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Everyone from Lonely Planet to Condé Nast Traveler has referred to Siem Reap as ‘The Gateway to Angkor’. And while the moniker isn’t wrong – over 2 million annual visitors pass through Siem Reap city en route to angelic Angkor – it has become a spectacular destination in and of itself.

Here are 7 experiences beyond Angkor gay travellers shouldn’t overlook in Siem Reap.

7. Master the Wok at a Cambodian Cooking Class

While not as famous as Thai or Vietnamese cuisine, Cambodia has a sensational culinary history. It’s an agricultural country with an impressive range of fresh herbs and spices readily available.

Book a cooking class in Siem Reap that includes a live demonstration by a local chef who will explain said ingredients as well as traditional Khmer techniques. The demonstration is followed by the opportunity to braise, broil and sautée your own creation. Finally, with fingers still intact and burns freshly wrapped in gauze, you and your fellow sous chefs can sit down and enjoy your own handmade meal. Bon appétit!

Enjoy a Cambodian cooking class on a Tailor-Made Vacation with Out Adventures.

6. Cruise Tonlé Sap

Although we don’t feature it on our tours, Asia’s largest fresh water lake is only a short schlep from Siem Reap and a worthwhile side-trip if you have an extra day to spare. While the lake itself isn’t the prettiest, the UNESCO World Heritage stilted villages make great camera fodder. Please Note: Most boat tours simply cruise alongside the villages, observing them from afar. Don’t expect to disembark and explore on foot.

A young girl peeks into a classroom at a bright blue and yellow floating school on Tonlé Sap lake.
A young Cambodian girl peeks into a classroom on a floating village.

Enjoy a Cambodian cooking class on a Tailor-Made Vacation with Out Adventures.

5. Navigate Siem Reap by Rickshaw or Tuk Tuk

Turn a blind eye to traffic laws and hail a rickshaw for what will be a delightfully frightful ride through Siem Reap. These three-wheeled taxis (also known as Tuk Tuks) are a great way to conquer the city’s main sights and attractions.

Begin your day taking in central Siem Reap, rickshawing between major sites like the Royal Gardens, Psah Chas (Old Market) or Les Artisans d’Angkor. The latter being a brilliant social enterprise bringing jobs to rural areas and keeping ancient Khmer arts alive.

Note: On our Cambodia & Laos: Buddhist Sites & City Nights gay tour we use Songthaew to get around – imagine a truck with the back converted to open air seating

Robert Sharp taking a selfie with a group of gay travellers lined up on rickshaws in Siem Reap.
Robert Sharp and a group of Out Adventurers on rickshaws.

Enjoy a rickshaw adventure on a Tailor-Made Vacation with Out Adventures.

4. Book a table at Marum Restaurant

For a taste of Khmer with a side of heart, book a table at Marum Restaurant. The unique dining establishment works closely with Kilyan Mith, an NGO dedicated to arming disadvantaged youth with professional, hireable skills. All dishes at this Cambodian restaurant highlight local ingredients and traditional techniques. The food is served family-style and intended to be shared, so its best to bring a group and order a slew of sensational items.

Out Adventures is proud to feature Marum Restaurant on both its Mekong River gay cruise and Laos & Cambodia gay tour.

3. Enjoy a Night Cap on Pub Street

Adorned with fairy lights, party lanterns and neon signs, this brilliant strip of Seam Reap is the epicentre of the city’s nightlife. Beginning at 6pm and not letting up until sunrise, the street is alive with locals and backpackers alike. Mix and mingle, grab a drink, enjoy a late night massage or shop the nearby night markets.

The more leisurely gay traveller may want to crack an Angkor Beer (the most popular brewski in Cambodia) and take a curb-side seat to watch the hustle. Meanwhile, night owls will enjoy the numerous clubs pumping Top 40 jams, 7 nights a week. As an added bonus, the entire street is closed to traffic in the evening.

A neon sign saying 'Pub Street' glows brightly above a pedestrian packed street in Siem Reap.
As dusk settles, Siem Reap’s famous Pub Street comes alive.

2. Experience Cambodia’s Exemplary Drag at Siem Reap’s Best Gay Bar

While Siem Reap’s gay scene isn’t nearly as rowdy as other Southeast Asian cities, it does have a secret weapon: Barcode. The pumping venue is a lounge, cabaret and club all rolled into one. It’s also an Out Adventures favourite.

Located very close to previously mentioned Pub Street, Barcode’s doors open at 5pm when patrons can enjoy a relaxed, lounge vibe. The bar’s energy kicks into high gear at 9pm when a roster of talented local Queens and go-go dancers take over the stage. Finally at 11pm, gays, lesbians and a surprisingly large crowd of straight backpackers take over the dance floor to bust an inebriated move to remixed pop tracks.

1. Experience Phare Circus

Our top recommendation in Siem Reap is Phare, the Cambodian circus.

The show is a real privilege to experience, considering the Khmer Rouge decimated the educated and artistic classes in the late 1970s. Not to mention, the Phare Ponleu Selpak school was created exclusively to help disadvantaged youth find employment and a sense of culture. Each of the actors have survived significant hardship and abuse, and their success in Cambodia and internationally is inspiring. It is also worth noting the circus does not feature any performing animals.

If you’re assuming the circus’s feel-good roots translates to a hodge-podge resort production, you’d be wrong. This theatrical, fast paced and high flying show features flips, tricks and some mind boggling contortion. It is also laced with subtle but greatly appreciated social commentary. Marketing itself as a ‘Circus’ doesn’t do this experience justice.

Cambodia’s answer to Cirque du Soleil.

Out Adventures is proud to feature Phare Cambodian Circus on its Cambodia & Laos: Buddhist Sites & City Nights gay tour.