So you’ve seen the temples and walked along Pub street 10 times. Is that all? Of course not! Siem Reap has much more to offer than Angkor and bars or restaurants! There is a local life just around the corner waiting to be discovered. Here are a few suggestions of traditional things to do in Siem Reap that locals will be delighted to share with you.
Apsara Dance show – Smile of Angkor
Apsara dance is quite a piece of the Khmer history. This is one of the most beautiful and meaningful heritage of the Khmer Culture. Apsara dance tells the story of female divinities in Hinduism. This traditional performance is rising again after being forbidden and repressed during the Khmer rouge regime. Nowadays, Cambodians offer apsara dance to spirits in order to get happiness, peace and flawless rain after dry season. This is an honour and a real vocation for young khmer girls to become Apsara dancer. Check out this article about Sophea Ritha, head of the Smile of Angkor ballet troupe!
Kompong Khleang floating village
Visiting a floating village around Siem Reap is something you will never forget. This is incredible to imagine that houses stilted 10 meters high can get flooded during rainy season… and then figure out a village of 200 hundred families living on the water in their traditional houses that they have to move according to the level of the water… Here is the village of Kompong Khleang, the most beautiful and untouched floating village around Siem Reap.
Cambodian traditional boxing – Bokator
Bokator is not only boxing, it’s an art, an ancestral art born in 3rd century. Bokator is curved in the temples’ bas reliefs. Nobody knows but Thaï boxing actually comes from Bokator. Nowadays Khmer boxing is still practiced in Cambodia and some arenas have open lately. There are even some schools to learn and practice this martial art. Khmer boxing has become popular again and you can go to Angkor arena in Siem Reap every wednesday to share the effervescence around the fighters.
Can you play volleyball? Cambodian people will be delighted to welcome you for a match as a spectator… or a player! You just have to go to the countryside of Siem Reap and you will surely see some young men playing volleyball. Despite Cambodian are not very tall, you will be surprised by their agility and their capability to jump high to smash the ball over the net! Volleyball has become a tradition in Cambodia.
Ox cart ride
If you want to discover the Siem Reap countryside the local way, you cannot miss a ride on an ox cart! Of course it would be very enjoyable to ride the famous honda dream but tourists are not allowed to drive in Siem Reap… Anyway, you can ask your tuktuk driver to take you to Bakong area, about 17 km away from the city center. There you will have the opportunity to experiment one of the most typical transportation in Cambodia: ox cart! Don’t expect a “blast”, but a slow way to discover all the aspects of Cambodian life, far from the city and the tourist areas.
Shopping – Phsar Leu Market
Phsar Leu is the biggest market in Siem Reap, 4 to 5 times bigger than Old market downtown. The other difference is that you can hardly see other tourist over there. Phsar Leu is some kind of giant labyrinth where you can easily get lost, but no worries, if you are good enough, you can for sure get good bargains.