Khmer New Year 2020 in Siem Reap

With some similarities to the Songkran new year festival celebrated in Thailand and other parts of Southeast Asia, this year’s Khmer New Year takes place between Monday 17 and Friday 21 August. Here’s our guide to enjoying the festivities in Cambodia’s temple town.

Siem Reap will host traditional religious entertainment, cycling exhibitions and other activities, while also implementing tourism safety rules. Under the leadership of HE Tea Seiha, Governor of Siem Reap, the Provincial Administration, in cooperation with the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia, Siem Reap, has been preparing to receive tourists on the occasion of the National New Year holiday.

Planned entertainment programs include:
1. Religious programs to pray for happiness
2. Exhibitions of vegetables, fruits, agricultural products of 12 cities and districts
3. Eating food competition, the most delicious grilled chicken in Siem Reap
4. Floating Market
5. Pub Street
6. Cycling Race
7 Golf competition
8. Hiking race at Roi Chan, Phnom Kulen
9. Celebrations of the art scenes in the 19 provinces of Covid crisis has considered and urged tour operators and tourists to implement measures to prevent Covid-19 as instructed by the Ministry of Health as follows:

1. Do not forget to wear a mask or scarf
2. Do not forget to wash your hands with gel or alcohol (we also prepare hand sanitizer in public places)
3. Do not forget to keep a safe distance.

The provincial administration will announce the detailed program soon.

Khmer New Year celebrations - photo by Sam Sith

The three days of the traditional Khmer New Year

Other names for Khmer New Year include Chol Chnam Thmey and Angkor Songkran. Whatever you call it, you can expect a lively atmosphere and cheerful celebrations to take over the whole of Cambodia – including here in Siem Reap – as the country sees in the traditional new year. Khmer New Year celebrations place over three days, and each day of the festivities has particular significance.

Day one – Moha Songkran

Day one of the Khmer New Year celebrations is known as Moha Songkran, when traditional beliefs hold that a new god or angel takes responsibility for protecting the world in the coming year. Cambodians welcome this new god or angel, and set the stage for the new year to begin auspiciously, by cleaning and decorating their homes.

It’s common for Cambodian Buddhist families to visit their local temple to make merit at this time. Back home, they also put out a table of offerings such as fruits, cake, and special festival-worthy Khmer dishes. This offering table is also often decorated with incense sticks, flowers, and chains of flashing lights that are traditionally believed to hold the power to protect the house and its occupants over the coming 12 months.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter

Day two – Virak Wanabat

On the second day of Khmer New Year, known as Virak Wanabat, Cambodians remember others and do good deeds, particularly by offering gifts to one another, including to parents, grandparents, the elderly, children, and the less fortunate, as well as by visiting the local temple to receive blessings from monks and to remember ancestors. The hope is that performing these good deeds will set individuals up for good fortune themselves in the year to come.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Mt.Nind

Day three – Tanai Loeng Sak

By day three of Khmer New Year, it’s time for the focus to really turn to the new year itself. Tanai Loeng Sak, the name given to the third and final day of the festivities, is all about new beginnings. The occasion is marked by making more offerings to elders, and by returning to the local temple to bathe Buddha images and receive further blessings from monks.

The last day of Khmer New Year is also when the water pistols come out and things take on a livelier, more fun atmosphere. Don’t expect anything quite on the same scale as the raucousness of celebrations in Thailand and elsewhere, but it’s common for Cambodians – especially young people – to take to the streets for light-hearted water fights and the chance to really ring in the new year in a fun and festive way.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

What to know about Khmer New Year in Siem Reap

There are few better places in Cambodia to celebrate Khmer New Year than Siem Reap. This already atmospheric and fun-loving town acquires extra festive energy for celebrations at this time of year. As well as the water fights you’re likely to witness (and join in with!) on the last day of Khmer New Year, Cambodians also like to roll-out traditional, light-hearted ball games and tug-of-war variants – passed down through generations – as a way to mark the occasion. And this wouldn’t be Cambodia without those games being accompanied by plenty of traditional Khmer singing and dancing.

That said, Cambodia remains a traditional agrarian society and, for vast swathes of the population, the Khmer New Year holiday marks the end of an exhausting farming season. It’s a chance to rest, recuperate, and spend time with loved ones. It’s common for Cambodians to live and work far from their families in the provinces where they grew up, and Khmer New Year gives them a rare opportunity to travel back to spend time with their family and friends – often for a week or more. That means it’s possible that your favourite coffee shop, bar or restaurant may be closed during the Khmer New Year period.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

How to celebrate Khmer New Year 2019 in Siem Reap

Street parties for Khmer New Year fun

The best way to enjoy the Khmer New Year festivities is to join in with them! Keep an eye out for spontaneous street parties around Pub Street, along the Siem Reap river, and in the Royal Gardens – and then head along and partake in the fun. Expect the likes of live concerts, fireworks, and plenty of delicious Cambodian food and drink to tuck into.

Angkor Wat’s Angkor Sangkranta Festival

The annual Angkor Sangkranta Festival is a highlight of the Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap. The festival takes place around Angkor Wat and elsewhere in the wider Angkor Archaeological Park, putting on traditional games, Cambodian martial arts, music, dancing, and plenty of the best Khmer street food you’ll find. Just be prepared to be part of a huge crowd from across the country looking to get involved!

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

Head to the local temple

There’s no better way to get a close-up on the traditional side to the Khmer New Year festivities – which arguably remains more accessible in Cambodia than in neighbouring countries like Thailand – than by simply taking a walk to the closest temple to your hotel in Siem Reap. Local temples and pagodas are always happy to welcome inquisitive visitors, and you’ll get a real feel for the day-by-day significance of the holiday to the Cambodian people.

Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Hotels in Siem Reap for Khmer New Year

Khmer New Year is a busy time in Siem Reap – attracting Cambodians from elsewhere around the country as well as foreign visitors – and it’s common for hotels and guest houses to be fully booked well ahead of time. Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is perfectly placed to allow you to conveniently explore all the goings-on of Khmer New Year across Siem Reap, quickly reach the famous Angkor Wat temples, and enjoy seclusion when you want to just hide away and relax for a while.

Our 25 rooms cover every style of travel, from luxurious premium accommodations to affordable budget stays – all benefit from free breakfast (including vegetarian and vegan options, of course!), use of our gorgeous saltwater swimming pool, and access to our spa, breezy rooftop spaces, in-house yoga classes, and funky tropical restaurant, bar and garden, plus free airport pickup. Book direct with us for the best rates and perks every time – guaranteed.

Khmer New Year promotions at Baby Elephant

To help you celebrate Khmer New Year 2020 in style at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel, we’re putting on an array of special promotions and deals for the festive season.

Our premium rooms have an additional 15% off our already extremely competitive online rates, all of which include daily à la carte breakfast, airport pickup, and a range of other perks. Our rates for direct booking already incorporate this 15% discount, and when you book direct with us you’ll also get a special welcome gift on arrival!

We’re also making it easier and more affordable than ever to have a great time by (or in!) our beautiful saltwater pool this Khmer New Year – enjoy two-for-one cocktails, spirits and mocktails during an extended happy hour from 12pm every day during Khmer New Year (usually 5-7pm daily), plus our deliciously refreshing house sangria for just $2 per glass all day long!

How will you be celebrating Khmer New Year in Siem Reap? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by Sam Sith; Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter; Mt.Nind; Narin BI

COVID-19 – Our notice to guests

Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel Siem Reap

In the current climate of uncertainty surrounding travel, we want to let you know on behalf of the team at Baby Elephant that our guest and team wellbeing and safety is our utmost priority, now and always.

Continue reading

Why Is Allergen-Friendly Cooking a Great Skill to Learn

Cooking class

Cooking, eating out, and even shopping for ingredients has vastly changed over the years. We have learned a lot about food allergies and how careful we must be when preparing food for others, or eating food prepared by someone other than ourselves. 

This has created a whole new world within food planning and preparation. This is even more important when eating out as those with food allergies have to be very trusting of the restaurant they choose. 


One of the top ways to get restaurant staff and home cooks better accustomed to carefully selecting ingredients and preparing safe meals for everyone is learning about allergen-friendly foods in general. Even a cooking class Siem Reap offers can assist us in better understanding how to safely prepare food while learning how ingredients pair with one another for flavorful recipe creations.

What is allergen-friendly cooking?

The key to proper allergen-friendly cooking is to understand what the top food allergies are and what ingredients can be used as substitutes for conventional ingredients. This actually allows someone to make dishes that can match original recipes in terms of flavor and taste.

A cooking class Siem Reap restaurants offer is a great way to learn how ingredients complement each other to achieve certain food textures, flavor, and taste. It also gives you a better knowledge base when it comes to choosing substitute ingredients and changing menu options to offer dishes that are safe for everyone in general.

Such a class also allows you to learn different cooking ideas and techniques, so you can make ingredient adjustments when necessary. This not only helps you become well-versed when it comes to cooking, but also helps ensure satisfaction for any customer, whether they are gluten-intolerant, or have a nut allergy.

What are the major food allergies?

The top food allergies that seem to garner the most attention are those which are caused by sea animals such as shellfish and crustaceans, and land animals such as chicken’s eggs and cow’s milk. These allergies come in various forms, such as difficulty in breathing, swelling of the tongue, mouth or face, vomiting, low blood pressure, rashes, hives, and diarrhea.

There are also allergies that can be caused by foods, such as nuts, berries, and soy. That is why you should always be careful about the food you prepare and learn how to eat around such items.

Avoiding the use of ingredients that can cause allergies when cooking food can literally be a lifesaver. Though some people have minor reactions, there are plenty of those whose food allergies can be life-threatening.

How can you plan a menu for people with food allergies?

The top way to plan a menu to address the concerns of patrons with food allergies is to have yourself properly trained. On your trip to Cambodia, you may be able to find a place that offers a cooking class Siem Reap. This gives you the knowledge and skills you need to determine safe ingredients and create dishes that satisfy the needs of those who simply must avoid certain foods for their well-being and overall health.

You can also create a menu that offers a wide assortment of items for those with and without food allergies. You should be very open to suggestions and allow the use of substitutes for traditional food ingredients to maintain allergen-free cooking and better protect those who eat the food you make.

Eating at restaurants serving plant-based meals, such as Baby Elephant, is a good way to avoid food allergies

Nutritious meals

Because food allergies and intolerance are so better understood these days, more and more people with these conditions have become more confident to dine out at restaurants offering allergen-friendly foods, such as Baby Elephant. With professional menu printing, we make sure to use proper menu listings, including notations for people having food allergies. 



This content is brought to you by the vegan marketers at ardorseo.com/.

Animal-friendly Cambodian establishments: Everything you should know

According to PetSecure’s A Guide to Worldwide Pet Ownership, the number of domesticated animals has grown along with the explosion of the human population. Dogs happen to be the most beloved pet, which leaves little surprise as to the increase of dog clothing designers and retailers.

In Asian countries, animals are a prevalent part of their rich culture, religions, and folklore. For example, the Chinese use animals as their zodiac signs, as well as in kung fu styles. The Japanese also believe that some animals are sacred and have built statues and shrines for them. And while Arab-Islams aren’t fond of dogs, cats are extremely revered in their religion.

If you’re an animal lover, visiting Asian countries will surely delight you. Aside from the culture, the biodiversity of Asia is prolific. It is home to thousands of animal species, some of which are endemic to the region. Domestic animals like dogs and cats are also found everywhere on this continent so you’ll definitely have a good time with them.

 

Is Cambodia animal-friendly?

 

Dogs and cats are treated like family members. A lot of households in Cambodia, particularly in the provinces, keep domestic animals.

Unfortunately, animal welfare in Cambodia is still in its infancy. According to Animal Rescue Cambodia, there are no animal welfare laws, which allows animal abuse in the country. Animals in Cambodia are perceived as a nuisance, food, or property. In fact, Cambodia harvests dog meat for food and is even sold at restaurants and eateries. 

And while there are kind-hearted people like the ones at Animal-Mama Veterinary Hospital who look after animals, a lot of people are unable to do so. Most of them lack the resources to feed and care for animals. So even though many dogs and cats are fortunate enough to have a warm place to sleep and food to eat, many street animals in Cambodia must depend on clinics and organizations to care for them.

You’ll see and feel how animal-friendly the country is based on how these animals are widely accepted in various establishments. Due to the lack of green spaces in Phnom Penh, for instance, many restaurants, bars, and cafes are opening their doors to well-behaved animals. They’re also generally accepted in public spaces and rentals. 

The infrastructure needed to take care of animals is not a problem either, especially in big cities. There are plenty of clinics available, including the Animal-Mama that offers personalized pet services to all animal lovers and caretakers in Cambodia. 

The local community is also invested in pet care, organizing pagoda runs to help raise funds to take care of animals in need for free. Cambodia might not have solid animal welfare laws as of now, but the people are making sure they’re going to get there.

 

Should you take your companion animals everywhere?

 

It’s nice to include your animal friends in your daily activities like any other family member.  However, the rule of thumb when taking animals to public spaces is to pay attention to their behavior. If they feel uncomfortable and anxious, then maybe it’s time to head home. Otherwise, it’s perfectly fine to take them with you anywhere.

Take them to pet-friendly restaurants where other customers know the score and are welcoming of pet behavior. But do make sure that you look out for signs of discomfort from your animal. This will ensure that your furry friend is enjoying and other patrons are happy as well.

Stay in pet-friendly hotels or guesthouses but look after your animal responsibly. Pet-friendly doesn’t mean everything is acceptable. If the non-stop barking keeps you awake at night, the experience could be much worse for the people in the next room. 

There’s no harm in taking your animals with you wherever you want to go but only if your animal wants to. It also makes you considerate of other people as well, and it’s the best way to teach others to love animals. 

 

Are there animal-friendly establishments in Cambodia?

 

Plenty!

Given the animal culture in Cambodia, you won’t have a hard time finding an establishment that will readily accept animals. 

Baby Elephant – an ethically-run boutique hotel in Siem Reap, perfect for having a peaceful rest with your furry friend after traveling around Cambodia.

YK Art House – companion animals are very much welcome to accompany their humans who book in this guesthouse. 

Farm to Table – features a garden where your pet dog can relax while you dine. The restaurant also hosts monthly Doggy Days. 

Botanico Wine & Beer Garden – provides the perfect venue to bring your dog for lunch or dinner. Well-behaved animals are most welcome. 

Backyard Café – where small dogs are allowed inside the premises. No need to worry about leaving your furry friend unattended at home.

The list can go on and on. In Cambodia, there are plenty of places where your animal is most welcome. So why not take them with you on your outings? 


From the animal lovers at HP service, this article aims to promote animal-friendly spots in Cambodia. This is in collaboration with Vegan marketers at Ardor SEO.

Meet Baby Elephant’s new yoga teacher Rebeccah

Say hello to Baby Elephant’s brand new yoga teacher, Rebeccah Bartlett! After an extended break, regular yoga classes return at Baby Elephant on Wednesday 01 May, taught by yoga expert and experienced instructor Rebeccah of YOGA SPACE Siem Reap – and it’s more special, immersive and restorative than ever.

Join Rebeccah in our beautiful, breezy rooftop yoga space, looking out over the treetops that head towards mystical Angkor Wat, and with the perfect vantage point to catch the moonrise. Rebeccah teaches a fun, upbeat and approachable happy flow yoga class that’s suitable for all levels from total beginners to yogi experts, every Wednesday and Sunday at 5.45pm – 7pm. Classes cost $12 (please signup for a class with us ahead of time to avoid disappointment).

I did my first 200-hour yoga certification in 2006, and have been diving deep ever since. I love being a teacher, but I also always crave to learn more as a student. I spent a lot of time at Kriplau, an ashram in the USA, as well as at a few other schools. I’ve been working a lot on developing my understanding of Ayurveda (the sister science of yoga), anatomy, Kriya, and meditation.

I’ll be teaching…

Vinyasa, Kriya and Yin styles of yoga – all of these have a dynamic element to them, either in the physical or emotional bodies, which I love teaching. It’s so rewarding to see students have lightbulb moments that shift their direction and help them to feel like their more authentic selves. I like to infuse these shifts with elements of playfulness, which always helps to keep us flexible in our mind and body.

Before becoming a yoga teacher…

I was volunteering teaching health and hygiene in an impoverished school in Jaipur, India, and the students really needed to move. I had been taking some classes myself, and I decided to try to share what little bits I knew – and it was a blast! I took my first YTT directly after my volunteer time, and I have been teaching and returning to the school ever since.

If there’s one sentence that sums up my love for yoga, it’s this:

Love is love is love. It can look like many things but, when we flow, the path is open and all things are possible.

Yoga can be the perfect fit for travellers.

When you are traveling, you’re already a bit more open since you are pulled out of your usual routine – so sometimes there’s new space to explore not just beautiful scenery but also who we are. Touching base with yoga practice in sacred places around the globe can give this openness a new way of creating the adventure and taking it with you.

You’ll always remember that beautiful sunset and moonrise you saw from the yoga deck at Baby Elephant, overlooking the palm trees – and you’ll be able to carry that with you even when you’re in the downdog pose during an express lunch class on a winter day at home. Making memories and taking time to feel our bodies and breath is a way of preserving the adventures on a cellular level.

Come to my classes at Baby Elephant…

expecting a lot of fun and laughing! This BE Happy flow class in particular is an uber-approachable class for all levels, with a fun playlist to leave you feeling super-refreshed!

My plans for the future…

include expanding my retreat and training offerings. Right now I run Yogamour Global, and we have a lot of karma work spread through our retreats. I’d love to host more, and to connect more deeply with the type of adventurous people who are drawn towards service.

I am drawn to children…

and I believe strongly that we all need our formative years to be healthy and with safe space to grow. This is why I co-founded Yogamour Global, which provides clean water, free healthcare clinics and education, as well as some art and music training, for children living in marginalised areas in India, Myanmar, and Thailand.

Here’s why I love Siem Reap

Angkor Wat is amazing, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg here! Stay for the amazing community events and endless food, and you will be so satisfied you slowed down for this gem. There’s also so much art to see – be sure to check out the galleries!

5 things you didn’t know about Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Matthew Yglesias

Angkor Wat is just about everyone’s main reason for visiting Siem Reap – and we don’t blame them. This marvellous, spectacular complex of ancient Khmer temples is certainly worth the visit, and doubly worth waking up extra early for that sunrise tour. But there are plenty of facts that those who stroll around Angkor Wat’s wonders are blissfully unaware of. Read on for the insider knowledge to help you make a more enlightened visit to Siem Reap’s infamous temples, and get so much more from it as a result.

Planning to stay with us at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel? The secret when booking is to book direct! Book your stay at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel direct on our website and enjoy:

  • The best deals on tours and transport
  • Savings on extra services
  • The best prices on room rates

We look forward to seeing you soon! Or kun cheran.

Ta Phrom temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Steve Cornish

There’s a stegosaurus carving at Ta Phrom – or is there?

One thing you might not know about the Angkor Wat complex’s famous Ta Phrom temple – known for the vast tree roots that ensnare it, and its appearance in the Tomb Raider film – is that it features a carving many believe depicts a stegosaurus dinosaur. Science generally holds that the stegosaurus and other dinosaurs existed the Late Jurassic period, some 150 to 150 million years ago, and that they became extinct at least 65 million years ago.

However, some suggest that the apparent depiction of a stegosaurus at Ta Phrom is an indication that humans and dinosaurs lived together around the time of the temple’s construction in the late 12th century.

Take of it what you will: cynics believe the carving is at best a depiction of a boar or rhino than a dinosaur – noting in particular that what are often referred to as spike-like plates on the so-called dinosaurs back may well just be a leaf-design background to the image – or, more likely, that it is a far more recently created hoax.

Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by quiquefepe

There’s a whole medieval city beneath the Angkor Wat complex

Research published by Siem Reap-based writer Lara Dunston for The Guardian in 2016 revealed the archaeological discovery of multiple previously hidden medieval cities beneath the ground close to Angkor Wat.

Groundbreaking laser-based Lidar technology was first used to survey the ground beneath Angkor in 2012, resulting in the discovery of the city of Mahendraparvata, founded by Khmer King Jayavarman II more than 300 years before Angkor Wat rose to prominence.

But work in 2016 by Australian archaeologist Dr Damian Evans showed that this was in fact only part of Mahendrapravata, identifying multiple other cities between 900 and 1,400 years old beneath the tropical forest floor, believed to big enough to rival the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. That’s a thought to behold as you wander through the temples on your sunrise tour! 

Angkor Wat’s three tiers have specific meanings

Angkor Wat is distinctively designed to incorporate three tiered galleries, but what you may not know is that this was a deliberate design choice intended to evoke spiritual meaning, dedicated to Brahma, the moon, and Vishnu.

The temple’s design is intended to represent the mythological home of the Hindu deities, Mount Meru, considered the centre of the universe.

Monks at Angkor Wat - photo by Ken Shirakawa

Even today, there are active temples around Angkor Wat

While for most visitors Angkor Wat appears purely as a historical monument – one that’s undoubtedly a stunning sight to behold, but is perhaps past its prime – what many don’t realise is that the temple, along with the complex’s Bayon temple at Angkor Thom, and other smaller pagodas nearby, remains in active use for religious worship.

This is especially true during major religious holidays, when the temples continue to attract Cambodian Buddhists in large numbers in spite of the Hindu-style relief work (and even though Hindu temples are not normally used for religious congregation as such).

Angkor Wat faces west where the region’s other temples face east

While most temples in the region face east, including others from the Khmer empire, Angkor Wat stands out as facing in a westerly direction. There is disagreement among historians as to the cause of this, but Angkor Wat was dedicated to the Hindu deity Vishnu, rather than to Shiva or indeed to a Cambodian ruler.

According to Hindu beliefs, Vishnu is the supreme deity in front of whom all others sit; since other Hindu deities are believed to sit facing east, this leaves Vishnu facing west, hence that is also the direction in which structures dedicated to Vishnu are designed to face.

Some also believe that, since the easterly direction is typically associated with death in Hindu culture, Angkor Wat may initially have been intended as a tomb – possibly for King Suryavarman II, who ordered its construction. In addition, the counter-clockwise orientation of bas reliefs at Angkor Wat is interpreted by some to mean that the temple was associated with funeral rituals, though others disagree. Whatever the reason, its westerly facing position makes Angkor Wat the perfect spot to catch an unforgettable sunset.

Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Where to stay in Siem Reap

Looking for a Siem Reap hotel from which to explore all that Siem Reap has to offer, while also being within easy reach of the famous Angkor Wat temples? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast and use of our gorgeous swimming pool.

Do you know any offbeat facts about Angkor Wat or the surrounding temples in Siem Reap? Let us know – leave us a comment below!

Photos by Matthew Yglesias; Steve Cornish; quiquefepe; Ken Shirakawa.

What to do in Siem Reap during the green season

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

Siem Reap’s green season sees the relentless heat give way to welcome rain, and the whole of temple town takes on a luscious shade of verdant.
The rain can bring challenges, as the city’s notoriously dusty streets give way to puddles – but it’s a wonderful time to observe our little city in the midst of change, and often an altogether more comfortable period to take in the sights.

That’s not to mention the fact that the crowds are fewer, and prices at many spots around Siem Reap drop as a result. There’s plenty to see and do at this time of year – here’s a round-up of the green season attractions you’ll want to squeeze into your visit to Siem Reap.

Full Frontal art gallery in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Full Frontal

Take in an exhibition at Siem Reap’s art galleries

Siem Reap has a blossoming art and culture scene that’s continually on the rise, with numerous new openings having hit temple town in the past few years.

The likes of One Eleven, the McDermott Gallery, Theam’s House, Full Frontal and The 1961 display wide-ranging collections that span everything from modern art by local talent to surreal images of Cambodia’s infamous temples by renowned international names.

Even better? A number of Siem Reap art galleries embrace the frankly ingenious concept of an in-house bar, making them the perfect places to skip the rain, soak up some culture, and settle in for an evening of cocktails and enriching conversation.

Read more: see our full post on the best art galleries in Siem Reap

Kandal Village in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

Pick up souvenirs at the best Siem Reap boutiques

What better way to pass the time on a rainy day during Siem Reap’s green season than to indulge in some retail therapy? Our little town has a great shopping scene, making it the perfect place to pick up inimitable souvenirs of your time in Cambodia.

The choices are just about endless: you could pick up something homemade or quirky from the boutiques of Kandal Village – perhaps some of Saarti’s fragrant candles, natural skin products, or bright and cheerful fabrics, or a slice of Cambodian kitsch from the Trunkh concept store.

Alternatively, you might be tempted by an arty souvenir from the Theam’s House living gallery, or by a bottle of the sombai infused Cambodian rice spirit that’s popular as a tipple to take home.

Sister Srey Café in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Sister Srey Café

Savour a brew at our favourite Siem Reap coffee shops

Siem Reap’s bounty of cafés and coffee shops are a big draw – in recent years, the town has developed a café scene that’s centred on a real love of excellent-quality coffee served by engaged and expertly trained baristas.

Whether you opt for the comfort of air-con interiors or the atmospheric people-watching potential of a seat outdoors (infinitely more comfortable in the immediate aftermath of one of the green season’s very welcome downpours), there are certainly worse ways to while away a lazy afternoon than by cosying up with a delicious hot coffee and a book (and, go on, perhaps a slice of cake, too) in one of Siem Reap’s many coffee shops.

Read more: see our full post on the best Siem Reap coffee shops

Phare Cambodian Circus in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

See an impressive, emotionally charged circus performance

There’s no getting away from it: we simply love Phare the Cambodian Circus. This responsibly managed social enterprise combines dance, theatre, live music and acrobatics to tell traditional and modern tales about Cambodian history and culture. The circus’ work supports a school and professional arts training centre in Battambang, as well as providing opportunities for its performers from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Above all else, an evening at Phare the Cambodian Circus is always one to remember – and, under the shelter of the big top, you’re also safe from the rain!

Read more: Phare is one of our Siem Reap bucket list items – take a look at the others

Long's Bar in Siem Reap - photo by Long's Bar

Watch the world go by over cocktails and cold beers

When all else fails, retreating to the bar is never a bad option! Thankfully, Siem Reap has a smorgasbord of unique, atmospheric drinking holes where it’s well worth spending an evening. In fact, we would go so far as to say a leisurely Siem Reap bar crawl of these winning spots is almost an essential component of a trip to temple town.

From Asana – a bar set in downtown Siem Reap’s only remaining traditional wooden house, also offering innovative cocktail classes – to air-conditioned Long’s Bar, retro Shanghai-style Miss Wong, and Le Tiem Sra in Baby Elephant’s own local neighbourhood, there’s enough variety in Siem Reap’s bars to keep you entertained and amused while also ensuring you’re sheltered from any inclement weather during green season.

Read more: see our full post on the best bars in Siem Reap

Beef lok lak at New Leaf café in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

Taste top Cambodian cuisine and international favourites

There’s little denying that Cambodian cuisine is massively overlooked in favour of that of regional neighbours like Thailand and Vietnam, but it’s complex and exciting in its own unique way – and Siem Reap is home to no end of fabulous restaurants serving excellent Khmer food. All the way from high-end tasting menus of traditional Cambodian recipes given modern twists, to comforting home-style cooking, and simple but satisfying street food classics, there’s plenty to chow down on during your time in Siem Reap.

Taking yourself on a gastronomic discovery is a great way to wait out a storm while also giving yourself a break from the often frantic pace of sightseeing – and if you need a break from local fare, temple town is also home to a wealth of top-quality international restaurants serving dishes from just about everywhere on earth.

Read more: see our full post on the best Cambodian restaurants in Siem Reap

Cambodian Tastes Khmer cooking classes at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

Learn to master delicious local dishes – and cocktails

Why stop at just eating and drinking? Participating in one of the many cooking classes in Siem Reap means you’ll be able to take home a deeper understanding of Khmer cuisine, and be able to recreate all your favourite dishes long after your trip is over.

At Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel, our very own five-star head chef Hoyha leads guests through a culinary education during our Cambodian Tastes cooking classes. Shop for fresh ingredients at a traditional local morning market, before preparing a full three-course Cambodian meal in our verdant tropical garden (or, in case of rain, under our sheltered gazebo or in our hotel kitchen!) – and then, of course, tuck into the delicious fruits of your labour for lunch.

Asana – a charming, atmospheric bar set in downtown Siem Reap’s only remaining traditional Cambodian wooden house – also offers innovative cocktail-making classes in which you can learn how to whip up potent, flavoursome concoctions that showcase unique local ingredients.

Read more: discover Baby Elephant’s Cambodian Tastes Khmer cooking classes

Take in a Hollywood or Asian flick at Siem Reap’s cinema

Few visitors to Siem Reap expect this bustling yet overwhelmingly small, almost rural-feeling city to have its own cinema – but it does! The Platinum Cineplex shows a variety of Hollywood flicks, as well as movies from homegrown Cambodian talent and from elsewhere across Asia. Chilling out with a film and a bucket of popcorn is an ideal way to beat the Siem Reap heat at the best of times, but it’s equally well suited to hiding out from the rain.

Tonle Sap lake near Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

Float on the mesmerising Tonle Sap lake

While you might not want to be caught out in the middle of a downpour, the wider green season is the time when the water levels of Tonle Sap – the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia, and long since one of Cambodia’s most vital food sources – are at their highest.

This not only renders excursions to Tonle Sap logistically more practical, since navigation by boat through the lake’s numerous floating villages becomes much easier, but it also makes the lake an infinitely more impressive sight to behold.

Angkor Wat sunrise in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by dia_n

Visit the temples and all the other places you would normally

We wouldn’t want you to think that visiting Siem Reap during the green season means temple tours are off the cards – far from it!

While you might want to pack an umbrella, the green season leaves the infamous temples at and around Angkor Wat dressed in splendid, ultra-photogenic verdant mosses – and it’s just as good a time to visit these and the whole host of popular cultural and historical attractions Siem Reap is known for.

What’s more, temperatures are more bearable, prices at many attractions and hotels drop due to reduced visitor numbers, and the crowds are thinner – meaning you can have more of the temples to yourself, and truly soak up the serene, zen vibe that is a big part of the attraction for many visitors.

Read more: see our full post on our Siem Reap bucket list

Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Where to stay in Siem Reap

Looking for a Siem Reap hotel from which to explore the best of Siem Reap come rain or shine, while also being within easy reach of the famous Angkor Wat temples? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast and use of our gorgeous swimming pool.

Have you visited Siem Reap in green season? What are your favourite attractions during this period? Let us know which spots we should include on our list – leave us a comment below!

Photos by Full Frontal, Chris Wotton, Sister Srey Café, Long’s Bar, dia_n.

How to celebrate Khmer New Year in Siem Reap in 2017

Khmer New Year celebrations - photo by Sam Sith

The streets of Siem Reap are about to buzz with even more activity than usual – Khmer New Year is on the way! Based on the lunar cycle, this year the holiday falls on Friday 14, Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 April, and it’s the perfect time to see temple town at the height of its festivities.

Planning to stay with us at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel? The secret when booking is to book direct! Book your stay at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel direct on our website and enjoy:

  • The best deals on tours and transport
  • Savings on extra services
  • The best prices on room rates

We look forward to seeing you soon! Or kun cheran.

Khmer New Year celebrations - photo by Sam Sith

Right across Cambodia, you can expect a lively atmosphere with cheerful celebrations, as Cambodians see in the traditional new year with fervour. Wondering how and where to celebrate in Siem Reap? We’ve got all the details.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter

The three days of the traditional Khmer New Year

Celebrations during Khmer New Year, also variously known as Chol Chnam Thmey and Angkor Songkran, take place across three days, each of which has particular significance.

On the first day, known as Moha Songkran, it is believed that a new god or angel is appointed to protect the world for the year ahead. As a way of rolling out the red carpet and ensuring that the new year doesn’t get off to an inauspicious start, Cambodians clean and decorate their houses (and themselves).

As well as getting a good scrubbing, homes play host to an offering table of fruits, cake, and other special Khmer dishes that are only rolled out for festivals and celebrations, plus incense sticks decorated with flowers, and chains of flashing lights designed to protect the house and family in the coming year. Families will also commonly visit their local temple to make merit and pray.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Mt.Nind

Khmer New Year’s second day is called Virak Wanabat, and revolves around offering gifts to parents, grandparents, the elderly, children, and the less fortunate. It’s a time of recognising pothers and doing good deeds in the hope of good fortune in the year to come. There’s also more praying at local temples, culminating in blessings being given by monks, and a service to remember ancestors.

Tanai Loeng Sak, the third and final day of the Khmer New Year celebrations, is all about new beginnings. The new year is finally here and, after more offerings to elders, more prayers and blessings at the local temple, and some symbolic bathing of Buddha images, it’s time for some good old-fashioned fun. Though not on quite the same frenetic scale as neighbours like Thailand, Cambodians – especially younger generations – take to the streets for some light-hearted water fights.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

How to celebrate Khmer New Year in Siem Reap

Expect a festive atmosphere in Siem Reap during the Khmer New Year holiday. For many Cambodians, it marks the end of the hard slog of the agricultural harvesting season, and is a chance to rest, recuperate, and spend time with family and friends. Those who work far from their families in other provinces will commonly return home for as long as they can – often for as much as a week to 10 days. (Be warned: some of your favourite Siem Reap coffee shops, bars and restaurants may be closed for part or all of the Khmer New Year period!)

In a marked difference from the Songkran celebrations in Thailand and elsewhere, Cambodians put on plenty of light-hearted games to mark the occasion. These might include traditional ball games passed down through generations, and the likes of tug-of-war, plus plenty of Cambodian singing and dancing.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

Join a Khmer New Year street party

Siem Reap frequently sees street parties in the Pub Street area, along the riverside, and in the Royal Gardens, with live concerts, fireworks, and of course plenty to eat and drink.

Head to the Angkor Sangkranta Festival

At the Angkor Archaeological Park, including around Angkor Wat, the huge Angkor Sangkranta festival draws crowds of locals, expats and tourists from across the country to take part in traditional games, Khmer martial arts, music, dancing, and of course lots more street food.

Visit a local Buddhist pagoda

For a glimpse of the traditional Buddhist ceremonies that take place on each of the three days of Khmer New Year, local temples and pagodas welcome curious visitors.

Khmer New Year celebrations in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Narin BI

Discover traditional Khmer games at Baby Elephant

At Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel, on Saturday 15 April from 2pm we’ll be putting on an array of traditional Cambodian games for all the family to join in and celebrate Khmer New Year. Our friendly team are ready to share some Khmer cultural insights with you and teach you to play a number of games, including Bom Teak Dak Dob, Chis Kong Yeat, Sae Pom, and Bos Bol. If those names don’t mean much right now, come along and discover them for yourself!

Click here for all the details about our Khmer New Year games day.

Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Where to stay in Siem Reap

Looking for a Siem Reap hotel from which to explore all the goings-on of Khmer New Year, while also being within easy reach of the famous Angkor Wat temples? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast (including vegan options, of course!) and use of our gorgeous swimming pool.

What will you be doing to celebrate Khmer New Year in Siem Reap? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by Sam Sith; Cambodia4kids.org Beth Kanter; Mt.Nind; Narin BI

The spiritual heart of Siem Reap

Yoga at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Whether it’s the rich religious history of the famous Angkor Wat temple complex, the peaceful countryside vibe of Siem Reap, or the vibrant yoga and healing scene in our little town, there’s little denying that there’s a positive spiritual buzz around here.

Planning to stay with us at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel? The secret when booking is to book direct! Book your stay at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel direct on our website and enjoy:

  • The best deals on tours and transport
  • Savings on extra services
  • The best prices on room rates

We look forward to seeing you soon! Or kun cheran.

Temple in Siem Reap - photo by Danielle C

If you could use a little calm and a touch more zen in your busy modern life (who couldn’t!?), here’s how to use your stay at Baby Elephant to tap into Siem Reap’s spiritual heart. 

Take a yoga class

Yoga somehow feels like it belongs at Siem Reap, and our little town has no shortage of places to get your pose on, stretch yourself to wellness, and reap the spiritual benefits of mindfulness in the process.

At our Siem Reap hotel, we run a regular schedule of yoga and fitness classes, open to both guests and non-guests, and led by a stellar line-up of travelling and Siem Reap-resident yogis with vast experience from wide-ranging backgrounds. Take a look at our current yoga and fitness schedule here.

Feel the spiritual buzz at Angkor Wat

There’s a reason most visitors to Siem Reap are in town for Angkor Wat – the temples at this expansive, UNESCO-recognised complex are still alive with the spiritual and religious wisdom of the past, and you can truly feel the buzz of this fascinating ancient civilisation.

Angkor Wat, like other ancient sites around the word, is even said to lay along intersecting ‘ley line’ points that form a grid across the globe. These lines apparently mark out where energy is emitted by the earth, which in turn can be harnessed for positive power.

Take a trip to Angkor Wat, Bayon, Ta Phrom and other famous and lesser-visited temples at Cambodia’s renowned complex – our team can help you tailor your excursion to avoid the crowds, so that you can make the most of the ambiance and spiritual energy, and really soak up the vibe of the place.

Experience a retreat

With all this positive, spiritual energy flying around Siem Reap, it’s the perfect place to take a retreat, and recharge your batteries by escaping the stresses and strains of everyday modern life.

At Baby Elephant, we’ve introduced our Signature Retreats, focussed on helping you achieve wellbeing and balance while exploring Siem Reap’s medieval and modern history and getting a special taste of the Cambodia of today.

You’ll participate in yoga, fitness and meditation classes, enjoy traditional Khmer massage, and be treated to authentically Khmer dishes prepared by our Cambodian chef.

There’s also a visit to one of Siem Reap’s NGO-operated training restaurants for dinner, plus local tours and a trip to the historic Cambodian pagoda at nearby Wat Thmey. It’s all the perfect opportunity to unwind and recharge – click here for more details.

Participate in a water blessing

You don’t get much more spiritual than taking part in an actual religious blessing and, at Siem Reap’s Wat Athvea temple, that’s exactly what you can do. Just a short way out of the city and into the Cambodian countryside, the pagoda hosts the traditional Buddhist practice of receiving a water blessing with the aim of bringing you fortune and good luck.

Accompanied by traditional Buddhist chanting that’s believed to bring good luck, you’ll have water poured over you by monks from the temple. You can then explore the rest of the pagoda in all its beauty, and soak up the natural healing vibe of rural Cambodia.

Learn the art of the lotus flower

The lotus flower holds a special place in daily life in rural Cambodia, and the flower is a traditional Buddhist symbol of determination and accomplishment, in the same way as the flower itself is seen to hold its head above the waters where it grows.

At Siem Reap’s lotus farm – which claims to be the first of its kind in the world – you can discover that there’s more to the humble lotus than you realised. By taking part in one of the farm’s guided tours, you’ll see every step of the lotus’ journey, from harvesting these beautiful flowers to seeing them spun, woven and put to use as fabric or simply as decorative flowers.

It’s difficult not to be mesmerised by the striking beauty and relaxing qualities of this most elegant of flowers – and it’s possible to take home a memento from this sustainably run social enterprise, where the shop sells lotus products ranging from bath salts and balms to fabric, massage oil and necklaces.

Lotus Farm; daily, 10am-6pm; 98 Pithnu Street; 063 63 69 133; www.lotusfarm.org

Discover meditation and energy healing

Various healing and spiritual wellness centres in Siem Reap help to demystify the art of meditation, and enable you to make the most of it in order to achieve balance and fulfilment in your life.

Spiritual wellness sessions involve both meditation and healing programmes that empower you on your own personal journey, channel your energies and balance your chakras, while also indulging in massage and reflexology to accomplish total wellness.

Wayist Centre; 66 Wayism Road; 077-804-814; www.wayist.com

Where to stay in Siem Reap

Looking for a Siem Reap hotel from which to best explore the spiritual buzz of Siem Reap? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – and we’ll be happy to help you arrange activities like these to get the most out of your stay – click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast and use of our gorgeous swimming pool.

Which are your favourite spiritual activities in Siem Reap? Do you have another favourite that we’ve forgotten? Let us know in the comments!

Photo by Danielle C.

Your Siem Reap bucket list: what to do in temple town

Angkor Wat sunrise in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by dia_n

The majestic temples of the Angkor Wat complex are what pull in most visitors to Siem Reap – but we all know there’s plenty more to see, do, eat and experience in Cambodia’s famous temple town!

Planning to stay with us at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel? The secret when booking is to book direct! Book your stay at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel direct on our website and enjoy:

  • The best deals on tours and transport
  • Savings on extra services
  • The best prices on room rates

We look forward to seeing you soon! Or kun cheran.

To help you make the most of your time with us, we’ve compiled this ultimate bucket list of activities to check off during your stay in Siem Reap. How many of these activities have you already done, and when will you be taking in the rest?

Angkor Wat sunrise in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by dia_n

1. Catch sunrise or sunset at the famous temples

There’s do denying the awe-inspiring beauty of Siem Reap’s Angkor-era temples, and they’re all the more special viewed through the lens of a beautiful sunrise or sunset. At Baby Elephant, we can hook you up with trusted drivers and guides to make your visit to Angkor Wat truly memorable.

2. Take a day tour with Ayana Journeys

We love likeminded, responsible travel companies like Ayana Journeys – and even better, their day trips are the business! Pick one of their numerous itineraries – tours cover everything from food and temples to local rural and urban lifestyles – and get real insight into a side of Siem Reap most visitors simply don’t see.

www.ayanajourneys.com

Kandal Village in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

3. Stroll through trendy, ethical Kandal Village

If we have a favourite corner of Siem Reap, it’s probably Kandal Village. Tucked away in the city’s French quarter, just a short hop from the Old Market, this ordinary-looking street-and-a-bit is hemmed in and around Hup Guan Street and boasts coffee shops, galleries, innovative boutiques, a spa – and even a hair salon! It’s the perfect spot to spend a few hours shopping for souvenirs, people-watching, and simply soaking up the vibe.

www.facebook.com/kandalvillage

Pages Café in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

4. Stop for a coffee

Speaking of coffee shops, Siem Reap has a thriving café scene, both in and away from Kandal Village. Our little city has award-winning baristas competing in national championships, enough cosy and trendily designed coffee hideaways to keep you high on caffeine for your entire trip, and a pride in its coffee, food and community that many much larger destinations can only aspire to. For more inspiration, take a look at our round-up of Siem Reap’s best cafés.

5. Cruise the slow boat to Battambang

When you’ve finally ticked off all these other bucket list items and the time comes around for you to leave Siem Reap, do it in style! The boat may not be the fastest or even the most comfortable way to get to Battambang (if that’s your ticket, we can sort you out with bus tickets, too!), but it’s sure the most memorable! Sit back and watch the countryside scenery pass you by as you float up the Sangker River, and then get ready for more adrenaline-fuelled action in Battambang itself – did someone say bamboo train!?

6. Ride a helicopter or hot air balloon over Angkor Wat

If there’s one way to make the most of your time at Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples, it’s to max out the views and take to the skies in either a helicopter or a hot air balloon. A helicopter ride offers all the thrill you would expect, while heading up in a hot air balloon generally affords you a smoother ride and makes it easier to take your snaps of the temples below. Either way, we can set you up with the experience of a lifetime.

Street food in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

7. Feast on Siem Reap’s street food scene

Cambodia’s street food may be less recognised internationally than that of neighbouring Thailand or Vietnam, but that’s not to say it’s not worth exploring. Alleys across the city are laden with delicious local specialities for you to tuck into – within only a minute or two on foot from Baby Elephant’s front door, you’ll find the likes of noodle soups and curry-laden rice noodles, while just slightly further afield you can expect to tuck into fresh spring rolls and more. Our team are happy to make recommendations as to where you might tuck into some truly local fare, or we can help arrange a street food tour to help foodies really make the most of their time in Siem Reap.

8. Indulge in high-end modern Cambodian cuisine

Siem Reap’s high-end dining scene is in its prime, and numerous restaurants let you explore the intricacies of Cambodian and Khmer cuisine. Two of our favourites are Malis, which serves up fabulous renditions of classic Cambodian dishes like beef saraman curry in regal surroundings, and French-run Cuisine Wat Damnak. At the latter, chef Joannès Rivière puts on a fortnightly changing tasting menu of innovative dishes that highlight unique, authentically Cambodian flavours and French culinary techniques.

Phare Cambodian Circus in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Chris Wotton

9. Be wowed at the circus

A trip to the circus might not be the first thing on your mind when you book a holiday in Siem Reap, but believe us when we say it’s a decision you won’t regret. Phare the Cambodian Circus is a responsibly managed social enterprise that runs nightly circus performances just outside the city centre – combining dance, theatre, live music and acrobatics to tell traditional and modern Cambodian tales. The circus’ work supports a school and professional arts training centre in Battambang, as well as providing opportunities for its performers from disadvantaged backgrounds. Oh, and their shows are truly amazing – with some of the performances almost guaranteed to make you well up!

www.pharecircus.org

Yoga at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia

10. Find your inner yogi

Yoga is booming in Siem Reap – whether you’re already a yogi or you’re looking to get into it for the first time, in between visits to Angkor Wat is the perfect time to squeeze in some practice. We have regular yoga classes right here at Baby Elephant, run by travelling and resident instructors with extensive experience – plus countless other fitness sessions, art classes and more, all enabling you to keep in shape and indulge your creative side too.

11. Let your hair down on Pub Street – or elsewhere

Pub Street in Siem Reap rightly has a reputation as a raucous destination for a night out – and, with beer and cocktails just about as cheap as water, if that’s what you’re in the mood for then it’s unlikely to disappoint. That said, it’s from all Siem Reap has to offer in the way of nightlife – our little city has all manner of bars to suit different tastes, and we’ve highlighted a few of our favourites here. Failing that, call us biased, but we reckon there are far worse ways to let your hair down than with a draught beer, a glass of wine or a cocktail while sat beside our gorgeous saltwater pool.

12. See Siem Reap from the back of a tuk-tuk

There’s perhaps no better way to see Siem Reap – and navigate its often chaotic traffic – than from the back of a tuk-tuk. Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride as one of our trusted drivers takes you for a whirl around the city, whether you have a destination in mind or are just along for the journey.

Local alley in Siem Reap, Cambodia - photo by Ilana Tulloch

13. Get lost!

Seriously. Siem Reap is a maze of little lanes (the one that’s home to Baby Elephant is particularly gorgeous), and the beauty is that you never quite know what might be lurking down the next one. If you really want a memorable experience, our advice is to take a wander without having any particular destination in mind – you might be surprised where you end up.

Where to stay in Siem Reap

Looking for a Siem Reap hotel at which to base yourself while you knock off every item from your Siem Reap bucket list? Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is waiting for you – click here to take a look at our relaxing rooms, all with free breakfast and use of our gorgeous swimming pool.

What’s your must-do in Siem Reap? Let us know in the comments!

Angkor Wat sunrise photo by dia_n; Siem Reap alley photo by Ilana Tulloch; yoga photo for Baby Elephant; all other photos by Chris Wotton.

Exploring Around Siem Reap Hotels – Brahman Cows

Explore around Angkor Wat and Siem Reap hotels, and you will likely see lots of gorgeous white cows. These are called Brahman cows. They’re actually a mix between four types of cattle from India and were originally bred in the United States.  Personally, I think they look like a mix between a lop-eared rabbit, a deer and a cow- so cute!

Planning to stay with us at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel? The secret when booking is to book direct! Book your stay at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel direct on our website and enjoy:

  • The best deals on tours and transport
  • Savings on extra services
  • The best prices on room rates

We look forward to seeing you soon! Or kun cheran.

Brahman cows around Siem Reap hotels
Baby Brahman cows while exploring around Siem Reap hotels.

The breed is known for its excellent quality of beef and also its ability to tolerate heat and thrive in hot climates. An oily skin and short coat makes them remarkably resistant to ticks and other biting insects- and as a result less susceptible to diseases. Perfect for the hot, swampy rural areas of Cambodia.

There are around 3.5 million Brahman cows in Cambodia, 70 percent are used for farming and the remainder for beef.

Brahman cows Cambodia
Explore around Siem Reap hotels – and discover Brahman cows!

Working Animals

Around Siem Reap hotels, it’s common to see one or two of these cows harnessed to a plough, tilling the fields.

Unlike a tractor, these animals can easily move through the marshy, muddy wet fields and not get stuck. Adult bulls weigh around  2000 pounds and cows 1400 pounds. The calves are small at birth, weighing 60 to 65 pounds.

Although appearing docile, be wary as they can give you a good kick and are very strong if you get too close.  Mothers can be extremely protective of their calves, so be cautious when they have babies around.

These cows have very long lives and it isn’t uncommon for them to live to 17 or 18 years old, and still be having calves at 15.

(If you want to explore around Siem Reap hotels by bicycle, have a read of my last post about biking around Siem Reap.)

Exploring Around Baby Elephant  and Siem Reap Hotels

An easy bike ride from the Baby Elephant hotel, up Night Market Road, you will discover verdant farmers fields and typical rural scenery – with lots of Brahman cows!

From Baby Elephant hotel, head down the dirt road and take a right onto the paved road. From here, merge onto the left hand fork (called Night Market Road). Ride on this road until you come to a main intersection. Carefully cross the intersection and the road again becomes red dirt.

Bike a few more kilometers up the road, until you see a pagoda on the left, turn left here and follow this dirt road all the way to the paved main road and the river. Turn left here, and loop back to Siem Reap on the paved main road. If you want less traffic, cross one of the walking bridges to the dirt track on the other side of the river, a bumpier ride – but far less traffic.

Brahman cows and Siem Reap hotels staff - a close connection.
Brahman cows are an integral part of life in Siem Reap Cambodia. Many of the Siem Reap hotels staff come from farming families.

Cows for Cambodia

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and many Cambodians earn less than $1US a day. Most families live in rural areas and are subsistence farmers, they rely on livestock and personal gardens to feed themselves.

Having a cow can be an asset in many ways – moving heavy loads, collecting water and tilling rice – not to mention the valuable meat an adult cow can provide a family. The average cost of a Brahman cow is $650US which means 80% of most Cambodian families can’t afford to buy one.

Recently, an interesting charity was created called Cows for Cambodia. This charity provides a pregnant cow to a family in need, allowing the family to keep the baby Brahman cow when it is born, returning the mother to the charity.

Of course, there is a strict requirement for the animals to be well cared for and the charity follows up regularly to ensure the health and well-being of the animals! A fantastic way to ensure these beautiful Brahman cows continue to be a valuable part of Cambodia’s rich cultural tapestry.

Biking Siem Reap – bicycling around the town and Angkor Wat

Biking Siem Reap, you can rent a bike for the day and explore Angkor Wat.
So, you’ve decided to venture out into the foray and take a bike ride around Siem Reap! Biking Siem Reap can be a thrilling experience – be careful, and enjoy yourself. Biking in Siem Reap offers tons of rewards, you get to explore off the beaten track places and slow down. Riding here is very different from many other places though.

Planning to stay with us at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel? The secret when booking is to book direct! Book your stay at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel direct on our website and enjoy:

  • The best deals on tours and transport
  • Savings on extra services
  • The best prices on room rates

We look forward to seeing you soon! Or kun cheran.

Biking Siem Reap, you can rent a bike for the day and explore Angkor Wat.

Here are a few insights from my bike riding experience that may help you ease into the swing of things. Be warned though, these are just my opinions and personal insights- you’ll have to figure it all out for yourself once you start biking! Be careful and pay attention to what is happening around you.

Three Tips to Biking in Siem Reap

Tip One – don’t stop the bicycle in the middle of traffic

Try not to stop while you’re biking Siem Reap! My western sensibilities had me halting like a deer in the headlights, which just about got me run over EVERY time I did it. At home, while biking, I’d usually stop, assess and then go when things a

re safe. In Siem Reap, people biking rarely stop unless at a red light. Keep going with the flow- observe the people ahead of you and follow their lead. Take it easy, and keep breathing! If you DO have to STOP, pull well OFF the road (onto a sidewalk for example) first.

Tip Two – Making a left turn on a bicycle

When turning left – people cut across traffic and take the left turn from the left side of the road. Just be careful of oncoming traffic taking a tight right turn on a blind corner. Seriously, you may never get to where you want to go if you don’t do this. Unless there is a large vehicle you can tailgate also making a left turn, you’ll have to find a gap and make your move. Remember – people rarely stop, so if you are stopped in the middle of an intersection on a bicycle waiting to turn left, you’ll end up like Wil E Coyote in a Roadrunner cartoon.

Tip Three – Look both directions while biking Siem Reap

Look BOTH WAYS – ALWAYS! In SE Asia, small traffic (and sometimes large!) often goes both ways down the road. If you are coming to an intersection, or even getting on your bike and pulling into traffic – look BOTH ways.
The White Bicycle organization, biking Siem Reap. You can rent White Bicycle bikes for $2 per day at Baby Elephant.

I bet about half the time I do, there is a bicycle, moped or tuktuk coming down the road the ‘wrong’ way. Be careful and double check every time! I was flattened by a moped in China when I didn’t do this – you’ve been warned!
Biking Siem Reap is a rewarding and exciting experience. You can even bike out to visit Angkor Wat – it can be hot and dusty though, so be prepared for lots of time in the sun and possibly rain.

Most hotels, including the Baby Elephant, offer guests bicycles to rent from the White Bicycle organization. It’s $2US and the money goes to charity. These are basic, one speed bicycles and are good enough to get around town on.

If you want a fancier ride, including multi-speed or mountain bikes, you can find lots of places around town. The nearest one is just around the corner down Psa Kroum Road– they also rent helmets for $1US a day.