1. Go on a jungle walk
Anchored in the remote northern district of Varin — about a 2.5-hour drive from Siem Reap — is Changkran Roy Community Forest. The community-led ecotourism project allows people to learn about local life and culture. Villagers are on hand to take guests jungle trekking or cycling along nature trails. There’s also the option of a camping experience — enquire with the group on Facebook. fb.com/changkranroycbet
2. Refresh in waterfalls
Phnom Kulen, a sacred mountain range (about 50km from the city center), is home to a national park, ancient relics and two gushing waterfalls. The waterfalls are popular swimming spots with the locals. Seek out the River of a Thousand Lingas, a 150m-long river that has intricate, hand-carved sandstone beds that date back to the 11th century.
3. Learn about the silk trade
Skip picking up souvenirs at the market and head straight to the source. In Angkor Thom district, the Institute of Khmer Traditional Textiles specializes in weaving traditional Cambodian ikat silk. Visitors can spend the morning foraging with weavers for natural dyes in a nearby forest, before watching silk being woven by hand. Guests may also enquire about a forest homestay hosted on the village grounds. ikttearth.org
4. Explore the floating villages
The Tonle Sap lake is home to several floating villages, with Kompong Phluk and Kompong Khleang being two of the biggest. During the monsoon season, community-led boat trips take visitors past temples, houses and shops that bob on the water. Along the way, passengers can stop at restaurants and feast on freshly caught seafood.
. . .
How to explore the countryside: There’s been a trend toward tours focused on explorations of Siem Reap’s outskirts. Hire a local guide, who can help create a relaxing tour; book a bicycle trip and trek through the outlying districts; or kick things up a notch with quad-biking and dirt-biking adventures. Butterfly Tours (butterflytours.asia) runs bicycle trips; Ayana Journeys (ayanajourneys.com) organizes ethical, educational tours; and Kickstart Dirt Bike Adventures (kickstartcambodia.com) caters to adrenaline junkies.
Photo courtesy of Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles and NTFP-EP Cambodia
This article first appeared in the January 2019 issue of Smile magazine.