What to eat, drink and do in Siem Reap

More than a gateway to Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is a centre for Khmer culture, authentic cuisine and chic shops, writes Lara Dunston.

Viroth’s Hotel

Terence Carter


The Made in Cambodia Market features more than 50 stalls selling local artisan-made products, from funky recycled accessories at Friends ‘n’ Stuff to Ammo jewellery made from bullet casings. Shinta Mani Resort, French Quarter; Saturday and Sunday, 4pm-9pm.


Once you’ve visited the temples of Angkor, gain an insight into rural life and meet locals on a Treak Village Walk and Talk run by Beyond Unique Escapes. Or try harvesting rice, weaving rattan and taking an ox-cart on its Day in the Life of a Village tour.


Singapore Airlines and sister carrier SilkAir fly from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth to Siem Reap via Singapore. 


Sala Lodges

The 11 antique Khmer timber houses at this three-year-old resort were discovered in the countryside and transported to a palm-shaded property adjoining rice paddies on the outskirts of Siem Reap. They’ve been refurbished and decorated with rustic furniture, handmade quilts and unexpected touches, such as contemporary rocking chairs. There’s a swimming pool in the garden and a restaurant serving light dishes made with local produce, such as fish from Tonle Sap Lake with mango and wild rice. 498 Salakomroeuk

Viroth’s Hotel

Opened last May, this 35-room boutique hotel in the slowly gentrifying Wat Bo area tips a hat to the Modernist architecture of Cambodia’s 1960s “Golden Age”. A passion project for French-Cambodian owners Fabien Martial and Kol Viroth – who also run Viroth’s Villa and Viroth’s restaurant – the airy, whitewashed building has a picturesque courtyard pool and is furnished with a mix of contemporary pieces, retro furniture and vintage gems. Street 24


Make offerings at a Buddhist pagoda before scouring a market for ingredients and learning to cook Khmer dishes on a Cooks in Tuk Tuks tour, run by the River Garden hotel. Or join the hotel’s Street Food Adventure on a roving snack tour for stir-fried crickets or barbecued offal.


The hilarious Phare Cambodian Circus is an uplifting Khmer take on the Cirque du Soleil-style experience, featuring aerial ballet, acrobatics, contortion, slapstick and Cambodian music and dancing.


Siem Reap surprises with its stylish shopping and outstanding craftsmanship, exemplified by designer Eric Raisina, who worked with Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Lacroix. His bold-textured garments and silk “fur” handbags are fast becoming essential souvenirs at his couture house. Hap Guan Street is still a local secret – here, Siem Reap’s best coffee can be found at the Little Red Fox Espresso, an Australian-run hair salon-cum-café. The street is also home to cool concept shops, such as Louise Loubatieres, where the designer sells beautiful homewares developed with local artisans – admire her bamboo table-runners and lacquer trays – and Trunkh for quirky objects such as hand-painted vintage shop signs and travel pillows stencilled with Mekong catfish.


Sink into recycled rice-sack cushions at Asana, the last traditional Khmer house in the old town, with a Khmer cocktail such as Little Sweet, made from wild ginger, turmeric, sugar-cane juice and gin. Then slip around the corner for Rose and Lemongrass Martinis and dim sum beneath red lanterns and birdcages at Shanghai-inspired Miss Wong.


Cuisine Wat Damnak

French chef Joannès Rivière focuses on authentic flavours in creative interpretations of Cambodian dishes, in one of the nation’s finest restaurants. Two dégustation menus are offered each week based on seasonal produce. Book ahead. Wat Damnak St

Sugar Palm

Home-style dishes such as amok trei (fish curry soufflé), and tangy green mango and smoked fish salad are served in a Khmer timber house. Kiwi-Cambodian owner-chef Kethana Dunnet is the go-to for visiting chefs filming cooking shows, Gordon Ramsay and Luke Nguyen among them. Taphul Rd

Chanrey Tree

Siem Reap’s most stylish restaurant blends old and new in its Cambodian-chic design and refined Khmer cuisine, including dishes based on recipes from owner Kann Soan’s mother. Try rice crackers with fried frangipani and natang sauce; prahok k’tis, a pleasantly pungent dip of fermented fish and minced pork; and char kroeung, stir-fried frogs’ legs with lemongrass. River Rd

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