I had put off travelling to Cambodia for a long time as I thought the kids were to young. The opportunity came up earlier this year to visit Siem Reap and I decided to grab it with both hands and make the most of it. I still had my reservations but turns out I need not have worried at all. Siem Reap is family friendly and a great place to visit with plenty of things for the kids to do. Here’s my list of top things to do in Siem Reap with kids.
We were pretty busy while we were there, just for a change, I packed it all in like I would never have the opportunity to visit again. While it does mean that I get to see most things I want to see, it’s sometimes a little much for the kids. Never the less, below are my top 7 things to do in Siem Reap with kids.
While in Siem Reap we stayed at Prince D’Angkor Resort & Spa, I highly recommend this hotel and we received a free room upgrade to the presidential suite as there was an issue with our toilet.
This of course goes with out saying. A visit to the Temples of Angkor is what draws the tourists to the area in the first place. The Temples are scattered all around Siem Reap and Angkor Wat is about a 30 minute ride in a tuk-tuk from the town. A lot of people only visit Siem Reap for a couple of days spending only a day at Angkor Wat. My advice is to stay for longer and purchase a 3 day pass which is valid for a week. This allows you to visit at your own pace and is best for the kids as they don’t get overloaded with temples in a day. We stayed for seven nights and it certainly wasn’t too long, I could have easily stayed longer, the kids weren’t bored and would have definitely enjoyed another day or maybe two at the temples. It’s best to break up the visits and not go on consecutive days, giving the kids a rest in between. If you only have one day, make sure you visit Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm. Click the link if you would like to read more about our experience at the Temples of Angkor.
If you have more than one day, head out to some of the other temples, we visited Banteay Srei which is about an hours tuk-tuk ride from Siem Reap. It is believed to have been built by women due to the intricate carvings, they believe it’s too delicate to have been done by men.
Flight of the Gibbon is located inside the Angkor Archaeological Park so you will need park pass to get in. I wasn’t aware of this so it was lucky that we still had one day left from our three day passes and didn’t need to buy another ticket. Make sure you take this into account if you are planning on doing this activity.
I suggest that you do the zip lining in the morning as it starts to get really hot and humid at around 11 am. You do need to have a moderate level of fitness to really get the most of this activity. Our 3 kids were aged 11, 9 and 7 when we went and they had no issues or difficulties with doing it, me, that was another story! The harnesses are checked then double checked and then checked again at each platform. They are also double anchored to the platform and zip line at all times. I had no concerns with the safety aspect of the tour and found our guides, Sophal and Tida to be competent and thorough in their systematic safety checks as we went along.
The kids were a little nervous at the beginning but they put themselves outside their comfort zones and gave it a red hot go and they loved it. You could see their confidence grow and by the end they were zip lining with no hands and flying like birds through the air! Click the link to read my full review of our experience zip lining in Siem Reap.
Cambodia’s answer to Cirque du Soleil! The circus is performed by former street kids or disadvantaged youth and provides them with an income source to help break the cycle of poverty. The circus originated in Battambang a few hours from Siem Reap but since the purpose built tent was erected in Siem Reap it’s now a permanent fixture on the tourist trail. All proceeds from the circus go back into the community to assist with eliminating poverty and assisting those in need.
I will warn you, the tickets are a little more expensive than I had expected. There are three levels, A reserve, B reserve and C reserve. The tent is quite small so the viewing is pretty good in all the seats. We purchased B reserve seating and were seated in the front row but slightly to the side. We did have a slightly obstructed view but it didn’t cause us any issues and being in the front row made up for that.
The performance tells the story of Cambodia in dance and in some parts can be a little scary for little kids. My two younger kids got a little frightened but it soon passed and they were fine. Due to our seating in the front row the performers made a lot of eye contact with the kids and they were very much immersed into the show. For further information click the link to read our full review on Phare, The Cambodian Circus.
Tonle Sap (Great Lake in Khmer) is about 30 minutes from Siem Reap by tuk-tuk. It’s a fresh water lake that runs into the Mekong River at Phnom Penh to the south. The water level fluctuates dramatically between seasons and the surrounding villages are built to accommodate the water levels for each season.
We were there in July which is the start of the wet season and the water level was very low. You can see from the photo above that the water level at its peak would be just below where we were standing. It was very difficult for me to fathom that much water and I would still really love to return and see it during the wet season. Villages around the lake are built on stilts, they are able to float if the water gets too high but when the water is low they stand on their stilts with timber slat bridges to enter their homes.
There are a number of activities you can do on the lake, including a trip on a long tail boat to the floating village. We chose not to do this during this trip as out tuk-tuk driver advised that it wasn’t value for money at this time of year, $100USD for the 5 of us. We agreed and headed back to Siem Reap. On the way back we stopped at a lotus flower farm which was great and a crocodile farm which was terrible! The crocodile farm stunk and there was not enough space for the crocodiles to move around in, it was pretty underwhelming.
The museum opened in 2007 and is an archaeological museum that contains a collection of artefacts from the Angkorian era/period. Most of the artefacts where located throughout the temples and were deemed too valuable to be left at the sites. It consists of the briefing hall then 8 galleries that contain things from Buddhist sculptures right through to Angkorian jewellery, clothing and accessories. There are a number of Angkorian sculptures that were originally located in surrounding temples and a number have been restored to preserve them for future generations.
This is a good one for older kids, my kids went through and watched all the movies but I can’t say for certain that they took much in. They struggled with not being able to touch things and there was a lot of reading material that didn’t really thrill them. We did this on the first day and only stayed for a couple of hours. There is so much to stop and read and take in but taking it all in would mean you would be there all day. It is good to visit before heading out to the temples though as it provides you with a good start on the Angkor history.
We made a decision early on to not expose the kids to much of the ugly side of some of the countries they visit. We feel that there is plenty of time for them to learn about this stuff when they are older and for now we want them to enjoy every where we go for the beautiful place they are when we visit. Last year when we went to Vietnam, we discussed the war briefly and gave them a sanitised version of what had happened. We did the same with Cambodia, well we thought we did!
We were told about the War Museum and thought it would a few tanks and other abandoned pieces that the kids would be able to have a look at, similar to Cu Chi Tunnels. At first glance, the War Museum looked similar. That’s where it stopped.
We had a tour guide that took us around the museum, he was middle aged and had experienced life under the Khmer Regime. He started with talking about coming home to find his family massacred in their home and how he was taken to become a soldier for Pol Pot. The kids were looking rather green and then he started showing us all his injuries. Alannah was backing away from him (she will never be a nurse!) when he started pulling up his clothes to show us all his bullet and shrapnel scars. Apart from being really confronting for the kids it was really very sombre as you would expect. The kids were speechless when he pulled up his trouser leg to show them his artificial limb.
He took us through the graveyard of tanks and asked Alannah to climb up in one and was pointing to something, all of a sudden Alannah jumped down screaming, apparently our guide’s friend’s toe bone and shoe is still in the bottom of the tank! Keira and Caelan were keen to have a look and jumped straight up after her.
The volunteer tour guides work for tips so you pay them what you think it’s worth, we tipped him $10USD for an hour tour.
The silk farm is located in a village about 40 minutess from Siem Reap again in a tuk-tuk. A tour guide will take you through the farm starting with picture boards highlighting the background of the organisation and how it came about. It’s a community initiative backed by some overseas NGOs that originally donated some money to get it off the ground.
Local people are given the opportunity to take on an apprenticeship to learn how to raise the silk worms and how to harvest the cocoons and turn it in to silk. It’s a very interesting cycle that involves mulberry leaves for the silk caterpillars to eat. The caterpillars then weave cocoons that sit in special baskets, the silk is taken from the outer covering of the cocoon. This is removed and spun into a fine silk thread and then dyed various colours.
The next area is where they weave the silk, rows of looms are set up and the girls work their magic, it really is delicate work. Lots of different garments are produced from the silk in particular scarves, men’s ties, tops, skirts, bags, blankets, bedsheets and pillowcases to name a few. The silk from this place was of the highest quality with a suitably high price! I would have loved to have purchased one of their lovely scarves but decided on a decorative roll pillow for our bed at home.
Entry is free but a tip for your guide will be appreciated.
These were our top things to do in Siem Reap, these by no means are the only things to do with kids. The kids loved swimming in the pool at the resort and eating at the local night markets. There’s great food options including vegetarian or vegan in Siem Reap. We didn’t have any problems finding suitable food for the kids. There are so many things for kids to do in Siem Reap it really is very family friendly and the local people are very warm and welcoming. If you find the kids are ‘templed out’, there are suitable childcare options available in Siem Reap, Tree House Nursery can help you out.
We would take our kids back in a heart beat and I hope our next visit isn’t too far away!
If I have missed anything you think I should add, leave me a message in the comment section below and I will add it to my list.
Sal & Co.