Some people say Siem Reap isn’t for kids. But what better playground can a kid find?
Our thoughts about visiting Ankor Wat began a few years before we lived in Asia. I had seen incredible pictures at sunrise of these fantastic temples which, at the time, seemed like a world away.
Fast forward to the day we arrived with our kids and baggage in Changi airport and landed in our hotel. A moment of panic. And then I made that fatefull travel list-Ankor Wat at the top.
Ankor Wat wasn’t our first Asian travel destination, but it could have been. People were discouraging, but they shouldn’t have been. Turns out, Siem Reap is an easy to navigate low-cost city that is small enough to see in 2-3 days and tourist friendly enough for healthy (and comfortable) family eating.
Our trip to Ankor Wat was incredible. I hope you can enjoy our itinerary to enjoy it as much as we did!
Day one: Arrive in Siem Reap. As you can see, my husband and I go back and forth between touristy resorts and more ‘local’ accommodation. For Siem Reap we opted for ‘local. I’m glad we did. While the cleanliness and service were certainly not five start, I loved the location, the noises, the local flavor-and couldn’t beat the $30 a night funky room!
When we landed at the airport our kids were thrilled to learn that Tuk Tuks are the way of travel here. Everything is pretty close to each other, so hopping in a tuk tuk was easy and very kid friendly. We even used it as a bribe from time to time as needed.
We arrived in the late afternoon and settled into our hotel. We immediately booked a tuk tuk for a sunrise tour of Ankor Wat. Most hotels will show you the set prices (which most drivers follow) and the tour lasts about 4-5 hours. We chose to buy a three day pass as we planned to visit 2-3 times rather than stay an entire day. We feel it was a good choice.
For this tour, we opted to leave the toddlers at the hotel with a babysitter. We were glad we did as they were well rested for the day. If they were older and could handle less sleep, it would have been find to bring them.
The sunrise tour was spectacular. Like many days-be warned- the sunrise was not picture perfect, but what what was amazing was touring the temples in the dark. Instead of waiting for the picture of the sunrise above the lake outside the main temple, we began exploring the temple at dawn, an incredible exciting thing do. It’s also practical since it can get very hot and even more crowded after 9 am.
Once we finished touring the main temple, our tuk tuk driver took us to some other smaller temples, which were each incredible and inspiring to roam. We couldn’t stop taking pictures and marveling at the ruins and the growth that has sprung up around them.
We were back home at 11 and took a good long rest.
That afternoon we went to the War Museum Cambodia which was a sombering and powerful experience. The museum was put together by soon locals who collected artifacts from the decades civil war that occured in Cambodia. The tour guides are all survivors-so be ready for that experiene. They spoke English quite clearly and shared with us incerdible stroies about life, death, and war that felt like a moving tribute to those who were lost in the fighting. It also gave a content to the state of the country and the thousands of maimed and orphaned people you see in the streets.
For the kids, they there were lots of bullets, guns and airplanes to keep them occupied and engaged during the tour.
That evening, we went to peace cafe for dinner. A delievious vegetarian place in a beautiful setting.
On this day, we reserved a car to take us to the floating boathouses and fishing villiages called Floating village of Kampong Khleang in Tonle Sap Lake. We had read online about it being ‘touristy’ and fake, though on our trip-we didn’t see one other tourist and there was nothing ‘fake’ about our visit. Perhaps because we had the kids with us, the villigaers were very welcoming to us, showing us how they dried the fish and got it ready to see in the market. The boatride to the floating villages allowed us to see rural Cambodia life up close which we all loved. And our kids are always happy when speeding through local rivers! (total tour: about 6 hours.)
We returned from the tour to take a swim in the pool and head out to the downtown area of Siem Reap. While this area certainly caters to tourist, there were delicious foods to try (snake on a stick anyone?) and the kids had a blast. We got dinner, bought a few souvenirs, even got a in a quick massage.
On day three we spend some time in the morning walking around our local streets. We bought breakfast, allowed our kids to choose a toy at the local shop (with hilariously fake branded items) and even took them for a haircut at a local shop-the highlight of their morning.
We make a plan to head back to Ankor Wat about abuot 2:30 when the sun was a little less intense. We planned to go for an hour or two but ended up staying until the guards pushed us out for closing! We couldn’t believe how many amazing temples there were to see, and as we drove more, we stopped at many beautiful spots-including a lake for sunset.
For that evening, we had purchased tickets to the Phare circus-an acclaimed show that is sold out most nights. We had been warned so we purchadased our tickets ahead of time, and indeed, it was sold out on the night we attended.
We enjoyed the circus, though it wasn’t the quite the hype we hype we had heard. I would encourage you to see it if it fits your schedule, and particularly because there is not much to do after dark in the city.
Our last day we spend on local outting. We visitng a silk farm-a true tourist trap which the kids really enjoyed, and spent more time downtown filling up on ice cream and massages.
We loved Siem Reap. The vibe, the people, the ease, the authenticity was ……