Although the Angkor Temples was named Top Landmark by Tripadvisor, there’s definitely a lot more that Siem Reap has to offer. Here are some interesting activities you can do to learn more about Khmer culture after you’ve made a trip to the Angkor Temples.
1. FLOAT ALONG THE KOMPONG PHLUK STILT VILLAGE
Experience true village life as you float along the stilted houses of Kompong Phluk located along the great Tonle Sap, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. The houses in Kompong Phluk are built on stilts 6-8 high and is home to around 3000 inhabitants.
Watch villagers as they harvest and farm fishes and vegetables while children laugh and play as they take a dip in the river. Don’t be surprised if you see chicken coops and pig stys built on these stilted platforms! As you continue on your tour, you will be introduced to the unique eco-system of the mangrove forest and its unique species of wild-life, you might even spot some rates crab-eating macaques!
2. BE ENCHANTED BY APSARA DANCERS
If you’ve been to the Angkor Temples, you’ve definitely seen carvings of beautiful dancers on the walls on the temples. In fact, there are about 1,800 carvings of these goddesses on the Angkor Wat Temple alone. Hindu mythology has it that these figures are Apsaras which were supernatural female beings born to be dancers for the gods. These dancers were youthful, beautiful and elegant and were said to be able to change form at will to seduce gods and men.
This ancient dance form had almost vanished during the period of the Khmer Rogue but was revived by Princess Bopha Devi, daughter of the late Father King Norodom Sihanouk and premier ballerina in the Royal Ballet of Cambodia who went on to popularise the dance form in Cambodia and around the world.
You can now appreciate this intricate dance form at several Siem Reap hotels, theatres and restaurants. Be mesmerised by this traditional art form as dancers adorned with beautiful gold headdresses, silk tunics and skirts move gracefully to the music performed by a pin peat orchestra consisting of traditional xylophones, gongs, drums and cymbals.
3. GET A MONK’S BLESSINGS AT WAT ARANG
In Cambodia where Buddhism is practiced by around 90% of the population, it is a common sight to see monks wrapped in orange cloth chanting their prayers and offering showers of blessings in temples and on the streets.
You too can be part of this sacred Buddhist ritual where you receive blessings of luck and longevity from monks in a temple. Located at Wat Arang Pagoda one hour outside Siem Reap, you will enjoy a scenic ride through the countryside as you make your way to the temple.
There, you can choose from two types of blessings: The first, a shorter ritual where monks chant blessings of good luck and safety followed by light sprinkles of water and the second, a longer ritual involving the pouring of blessed water over your head as the monks give you their their blessings. Not to worry as you will be provided a sarong to change into for the second ritual. The blessing ceremony ends with the tying of a red thread around your wrist to symbolise the completion of the holy ritual.
4. WHIP UP A STORM AT A TRADITIONAL COOKING CLASS
What better way to experience true Cambodian culture than by learning and sharing the taste of Cambodia with your loved ones back home. Spend an afternoon learning to whip up your favourite Cambodian dish from a learned chef.
Some cooking classes start with a journey through the wet markets of Siem Reap’s old town to purchase your ingredients and spices needed to prepare your dish. Witness the fishmongers prepare fresh fish as shopkeepers and customers haggle over prices of produce. After your tour to the market, head to the kitchen for a step-by-step cooking class on how to prepare famous Cambodian delicacies – fish amok, green curry or Lok Lak. End off your culinary adventure by sampling your freshly-cooked dishes with your fellow chefs.
Many Siem Reap Hotels also have cooking classes available for guests. Ask the hotel reception for more information if you’d like to learn how to cook in the comfort of your hotel.
The Aviary Hotel provides arrangements for a variety of interesting tours and activities for your stay in Siem Reap. Book a stay with us or visit our Excursions Page to find out more.