Wanderlust World Guide Award finalist, Bunyong Roeurn, reveals the best places to eat, drink and get active in Cambodia. And how to avoid the crowds at Angkor Wat.
The best time to visit Taprohm – the jungle temple where the movie, Tomb Raider, was filmed – is early in the morning. I recommend starting between 6.00 am and 8.00 am, when the atmosphere is peaceful and there are a lot less tourists. You really feel like one of the first explorers to come to the Angkor temples hundreds of years ago. Visit Angkor Wat at sunrise then head to the Jungle Temple straight away to avoid the crowds.
I also like taking our travellers to visit the Beng Melea, one and half hours from Siem Reap. This is real Indiana Jones territory but is much less known. It’s one of my favourite temples because it is so quiet.
The best trek is in Kulen National Park where travellers can trek through tropical jungle to the Kulen waterfall, see a huge reclining Buddha and The River of a Thousand Lingas, where there are more than a thousand designs carved on the riverbed. After four to five hours of trekking there’s nothing better than a swim at this beautiful waterfall.
The best Khmer food to eat in Siem Reap is fish or chicken amok at Chae Leang, a small locally-run restaurant just opposite Angkor Wat. In Phnom Penh there is a wonderful French training restaurant that helps train former street kids to be chefs. However you can’t beat dinner with a local family and we take our G Adventures groups to enjoy a meal with a local family where we dine on traditional Khmer chicken curry, spring rolls, beef kebabs and stir-fried noodles. This is not only delicious food but also a great local interaction that helps support the local economy.
The best drink options are fresh banana, coconut, pineapple or mango smoothies and you can have these at many Cambodian restaurants. My favourite is at Chae Leang restaurant opposite Angkor Wat.
For something a little harder, the Yolo Bar in Siem Reap is a great chill out bar run by Cambodians. Its long happy hour is popular with people who want to hang out with their fellow travellers and friendly local bartenders.
I like to invite my G Adventures travellers to visit my family home where I can introduce them to the traditional Khmer rice whisky I make myself at home in Siem Reap. Sometimes I ask my Mum to cook a family style meal. This is a unique Cambodian experience but don't forget to bring an open mind - we are Khmer with small house but big heart.
Bunyong Roeurn is a CEO (chief experience officer) for G Adventures, based in South East Asia. You'll find a selection of the tours lead by Bunyong here.
Main image: Monks at Angkor Wat (Shutterstock.com)