How to spend 12 hours in Kandal Village and the Old French Quarter

The stunning Kandalis mural, commissioned by Tribe Gallery from Irish urban artist Fin DAC
The stunning Kandalis mural, commissioned by Tribe Gallery from Irish urban artist Fin DAC

Siem Reap may well be called a city, but in reality, it’s a compact town with clusters and intimate neighborhoods. Of these, quaint Kandal Village has filled up with new eateries, bars, cafés and boutiques, transforming into one of the trendiest nooks in Siem Reap. A trip through Kandal Village and the neighboring Old French Quarter makes for a satisfyingly compact experience of the city, and to show us around, we have local fashion designer Muoy Chorm, who owns Muoy Chorm Fashion Designer boutique on nearby Angkor Night Market Street — and who has gone from a childhood in a floating village to presenting his designs internationally.

9.30AM:  Fuel up at The Little Red Fox Espresso

With a long day ahead, a hearty breakfast and some of Siem Reap’s best coffee should be in the cards. As one of the first F&B outlets to kick-start the Kandal Village movement, The Little Red Fox has built a strong reputation for serving quality food and coffee, as well as supporting the local arts scene.“The Little Red Fox Espresso is a super-friendly space that has turned me into a regular customer,” says Muoy. 593 Hap Guan St; littleredfoxespresso.com

10.30 AM: Browse Kandal’s quirky boutiques

Kandal Village is known for modern art, handmade crafts, eco-friendly accessories and local goods. “Kandal is the perfect place for dipping into the culture of the city; and while you’re doing that, you can shop for some unique items,” says Muoy. Some picks: Louise Loubatieres for lacquer and ceramics; Saarti for beauty products; and Shop676 for clothing and accessories. louiseloubatieres.com; saarticambodia.com; fb.com/shop676

Noon: Have a feast at Crane

Hobnob with the hip and creative crowd at Crane. The relatively new establishment is the project of a group of filmmakers, artists and entrepreneurs looking to create an inspiring gathering space for like-minded innovators. Crane features raw, rustic interiors and serves up a range of local and Western food, coffee and fresh juices. “The place doubles up as an art gallery and fashion house — it’s a standout in the city,” says Muoy. Central Market St; cranecambodia.com

1:00PM: Get your art fix on the streets

“More and more people and venues are hosting events that support artists and the work they do,” says Muoy. Look for the stunning Kandalis mural, commissioned by Tribe Gallery from Irish urban artist Fin DAC, in the alley that leads from Hap Guan Street to Central Market Street; then sip on refreshing coconut juice, as offered by sisters Chat Sat and Soy, who have sold street snacks and drinks from the lane since 2014. For their bubbly but resolute and industrious spirit, the sisters have also earned themselves their own mural, in the same narrow alley. Cute!

2:00PM: Enjoy a stroll through the Royal Independence Gardens

Begin your exploration of the neighboring Old French Quarter with a stroll through the recently revamped Royal Crusade for Independence Gardens. The public space is home to a pagoda, shrines, a new tourist information center and hordes of bats (they’re harmless!). At dusk, it fills up with people exercising or simply enjoying the cooler evening temperatures with friends. “It’s a nice place to kick back for a bit, chit-chat under the shade of trees, play games and meet friends,” says Muoy.

3:00PM: Mingle with the younger generation at the Heritage Walk

At Siem Reap’s latest and largest shopping and entertainment mall, young Cambodians, families and travelers seek refuge from the bustling streets to window-shop and chat in air-conditioned spaces over iced coffee. The Heritage Walk, which spans more than 8,000m2, mixes the minimalist Khmer New Age architecture that defined the country’s Golden Age of the 1950s and ’60s with ancient Cambodian motifs. Inside the open-air enclave sits a smattering of coffee shops and restaurants, as well as some stores selling clothing, accessories and electrical items. Take in its intriguing design — sweeping walkways, open central spaces and minimalist décor — stop for a caffeine boost at Café Amazon and check out the latest clothing trends at Zando. National Rd 6; fb.com/theheritagewalksiemreap

4.30PM: Pamper yourself at Sokkhak Spa River Side

After a day of pounding Siem Reap’s streets, some relaxation might be essential to see you into the evening. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of options. Take a 10-minute walk along the tree-lined Siem Reap River to Sokkhak Spa River Side for a restful and revitalizing interlude. You can opt for a traditional Khmer massage: the technique features gentle stretching and applying pressure on the body’s energy meridian lines. Pokambor Ave; sokkhakspa-riverside.com

6:00PM: Dig into delicious local food at Chanrey Tree

Chanrey Tree is set in a traditional wooden Khmer house surrounded by a lush garden and with a view of the Siem Reap River. “Our local cuisine features a broad spectrum of flavors — you really shouldn’t leave without trying some of it. Chanrey Tree — a mix of modern and traditional, in the food and setting — happens to be a great spot for this,” says Muoy. Sample grilled frog stuffed with minced pork, sandai fish with green mango salad and pineapple fried rice. Pokambor Ave; chanreytree.com

7.30PM: Get into the groove at the Village Cafe

Round out the day back at Kandal Village’s Village Cafe. A visit to the venue serves up a triple whammy of a bar, restaurant and gallery space. It’s also become a hit with the after-dark crowd thanks to top-notch food, drinks and music. If live music isn’t taking over the venue, then you’ll likely find spoken word performances, poetry readings or local and international artists opening exhibitions in the upstairs Strangefruit & Jam Gallery. Finish off an action-packed 12 hours with a cocktail — or two — and great company. 584–586 Tep Vong St; fb.com/villagecafecambodia

. . .

Where to stay

  • The Hideout Hostel offers a lively vibe and attracts a mix of friendly, fun-seeking backpackers from across the globe. hideouthostels.asia/siem-reap
  • Siem Reap Pub Hostel is a stone’s throw from the main action on Pub Street (food and drinks galore) and it has an outdoor pool for guests to kick back and relax in. siemreap-pubhostel.com

. . .

More must-try foodie spots

Vibe

Catering to the #eatclean crowd, Vibe is a vegan restaurant that serves up a creative range of healthy dishes. vibecafeasia.com

Mammashop Siem Reap

Mammashop offers an authentic taste of Italian cuisine and hits the spot, especially if you’ve got a craving for pizza or homemade pasta. fb.com/mammashop.italian.restaurant

This article first appeared in the March 2019 issue of Smile magazine.

Written by

Marissa Carruthers

Photographed by

Jorge Rodriguez Santos

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