What to do in Siem Reap during the green season
Siem Reap’s green season sees the relentless heat give way to welcome rain, and the whole of temple town takes on a luscious shade of verdant.
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The rain can bring challenges, as the city’s notoriously dusty streets give way to puddles – but it’s a wonderful time to observe our little city in the midst of change, and often an altogether more comfortable period to take in the sights.
That’s not to mention the fact that the crowds are fewer, and prices at many spots around Siem Reap drop as a result. There’s plenty to see and do at this time of year – here’s a round-up of the green season attractions you’ll want to squeeze into your visit to Siem Reap.
Siem Reap has a blossoming art and culture scene that’s continually on the rise, with numerous new openings having hit temple town in the past few years.
The likes of 111 East, the McDermott Gallery, Theam’s House, Full Frontal and The 1961 display wide-ranging collections that span everything from modern art by local talent to surreal images of Cambodia’s infamous temples by renowned international names.
Even better? A number of Siem Reap art galleries embrace the frankly ingenious concept of an in-house bar, making them the perfect places to skip the rain, soak up some culture, and settle in for an evening of cocktails and enriching conversation.
Pick up souvenirs at the best Siem Reap boutiques
What better way to pass the time on a rainy day during Siem Reap’s green season than to indulge in some retail therapy? Our little town has a great shopping scene, making it the perfect place to pick up inimitable souvenirs of your time in Cambodia.
The choices are just about endless: you could pick up something homemade or quirky from the boutiques of Kandal Village – perhaps some of Saarti’s fragrant candles, natural skin products, or bright and cheerful fabrics, or a slice of Cambodian kitsch from the Trunkh concept store.
Alternatively, you might be tempted by an arty souvenir from the Theam’s House living gallery, or by a bottle of the sombai infused Cambodian rice spirit that’s popular as a tipple to take home.
Siem Reap’s bounty of cafés and coffee shops are a big draw – in recent years, the town has developed a café scene that’s centred on a real love of excellent-quality coffee served by engaged and expertly trained baristas.
Whether you opt for the comfort of air-con interiors or the atmospheric people-watching potential of a seat outdoors (infinitely more comfortable in the immediate aftermath of one of the green season’s very welcome downpours), there are certainly worse ways to while away a lazy afternoon than by cosying up with a delicious hot coffee and a book (and, go on, perhaps a slice of cake, too) in one of Siem Reap’s many coffee shops.
See an impressive, emotionally charged circus performance
There’s no getting away from it: we simply love Phare the Cambodian Circus. This responsibly managed social enterprise combines dance, theatre, live music and acrobatics to tell traditional and modern tales about Cambodian history and culture. The circus’ work supports a school and professional arts training centre in Battambang, as well as providing opportunities for its performers from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Above all else, an evening at Phare the Cambodian Circus is always one to remember – and, under the shelter of the big top, you’re also safe from the rain!
When all else fails, retreating to the bar is never a bad option! Thankfully, Siem Reap has a smorgasbord of unique, atmospheric drinking holes where it’s well worth spending an evening. In fact, we would go so far as to say a leisurely Siem Reap bar crawl of these winning spots is almost an essential component of a trip to temple town.
From Asana – a bar set in downtown Siem Reap’s only remaining traditional wooden house, also offering innovative cocktail classes – to air-conditioned Long’s Bar, retro Shanghai-style Miss Wong, and Le Tiem Sra in Baby Elephant’s own local neighbourhood, there’s enough variety in Siem Reap’s bars to keep you entertained and amused while also ensuring you’re sheltered from any inclement weather during green season.
There’s little denying that Cambodian cuisine is massively overlooked in favour of that of regional neighbours like Thailand and Vietnam, but it’s complex and exciting in its own unique way – and Siem Reap is home to no end of fabulous restaurants serving excellent Khmer food. All the way from high-end tasting menus of traditional Cambodian recipes given modern twists, to comforting home-style cooking, and simple but satisfying street food classics, there’s plenty to chow down on during your time in Siem Reap.
Taking yourself on a gastronomic discovery is a great way to wait out a storm while also giving yourself a break from the often frantic pace of sightseeing – and if you need a break from local fare, temple town is also home to a wealth of top-quality international restaurants serving dishes from just about everywhere on earth.
Why stop at just eating and drinking? Participating in one of the many cooking classes in Siem Reap means you’ll be able to take home a deeper understanding of Khmer cuisine, and be able to recreate all your favourite dishes long after your trip is over.
At Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel, our very own five-star head chef Hoyha leads guests through a culinary education during our Cambodian Tastes cooking classes. Shop for fresh ingredients at a traditional local morning market, before preparing a full three-course Cambodian meal in our verdant tropical garden (or, in case of rain, under our sheltered gazebo or in our hotel kitchen!) – and then, of course, tuck into the delicious fruits of your labour for lunch.
Asana – a charming, atmospheric bar set in downtown Siem Reap’s only remaining traditional Cambodian wooden house – also offers innovative cocktail-making classes in which you can learn how to whip up potent, flavoursome concoctions that showcase unique local ingredients.
Take in a Hollywood or Asian flick at Siem Reap’s cinema
Few visitors to Siem Reap expect this bustling yet overwhelmingly small, almost rural-feeling city to have its own cinema – but it does! The Platinum Cineplex shows a variety of Hollywood flicks, as well as movies from homegrown Cambodian talent and from elsewhere across Asia. Chilling out with a film and a bucket of popcorn is an ideal way to beat the Siem Reap heat at the best of times, but it’s equally well suited to hiding out from the rain.
Float on the mesmerising Tonle Sap lake
While you might not want to be caught out in the middle of a downpour, the wider green season is the time when the water levels of Tonle Sap – the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, and long since one of Cambodia’s most vital food sources – are at their highest.
This not only renders excursions to Tonle Sap logistically more practical, since navigation by boat through the lake’s numerous floating villages becomes much easier, but it also makes the lake an infinitely more impressive sight to behold.
We wouldn’t want you to think that visiting Siem Reap during the green season means temple tours are off the cards – far from it!
While you might want to pack an umbrella, the green season leaves the infamous temples at and around Angkor Wat dressed in splendid, ultra-photogenic verdant mosses – and it’s just as good a time to visit these and the whole host of popular cultural and historical attractions Siem Reap is known for.
What’s more, temperatures are more bearable, prices at many attractions and hotels drop due to reduced visitor numbers, and the crowds are thinner – meaning you can have more of the temples to yourself, and truly soak up the serene, zen vibe that is a big part of the attraction for many visitors.
Where to stay in Siem Reap
Looking for a Siem Reap hotel from which to explore the best of Siem Reap come rain or shine, while also being within easy reach of the famous Angkor Wat temples? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast and use of our gorgeous swimming pool.
Have you visited Siem Reap in green season? What are your favourite attractions during this period? Let us know which spots we should include on our list – leave us a comment below!
Photos by Full Frontal, Chris Wotton, Sister Srey Café, Long’s Bar, dia_n.