Updated: Dec 27, 2019
Visiting Siem Riep in Cambodia, most people think of Angkor Wat as the place to visit, but Siem Riep has so much more to offer, that you really don't want to miss out on, when you have made all this way to Cambodia - if you come from a far, that is. Why not learn more about the Cambodians while exploring this beautiful country. Whether you are traveling solo, as a couple or the whole family - this is for everyone.
Getting to know the Cambodians
One of the things we really love when visiting a new country is to learn about their food, and what better way to do that than through cooking classes. It’s a fun activity for the whole family, and the kids always end up eating things they usually won’t order when out and about. Finally, it’s an opportunity to talk to locals which usually means learning so much more than just cooking.
Have you Cooked Khmer
This time the Sabara Angkor Resort & Spa organized an awesome cooking class for us which the whole family enjoyed thoroughly. We started the day at the market with one of the hotel chefs taking us around explaining about what we saw. Directly from the market, we went to the countryside where we had our cooking class in the most wonderful surroundings with the great head chef from Sabara Angkor Resort & Spa, teaching us how to cook the amazing Khmer food. We cooked fresh spring rolls, Fish Amok, and the amazing Khmer Curry, which is different from other curries, but oh so super yummy. We finished off this awesome experience by eating our home cooked meal at a beautifully set table in the rice fields – an amazing experience which we’ll never forget. The boys played around the rice fields after the meal, while we could just sit and enjoy the beauty of the Cambodian countryside.
Tour de Cambodia-ish
In order for us to explore the countryside a bit more, Sabara Angkor Resort & Spa had suggested and organized a 4 km. bike ride back to the hotel – with a tuk tuk leading the way and keeping us hydrated with cold drinks. Almost felt like part of Tour de France with the support car... but only almost. It was fun to go slower in places we’d never found on our own and we were taken via small (dirt) roads and could stop anywhere we wanted to look around or take beautiful photos. Need I say that we ended the day in the pool after the bike trip.
How We Get in Touch with Locals
We had lots of fun cooking, and the staff from the hotel were so fun and sweet and shared so much information about living in Cambodia. About how the younger generations are working so hard to change their situation to live a better life for themselves and their fellow Cambodians. This is actually something we experienced all the time, that Cambodians are always trying to improve the situation for the benefit of the whole country, and not just themselves. Even when we collaborated with hotels, they were genuinely all about creating awareness about Cambodia, supporting the young people, and less about themselves and their own hotel. They want to build and create a better future for all Cambodians. That really touched our hearts.
This You Don’t Want to Miss
While Angkor Wat is on everyone’s lips when visiting Siem Riep, you really should do yourself the favour of spending half a day visiting the Floating Village of Kampong Phluk and the Flooded Forrest, only a 40 min. drive on a tuk tuk from Siem Riep. It’s a village with stilted houses by the Tonle Sap Lake, built up 3-10 meters high. Traveling by boat you sail right through the village and pass by all the houses and see life being lived on the boats and high up in the air, as the majority of the people support themselves by fishing, though some also have land to grow during dry season, fishing is the main source of income. You’ll see kids traveling to and from school in their boats, and people focused on their own lives, and not on the tourists. It’s a completely different way of living life. You also pass by the mangrove aka. the Flooded Forest, where you can (and should) board a small rowing boat, and local woman will then gently row you around the spectacular mangrove. We were lucky to see monkeys up in the trees. Our boat lady rowed us by some other women, who sold cold drink, bananas, pencils and schoolbooks from their little boats. Buy something and maybe give it to the little local kids you see around, so make sure to bring some cash. It’s really a very authentic experience going through the mangroves. There are also floating restaurants, which is another way of supporting the local community, which you are there to see.
Come Join the Circus
We had not initially planned to go the circus in Cambodia, but after having Phare Circus recommended to us from so many people and reading about this place all over Siem Riep, we had to go see for ourselves what it was. And it was a circus – but not in the traditional way. It’s modern circus, Cirque du Soleil style, and with a mix of theatre, music, and dance they tell different Cambodian stories. There are 3 rotating shows every month, and all the performers are students or graduates from the Phare Circus school in Battambang.
Why a Circus School
The history about the school is interesting in itself, as it was founded by 9 young men, who started the school right out of a refugee camp after the Khmer Rouge regime. Now, there are over 1200 students in their public school and 500 students in their alternative schools (music and theatre school). Oh, and you can have dinner at the Phare Circus before the show, and you really should, because it was so so good and really cheap – something to eat for the whole family, whether you like Khmer food or not. Come early and support the school by enjoying the food in a great atmosphere served by the students/artists.
Siem Riep has a lot to offer and some really great places to stay for families – read more about that here and see our suggestions to where we’d be coming back to.