Back in February we booked our plane tickets to fly to England in June to visit friends and family. But as time ticked by and we got close to flying we felt that we needed one more adventure under our belts. So thanks to my lovely friend Annabel, who’d recommended a long weekend in Siem Reap, Cambodia we got booked up.
This time around I did loads of research from where to stay to what to do. I asked friends who’d been what they recommended and also checked out the expat Facebook groups here in Singapore which are a wealth of knowledge.
We were travelling on a Singapore bank holiday weekend, so lots of destinations were getting expensive for flights, but Scoot had a deal on flights and we got them for all four of us for under $1500 sgd. We also surprised the kids by having my brother meet us there on his gap-year trip too.
So accommodation wise we booked into the magnificent J7 hotel. As I mentioned I looked at a lot of hotels, but this appeared to be good value for money with breakfast included, it was close to the centre of town, only 15 minutes from the airport (with free transfers) and on the right side of town to hit the temples.
Not to mention good size rooms, beautiful pool area and they accommodated both kids in our room with a put-me-up bed each (this was a sticking point and took some negotiation with housekeeping and the duty manager). But the staff here were so lovely, it was like we had our own welcoming party every time we returned to the hotel.
Food was mainly good in the hotel, we opted to have one of our evening meals there and a few lunches. The chef made a point of popping by to see how we were enjoying ourselves and the catering manager was a lovely Scandinavian lady who made us feel so welcome. I only wish they’d had more gluten-free vegetarian options at breakfast. The pool side options were extensive though, you could tuck into anything from Italian pizza to local noodles.
Things to do around Siem Reap
A must see is the Phare Circus on the out skirts of town, it show cases local street kids who have been taught the tricks of the circus. Expect a fast paced, intensive acrobatics circus performance with great rock music. We saw their Khmer Metal show and we sat in section B up at the back and had a good view. The circus school teaches over 2,000 street kids each year and the best get to make it into this circus and even to other circuses across the world.
There’s a show every evening at 8pm and tickets range from $18-$38 USD at the time of writing this. You can get the tickets online or ask your Tuk Tuk driver to take you to a tourist ticket office.
Top tip: they have a bar where they mix up good cocktails just outside the tent, to take in or sip beforehand. Also it gets hot in the tent so grab yourself a fan as you go in.
If you fancy trying your hands at a local craft the Khmer Ceramics Centre offers classes in throwing pots, plates and anything you can imagine actually. It’s very close to the centre of town so a good afternoon activity when you’re all templed out.
The day that we were there all the instructors were deaf and I must say they were brilliant. So patient (especially with my kids) but also funny, encouraging and very good at teaching. I’m not sure if this is the case every day but I know they have a social mission to invest in the local community and offer flexible working especially to mothers.
Skill level: No skill required
Schedule: Daily at 8am, 10am, 2pm and 4pm
Extra: FREE Pick-up / Drop-off
Age: Adults and kids (from 3+)
Price per person: $25 USD
Top tip: just have one of two pieces fired, as they get a lot smaller and very heavy once they’re fired, they also just pop a pva varnish on them so they’re not actually food safe. Best to spend your money in the gift shop on the professional pieces instead.
About half hour out of town is the Silk Farm, now we were actually killing time till my brother arrived and thought it might be interesting, but it actually ended up being one of our favourite excursions. It’s a free tour, a guide meets you at the entrance and takes you around the farm. From the mulberry tree orchard to the nesting rooms and then weaving rooms we got to see it all.
It was so eye opening to see the whole process, now we were more than a little shocked to learn that the silk worms are boiled alive, but that aside the weaving and dying process was incredible the ladies that weave are so so talented. We did tip our guide to say thank you too.
Top tip: don’t be afraid to get a tuk tuk to the silk farm, it’s a 25 min drive from the J7 but it was lovely to have the wind in our hair for the journey, the kids (and us) loved it. One of the expat ladies recommended a guide called Sitha, we didn’t manage to get him but she raved about him.
Now something which was massively out of my comfort zone was Quad biking,especially when we had to sign the death waiver for us and the kids. But it was so much fun. It was a great way to see the local countryside and poodle along the dusty red roads of Cambodia. We went to a local crocodile farm (which I wouldn’t recommend) it was a health and safety nightmare. But the rest of the trip was great. I just wish I’d had my camera with me in a backpack as there were so many good photo opportunities.
We did the two hour tour and quite frankly that was enough for my wrists, as the quad bikes are hand powered. We booked and paid for this through our hotel the J7 so I can’t remember which company it was with sorry.
Top tip: take a backpack with lots of water as it gets so hot riding on a quad bike.
The night markets here are certainly an experience. We went in off-season so it wasn’t too busy when we wandered into town. There were so many senses for the kids to see… from fish foot spas to fried scorpion on a stick to young children having to hang out in the family shop whilst their parents worked. Our tuk tuk driver Mr Vibol drove us into town that night.
We let the kids loose and encouraged them to negotiate on their holiday knick knacks, something our eldest is certainly getting the hang of and I was quite impressed by her skills lol. The markets had lots to offer and it was certainly worth a walk around but they don’t quite match up to the markets in Bali.
Loved this post… check out Part 2 – Where to eat in Siem Reap and a Guide to Angkor Wat Temple>>