Red Pizza; outdoor play area at The River Garden guesthouse (North of downtown on the Siem Reap River).  If you are staying at a place without a swimming pool, there’s free swimming on Sundays at The River Garden (North of Psaa Chaa along river).

Free Apsara dance show at The Temple (the best; starts at 7:30pm) and short one at Dead Fish TowerTonle Mekong Restaurant has a good reputation for dancing show included with $8 khmer/thai buffet.

Free wireless access with your laptop at:  Café De La Paix, Common Grounds, Soup Dragon (Pub St.), Khmer Family Restaurant (Pub St.); Cafe Central (near the old market).

For a Fee:

Historical (Khmer Rouge) Documentary movie shown at the back of the Angkor Night Market ($3/pp);  Movies shown on the hour, also have some environmental movies.  Khmer Rouge movie is at 5, 7, 9pm and other movies at 6, 8, 10pm

Land Mine Museum (on way to Bantey Srei; $1)--may be only worth it if you are already passing by to go to Bantey Srei

Drive in the Country (tuk-tuk costs $15 or so to drive around the countryside).

MassageBlue 7 beside Rajana 2 on Sivatha Rd.--have a private room and only $5/hour; Don’t like “Seeing Hands” (stinky/dirty).

Cambodia Cultural Village:  It looks cheesy, but I have heard it‘s good; People like the enactments of Cambodian weddings, etc.  They add a historical Angkor performance on the weekends. ($12/pp). (Have heard Angkor National Museum is not worth seeing.)

Shopping:

Fair Trade shopping at NGOs:  Rehab Crafts and Rajana!! 

Also assisting Cambodians are:  Samatoa, Sao Mao, and Senteurs D’Angkor.

Also, shopping at Psaa Chaa and Central Market for souvenirs during the day, and at night, check out the Angkor Night Market and Noon-Night Market at the front.

You can find imported food at Angkor Market grocery store on East side of Sivatha St.

The locals shop at Psaa Leu on National Road 6 toward Phnom Penh; Go there for a taste of real Khmer life!

Best Temples: 

Tom’s favorites:  Angkor Wat itself, Ta Prohm and Bantey Samre.  Andrea’s favorites: Ankor Thom, Wat Atweea & Beng Melea.  Tuk-tuk for the day to near temples (Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm) costs about $12/day.  Tuk-tuk to far temples of Bantey Srei & Bantey Samre cost $20/day.   Govt entrance fee to temples is $20/day, but Beng Melea is only $5 (but transport is expensive) and Wat Atweea is free (take the main road South toward the Tonle Sap).

Guides usually run $25-$30/day.  If you don’t get a guide, buy a book on the temples "Ancient Angkor" (brown/orange cover) by Michael Freeman.

You can enter the area for free after 5:30 pm. -- take a picnic supper and sit in front of Angkor Wat.

Key to a great temple experience is to be there when no one else is:  very early in morning, over lunch and late in the day (busiest time seems to be 9am-11am).  Suggestion for Angkor on a shoestring: Day 1: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm ($20).  Day 2: Beng Melea ($5) and Angkor Wat after 5:30pm (free). Day 3: Wat Atweea (free).

Misc. Advice:

If arriving from Phnom Penh by bus, take Mekong Express Bus Service (great service and they have a great system for lining up the tuk-tuks and only allowing them to charge $2-3).

DO NOT drink the water in Siem Reap.  You will have tummy trouble!