I've finally uploaded my Siem Reap photos in my flickr album; all 199 of them!! (could have sworn that I had taken more...)
So everyone heads to Cambodia for the temples.. which indeed is a magnificient experience but I found exploring more of Siem Reap and its surrounding areas rounded my Cambodian experience quite nicely. Although admittedly, I did have a small taste of Cambodia in my short one week trip. I'd love to go back and see more of what I had missed.
In the meantime, here's a short list of what to do when you're templed out in Siem Reap:
1. Free cello concert at Jayavarman VII Children's Hospital
An interesting mix of cello recitals, short films and lectures on how Western countries should be donating more. Could be uncomfortable for some so ease your conscience by donating blood at the children's hospital (very safe). See beat-richner.ch
2. Land-mine museum with heart
The Children's Landmine museum offers visitors an opportunity to teach English (volunteer-basis) to children affected by landmines. These kids also offer a free concert once a week. The museum also sells their own tees/tanks (great gifts!).
3. Prek Toal Wildlife Sanctuary, Tonle Sap Lake
Take a day's break from the temples and persistent touts: visit the lovely Prek Toal where Khmers live in a floating village. Pick up handicrafts made from water hyacinth stems from the women's cooperative. Amazing bird-watching to behold.
4. Wat Bo pagoda
Built in the 19th century, it is one of the oldest pagodas in Siem Reap. The floor to ceiling paintings offer a glimpse of the French colonial era. If you're lucky(??), a monk would show you a cabinet of human skulls from the civil war.
5. I want to ride my bicycle
Freddie Mercury knows where it's at: escape congested Siem Reap and hire a bicycle to explore the countryside. There is an option of an electric bicycle for the lazies. Great way to visit the temple circuit as well.
6. Learning to make a silk purse out of.... silkworms.
Angkor Silk Farm, 15 km west of Siem Reap, offers free guided tours from start (silkworm farming) to finish (beautiful silks). Learn about Cambodian silk before shopping at the Old Market.
7. Twinkle, twinkle
Hire a motorbike to take you down to Chong Khneas during dusk and gaze at the hundreds of twinkling lights across Tonle Sap Lake. These lights, are used to attract insects, which then attract fish: a traditional Vietnamese fishing method.
8. Recommended cheap eats
Crusty baguettes sold by streetside stalls, deep-fried crickets, ice cream folded in baguettes, and the slightly more expensive 'Happy Pizza' is definitely an experience for the open-minded.
9. Angkor Wat in miniature
Overwhelmed at the grand size of the Angkorian temples?? Get a different perspective of these temples by visiting Dy Proeung's creation. Widely known and easily accessible by hopping on a motorbike in Siem Reap.
.... and finally... for the fashionable traveller (please tell me there are more of me out there.. :P)
10. Keeping cool with a krama
Take a hint from the locals and keep the sun away with an inexpensive cotton, checkered scarf called the krama (pick one up at the Old Market). Almost as versatile as a sarong, a krama can be worn in many ways: head, neck and waist (for the stylish).