Around Siem Reap: Explore Siem Reap town without the temples

There is more to Angkor Wat than ruins. Take some time to explore Siem Reap Town

Take a break from the physical challenges of exploring Angkor's vast stone ruins and explore the colorful frontier town of Siem Reap. There is lots to see, do and eat around Siem Reap. Do not miss Psar Chas, the French Colonial old market, local crafts workshops, a surprising assortment of great restaurants, and interesting museums. Or you could spend an hour or two sipping a frosty Angkor Beer on Pub Street. Little Siem Reap has plenty to keep you busy. This day trip is available only to guests using one of our all-inclusive packages.

Our driver will collect you from your hotel after breakfast and help you plan your itinerary for the day. Select from some of the following suggested sights and activities to customize a day-long program with your local guide. We always try to steer our guests away from any obvious tourist traps, although you may enjoy visiting the Crocodile Farm or the Zoo for their funky Barnum and Bailey overtones. Here's what we suggest...

The Angkor Conservancy is an expansive storage compound for damaged or threatened artifacts that have been removed from the temple for their safety. Basically, outside the National Museum in Phnom Penh, this is the best place to view actual Khmer carvings. Many on view in Angkor are actually copies to discourage looters. Our guide may be able to arrange for you to enter the private storage building for a small additional fee, but even a walk around the grounds of the Conservancy is a worthwhile experience. Even though many items are in disrepair, they retain the patina of centuries of weathering and nature's colorful palette of moss and lichen.

Artisans D'Angkor is a self-supporting arts and crafts school with English-speaking guides. Its a chance to watch young men and women learning the carving and decorating skills of their ancestors. In addition, they have perhaps the nicest boutique shop in Siem Reap where you can pick up your own linga among other high quality crafts.

Artisans D'Angkor also have a similarly well-done silk school and workshop which is a twenty minute drive outside town. Here you can take a tour of the silk manufacturing process, from the web-spinning silk worms, to the hand-processing and hand-dying of threads, to a clattering workshop of large wooden looms where intricate patterns are woven into shiny bolts of cloth.

For slice-of-life shopping, avoid the tourist market and its beggars and opt instead to visit Siem Reap's bustling Old Market. A vast selection of common goods for Cambodian daily life are for sale here. Stalls feature hand-made religious offerings fashioned from gold and silver paper, rainbow hued flags and banners, endless aisles of shoes, clothes, jewelry and ceramics. Fresh-baked breads and savory street food are in abundance.

Several small museums and showcases have taken root in town: the War Museum has a chilling and fascinating collection of discarded weaponry from Cambodia's sad past, including a Russian helicopter, guns and missile launchers, and a sobering exhibit of just about every kind of sadistic land mine ever created. Siem Reap is also home to the Killing Fields Memorial, a small shrine on the grounds of a Buddhist temple adjacent to one of many body disposal sites for the Khmer Rouge campaign of genocide. A small pagoda is filled with human bones, a silent testament to a world that turned its attention away from the cruel deaths of millions of Cambodians.

There are a plenty of restaurants in Siem Reap. Although most have a one-meal-town mentality, some are truly great. You can find everything form awesome pizza, to outstanding Indian food and incredibly cheap Chinese dumplings.

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Includes: personal guide, private car and driver. Not included: admission costs (if any), meals or drinks. Please buy lunch for your guide.

Where We Shine: Purple Dragon highlights unique and offbeat aspects of Cambodian life that most tourists overlook. We use only LGBT- friendly hotels, so couples never suffer embarrassing moments. Your tour is private, which gives you maximum flexibility and the undivided attention of our local guides. Our guests often tell us that the highlight of their holiday was the charming company of our trained guides and their superlative insights into Cambodian culture.

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