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A day in Siem Reap

04 November 2015

Siem Reap

Updated February 2017

Siem Reap may be the closest city to the incredible temple complex of Angkor, making it a common base for exploring the site, but there are also plenty of things to enjoy in the metropolis itself and the surrounding countryside. If you only have one day in Siem Reap on your river cruise, make sure it is a busy one. Here are some of the activities you might like to include.

Angkor National Museum

This state-of-the-art archaeological museum is a must-see in Siem Reap, as it displays a wide selection of artefacts and looks deep into the history and culture of Khmer civilisation and the splendour of Angkor. Well laid out in categories from eras to religion and royalty, visitors are taken on a tour of the themes that permeate Cambodian society.

The Gallery of a Thousand Buddhas is a particular highlight, while a panoramic sunrise at Angkor Wat is presented to guests through modern technology. There's a lot to take in from the pre-Angkorian periods of Funan and Chenla and the great Khmer kings to Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the inscriptions, so give yourself plenty of time.

Phare - The Cambodian Circus

Just behind the Angkor National Museum is a somewhat incongruous big top tent. This is the home of Phare - The Cambodian Circus, an incredible project that is transforming the lives of underprivileged young people from the surrounding area. Here, they are taught acrobatics, contortion and juggling, with these skills then showcased in regular performances that combine traditional circus themes with morality tales.

Learn to cook authentic Cambodian cuisine

Refuel and learn some new skills of your own at lunchtime by taking a Cambodian cooking class. The nation's cuisine is not well known outside of the country, but this is inexplicable when you find out how delicious it is. Most cooking schools take their pupils to the market to purchase ingredients, before showing how to prepare them in the traditional Cambodian way.

The Angkor Centre for the Conservation of Biodiversity

Taking care of local wildlife is a very important job and that is exactly what is done at the Angkor Centre for the Conservation of Biodiversity. Here they look after threatened creatures, such as the pileated gibbon, silvered langur, the nocturnal slow loris and the pangolin. Show support for their work, catch a rare glimpse of these incredible animals and learn more about them from an expert.

Take in the countryside from a tuk tuk

It does not take long to get from the city into the beautiful countryside of rice fields and small villages, with one of the best ways to do this being by tuk tuk. Hire one of these and set off along the rocky terrain to see what you can discover.

Exploring in this manner is a great way to discover scenes of everyday Cambodian life, so be sure to take your camera, but ask permission before snapping away at people. You are likely to come across small, almost forgotten temples and hidden waterfalls, which make for brilliant stop-offs on your tuk tuk adventure.

Angkor Wat Putt

Finish off the activities of the day with a game of mini golf, where the usual windmills and cottages have been replaced with something a bit more local. Angkor Wat Putt uses the famous Khmer temple complex as the backdrop to this fun game, which can feel a bit surreal to say the least. There are 14 holes to navigate and anyone who sinks the ball in one go is given a complimentary beer.

Pub Street and its surrounds

Speaking of beer, you will have earned a drink if you have managed to fit all of the above into your day in Siem Reap. Celebrate by heading to the Pub Street area, which can offer an establishment to suit, whatever your mood. Some of the best include:

Asana Wooden House - this traditional wooden house features a bar, lounge and garden patio, where hammocks represent the best way to relax. Despite being open until late, it has a chilled out mood, with cocktails, light snacks and tapas available.

Picasso Bar - for a good selection of wine and sangria head to this red brick establishment near the old market. With Picasso prints on the wall and a daily happy hour, you can't go far wrong.

Station Wine Bar - if you like your drink to come with entertainment, then the Station Wine Bar is a good option, as it hosts shows on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Call in on a different day if you are just interested in sampling some of the wines on its 100-strong list.

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Explore the amazing city of Siem Reap on an Asia River Cruise.

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