Visitors are often surprised to discover the average Cambodian will gladly make his melodious voice heard. There is in fact no such thing as closet singers in Cambodia, only karaoke singers.
There is a handful of performing troupes of Sbek Thom (literally large leather) shadow theatre in Phnom Penh and few more in the rest of Cambodia. Sbek Thom features two metre high leather puppets lit against a white screen by torches (or modern projectors), and a classical pin-peat music ensemble.
A visit to the workshop shows throngs of young artisans carving figures from Khmer mythology out of wood and stone. Sculptures and statues are readily available for purchase but can also be tailored to order to snuggly fit your curio cabinet back home.
Whether shopping is your thing or not, you'll probably end up at the Old Market. Phsar Chas mainly caters to foreign visitors, although local city slickers are able to bargain Cambodian prices for the odd souvenir or t-shirt.
The pagodas of Siem Reap may not be as old as Angkor, just a few hundred years... but the everyday Buddhist rites are eternal. Superb carpentry, masonry and woodwork, intricate painted frescoes mix with serene stupas to create a leisurely self guided walking tour.
Wat Athvea is believed to have been built under the reign of King Suryavarman II in the late 11th or early 12th century, about the same time as Angkor Wat. Wat Athvea always makes a pleasant stop. There usually are children playing around, and few visitors to Angkor actually make it here.
The Giant Puppet Parade has been taking place in Siem Reap since 2007. It is a community project that involves children from orphanages, schools and NGOs in the creation of the giant puppets.
Most visitors to Siem Reap come to visit the temples of Angkor. For those who stay a bit longer or who get templed-out after a few days, but still hunger for cultural visits, a tour of Siem Reap’s wats (or modern pagodas) can be a perfect outing.
Planning a Siem Reap wat tour? Wat Preah Enkosei is a great pagoda to start with. From here, you can work your way downstream the Siem Reap River and stop along the way at more pagodas. The head monk says Wat Preah Enkosei is old… older than him!
What more than a cool soak or a good workout after a dusty hot day in Siem Reap, Angkor? Head for one of Siem Reap’s many pools, where for a price ranging from free to over 20 dollars, you can enjoy a refreshing swim. This price usually includes access to the hotel gym as well. Happy sweat and soak!