72 Hours in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Magnificent, age-old temples like Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm may have put Siem Reap on the map, but this Cambodian hotspot is so much more than its historical landmarks. Now a thriving cocktail culture and new twists on traditional cuisine are reshaping the city.
Begin your Siem Reap sojourn up in the canopy with the Flight of Gibbon zipline tour in Angkor Park. It’s the only zipline within a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the two-hour adventure offers unbelievable views of the Cambodian jungle at every turn. Take in the flora and fauna (keep your eyes peeled for gibbons!) as you whiz along 10 lines, walk across four hanging bridges and rappel down 164 feet to the jungle floor. After, head back into town and explore the many markets — our favorites are Made in Cambodia and Psar Chaa — to put your negotiating skills to the test while buying Cambodian crafts, jewelry and paintings. End the day with dinner at Belmiro’s Pizza and Subs (we know it’s not Cambodian cuisine, but trust us on this one). Run by an expat from Massachusetts, this eatery cooks up pies that give the ones back in the States a run for their money. Try a slice of the chorizo with spicy sausage, sun dried tomatoes, spinach, oregano and pepper, but if it’s a sandwich you’re after, you can’t go wrong with the Aunt Nancy (minced beef and pork meatballs).
Rise early and make your way via tuk-tuk to Siem Reap’s epic temple, Angkor Wat, for the sunrise. Rather than camp out with throngs of tourists, we recommend roaming the site while it’s still relatively empty (and if you really want that iconic picture, you can get it from the top of the structure). The next stop on the circuit is Bayon Temple, which was built in the late 12th century and has 216 intricately carved stone faces. Then, make your way to the lost temple of Ta Prohm, where the hit movie Tomb Raider was filmed, to see the massive roots and trees that have since blanketed the ruins. End the day with a beer in-hand while watching the sunset over the Cambodian jungle from the top of Pre Rup temple. Just make sure to watch your step — the stairs are seriously steep!
Start the morning strong on the four-hour Siem Reap Food Tour. Along the way you’ll try bai saik chrouk (pork and rice), koay teow (noodle soup), palm sugar, rice flour doughnuts and waffles, as well as a variety of seasonal fruits. When the gluttony ends, head to Asana for some R&R (plus a few libations). Tucked down an alley near Pub Street, it’s one of the last traditional wooden Cambodian houses in downtown Siem Reap and is perhaps the coolest bar in town. The best spot in the treehouse is on the lower level, where pillow-topped beds and egg shell chairs hang from the timbers. If you’re up for it, take a pre-dinner Khmer cocktail class and shake up some delicious drinks while learning more about local spices, herbs, roots and sugars. And since it’s your last night in Siem Reap, splurge a little on a meal at Malis. Master Chef Luu Meng whips up inventive Cambodian dishes such as Khor pork, slow-cooked for two hours with bamboo shoots, and pork chops from the Takeo province, which are marinated in a palm wine and Kampot pepper sauce, grilled and served with a fresh banana blossom salad. For dessert, Gelato and Coffee Lab has you covered with its mango, strawberry, passion fruit and chocolate sorbets.