The usual Siem Reap itinerary looks like this: catching the sunrise at Angkor, going on a mid-day stroll at Tah Prohm, recharging with a heavy lunch before hitting Bayon, and seeing the sunset at Phnom Bakheng.
By the time you finish your first day in Siem Reap, you would have seen countless Buddhist and Hindu symbolisms etched in stone, taken photos of different kinds of Tomb Raider-ish poses, and traversed picturesque stretches of temple ruins.
You’re excited the first time you see a temple, but as you go around jumping from one temple to the next, your enthusiasm starts to wane. At the end of one day in Angkor Wat, you realize that you’re all ‘templed-out’, and it’s only your first day!
It can happen to even the best of travelers. The ideal way is to go slow and add variety to your itinerary (keep it to two temples a day). Allow yourself to change your mind and be flexible with your plans. My friends and I thought that we can make it to two full days of temple-hopping but we were feeling cranky the next day so we ended up ditching our itinerary in exchange for some variety.
If you can no longer tell the difference between one temple and the last, it’s time to switch and do something else. Get the three-day or one-week pass to see the Angkor Wat Complex instead of visiting all in one go.
Here are some suggested activities in Siem Reap to avoid getting templed out.
1. Go to Tonle Sap
Instead of watching the sunset at one of the temples, consider hopping on a (party) boat and heading out to the river to catch the sunset.
It’s 45 minutes away from the complex so make sure that you get their early to board. You will be surrounded by water (a refreshing feeling after seeing ruins all day) as you watch the sun set with a beer in hand.
2. End the day at Phare Circus
Wandering in temples all day is relaxing yet all the walking will make you exhausted. End the night with an energy booster at the Phare Circus. See how the Cambodian youth tell stories through breathtaking stunts, skillful dances, and live music.
It’s a full house every night so if you’re only planning to stay for a couple of days, secure your reservations online.
3. Go to Pub Street no matter how tired you are
You might be tempted to crawl to your bed and sleep the entire second day rather than go temple-hopping again. Don’t give in.
After your first day, go for a walk at Pub Street, buy an exotic food sampler (spiders, silkworm larvae, crickets, and grasshoppers),and recharge with a bottle or two of your favorite Cambodian beer.Happy hour here is commonly from 5PM-7PM.
If you’ve got more energy, go dancing at one of the clubs along Pub Street or explore parallel streets to find some of the best bars in the city.
4. Think of specialized activities
Are you an avid bird-watcher or a photographer? It can be challenging to photograph temples with all the tourists visiting but if you plan ahead, you can find the best times to go especially if you want to avoid the path that most tourists take.
Birdwatching enthusiasts can also take their binoculars and telephoto lenses with them to spot bird species. It is recommended to get a guide to help identify the temples that will suit your purpose.
5. Skip some temples and go to the market
Skip one would-be temple-hopping afternoon and head out to the market. Hunt for the best souvenirs to take home. Choose from comfortable Cambodian pants and elephant shirts to jewelry, magnets, bags, silk scarves, and a variety of other products.
Feast on Cambodian specialty snacks right outside the market. If your feet are tired by the time you finish shopping, get a foot massage in spas near the market and along Pub Street.
No matter how templed-out one might feel, it cannot change the fact that best storytellers in Siem Reap are the temples. Every stone foundation, every etching on the wall, and every sculpture of a god has a story to tell. It’s up to us to take a closer look and learn.
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