It was the fifth day of my first trip abroad, and our last day in Siem Reap. Exhausted from exploring Angkor the day before, we were ready to just chill and savor our remaining hours in Cambodia. What else are the things to do in Siem Reap besides temples? Relaxing in the Royal Gardens and strolling in the Old Market seemed to be the perfect plan.
After breakfast, we got a tuk-tuk from our hotel to take us to the Royal Gardens. Known as the Royal Crusade for Independence Gardens, it is the only green space open to the public in the city center.
Apparently it is not only a popular place to sit idly with nature and have your moment of peace. It is also a popular wedding photoshoot location. We saw at least two couples having their prenuptial or after-wedding photoshoot. It was quite surprising to see that the couples here are fashionably modern in their choice of wedding attire.
At the Temple of Phomchek Phomchom (Preah Ang Chek Preah Ang Chom Temple) near the road, we also saw a part of the wedding ceremony of a young couple in traditional garb. They too continued on to the gardens for picture taking. Preah Ang Chek and Preah Ang Chom are said to be the town’s spirit guardians.
Four giant stone lions guard a small fountain in the middle which is the most popular spot for picture taking. Despite the heat of the morning sun, it was relaxing to sit in the benches scattered under the shade of the towering trees. Communing with nature while watching the people, tuk-tuks, and cars pass by.
Facing north, you will see the more than 80 years old Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor. The art deco designed hotel once hosted the likes of Jackie Kennedy, Charles de Gaulle, and Princess Margaret. So if you’re in the mood for luxury, this is definitely the place to be.
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Across the road, in the south, is the Royal Residence which is where the late King Sihanouk stayed in the 1950s when he was planning the crusade for independence from France. It is not open for visitors, but you can snap photos of the façade.
When we had our fill, we continued on to the eastern side along the Siem Reap river. This side of the river is also dotted with benches under the shade of trees. One can also find a few animal sculptures by the banks as well as ornate lampposts.
Siem Reap Old Market (Psar Chas)
We then walked all the way back to the Old Market to explore and do some last minute shopping. It was also the first time I’ve seen Cambodian riels because we have been using US dollars throughout our trip. The market is reminiscent of what we have in the Philippines and quite normal for Asian standards so we weren’t surprised much. But it sure was a busy market and a haven for shopaholics. For me, it was always interesting to see and learn of what kind of food they offer in the market, be it in the eateries or in the stalls.
Built in the 1920s, the Old Market was then the centerpiece of the district’s urban fabric. It was smaller back then and built originally in the center of a large green space. The high ceilings and open façade provide ventilation to the whole market.
After getting sweaty from the heat and walking in the Old Market, we rested for a bit at the riverbank. Getting our fill of good food in the Soup Dragon in Pub Street was next.
And this is how we spent our last day in the gateway town to Angkor Heritage Site.
SEE ALSO: One day in Angkor Archaeological Park
What are the things to do in Siem Reap besides temples?
- Angkor National Museum
- Visit the floating villages along Tonle Sap
- Visit Artisans d’ Angkor for a free guided tour
- Take a pottery class at Khmer Ceramics Fine Art Centre
- Eat, drink, have a massage, and shop at Pub Street
- Go shopping in Angkor Night Market
- Watch Phare: the Cambodian Circus Show
- Visit the Landmine Museum and learn about Cambodia’s gruesome past
- Watch an Apsara dance (Cambodia’s traditional dance)
Two Days Sample Itinerary in Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Direct bus from Bangkok to Siem Reap (Overland border crossing)
- Hotel check-in
- Dinner in Pub Street
- Sunrise in Angkor Wat
- Temple hopping around Angkor Archaeological Park
- Dinner in Pub Street
- Shopping in Angkor Night Market
- Royal Gardens
- Siem Reap River
- Old Market
- Pub Street
- Depart Siem Reap through Siem Reap International Airport (REP-MNL)
Aside from Angkor, what else did you see and experience in Siem Reap?