It’s easy to make a difference to the everyday lives of disadvantaged local Cambodians during your stay in Siem Reap. By choosing where to shop, eat, drink, sleep, have fun and spend your money wisely, you can opt to support trailblazing local businesses that are instigating a world of change for local people who would otherwise be struggling with the day-to-day challenges of life in Siem Reap. From stylish boutique hotel stays to indulgent mani-pedis and a night out at the circus, here’s our pick of some of the best social enterprises in Siem Reap to check out when you’re in temple town.
Sugar Spa takes something relaxing and indulgent – top-quality beauty treatments like mani-pedis, massages, and waxing – and makes it beneficial to disadvantaged local Cambodians in Siem Reap. Located in the Made in Cambodia Market in Siem Reap, is all about empowering local women by providing safe, well-paid jobs and a strong training culture for therapists.
Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel
Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is one of Siem Reap’s leading sustainably run social enterprises. Since opening in 2013, this stylish, independently owned and run boutique hotel – with the motto of being ethical, sustainable and creative – has created dozens of jobs for local Cambodians from disadvantaged backgrounds. Play your part by booking into one of the hotel’s gorgeous rooms, enjoying a cocktail (made using produce from the on-site garden) beside the gorgeous saltwater pool, or indulging in a treatment at the all-natural, cruelty free in-house spa.
BE Happy is a brand new, 100% vegan and sustainability-focussed social enterprise accommodation initiative from the people behind Siem Reap’s trailblazing Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel. In a historic French-style colonial guesthouse on a quiet local lane that’s walking distance from Pub Street, the Night Market and other downtown Siem Reap attractions, the 12 compact yet colourful rooms at BE Happy offer curious travellers access to all of Baby Elephant’s facilities, plus added amenities like happy flow yoga classes, the new Born Free juicery, vegan Cambodian cooking classes, free vegan breakfast, free bicycle rental, and much more.
Taking a bicycle tour is the perfect way to see another side to Siem Reap beyond the usual tourist trail, with the added bonus that it’s a fabulously healthy, energetic way to holiday. Leading cycling tour provider Grasshopper Adventures offers Siem Reap bike tours with a real difference – not least because they place ethical and sustainable travel front and centre, working with NGOs, taking guests to responsibly run training restaurants, and supporting small businesses that offer much-needed reliable income to local Cambodians.
The aim at Footprint is to help local communities to help themselves, one amazing café at a time. Footprint Cafés aims to evolve into a global chain of social enterprises book cafés benefitting disadvantaged groups, and its first location is right here in Siem Reap. You can play your part from ordering from Footprint’s tempting menu of Cambodian and international dishes, among them heaps of vegetarian and vegan options – or simply a coffee to sip as you while away an hour or more. Upstairs, there’s also a coworking space for nomads to get some work done.
Phare The Cambodian Circus
There’s nothing like a night at the circus in Siem Reap – but Phare is no ordinary circus. Instead of the usual exploitative animal performances, under the big top at Siem Reap’s very own circus you’ll witness incredible drama and unlikely acrobatics from young local Cambodians plucked from disadvantaged backgrounds for life-changing education and training. An evening’s entertainment at Phare The Cambodian Circus is likely to be one of your most enduring memories of your time in Siem Reap, and easily one of the town’s most recommendable activities.
Stop by for a meal at Baby Elephant’s beautifully secluded al-fresco restaurant, and you’ll notice that our tableware comes from Rehash Trash and bears little notes to let you know that it ‘used to be a plastic bag’. That’s because Rehash Trash is a Siem Reap social enterprise that helps both the environment and local Cambodian people by transforming temple town’s roadside rubbish into stylish upcycled items like our placemats and coasters, all the while providing training and an income for disadvantaged women.
All photos by respective businesses.