CAMBODIA – Must do: Siem Reap local life at water village, silk farm and Rolous temple complex

Cambodia - Siem Reap - Floating Village
Cambodia - Siem Reap - Floating Village

This last day of my Siem Reap itinerary was all about the local life and food in Cambodia. I think it’s important to see local life when visiting other cultures as it gives a better understanding of the various aspects of life. I’ll take you to the water villages on the Tonlé Sap lake, a silk farm, and the Rolous Group of temples where there is much more local activity then for example at Angkor Wat. I had dinner at a local restaurant outside of Siem Reap where locals go, I had turtle and raw turtle eggs. Join me on this tour around Siem Reap and its local life, the last day of my 9 day Siem Reap itinerary.

Siem Reap local life: Water Village

Before you book any tour to one of the water villages I recommend checking where your money will go. I went there with a private car and guide which I hired for the full stay in Cambodia, but locally I booked a boat to take me to the water villages. It was cheap, but I knew that the owner of the boat would keep the money. I wasn’t on an expensive tour group part of a tourist trap and knew I would support the local life this way. Yes, I did visit one of the crocodile farms but for the rest I was left alone and could choose myself a bit of the route. One thing was sure this water village was totally different from the water village I visited in Brunei a few years back.

Cambodia - Siem Reap - Floating Village
Cambodia – Siem Reap – Floating Village

After a 10-15-minute boat ride I arrived at the water village of which there are several on the Tonlé Sap lake. They move around as the water tide varies widely throughout the year with just leaving about 30% of Tonlé Sap lake in the dry season. I saw kids go to their floating schools; waving at me when I passed by. I saw mothers doing the dishes and laundry in the lake. Kids, babies, and adults using the lake as a huge restroom. Others bathing in it and using it to cook meals which clearly isn’t healthy.

I planned to have lunch at the lake but after seeing this poverty and lak of clean water I decided to not buy any food; I was sure my stomach would not be able to survive it. After my visit to the garbage dump of Siem Reap this was another acknowledgement that a lot of locals in Cambodia do not have access to clean water nor good living standards.

Cambodia - Siem Reap - Floating Village
Cambodia – Siem Reap – Floating Village

I continued the boat ride through the village and stopped at a small bar for a – canned – beverage. The owner told me that most men are simple fishermen just making enough money to survive. They do face a bigger problem as the poverty they already have: fish is disappearing due to overfishing and government regulations! One thing I can share with you is that you only – know – about poverty once you have seen it with your own eyes. If you visit, make sure you visit either by arranging it locally yourself or take a sustainable tour which supports the people in Cambodia. I continued my day trip to the Angkor Silk Farm to see how silk is processed.

Siem Reap local life: Silk Farm

The Angkor Silk Farm is part of the Artisans Angkor group which also includes the artisan workshop in Siem Reap I visited earlier. On the way back from the water village I visited the silk farm where a guided tour is free of charge. First I was taken to the Mulberry trees which are planted around the farm stretching over several hectares. After that it was time to see the process of silkworm farming and how cocoons are formed and processed.


The cocoons are processed forming fine silk threads which are then colored using various dyes. All these processes are explained in detail but not everything was taking place due to the season. I could see the processing of the silk into various items which are on sale in the shop of the silk farm. The silk farm supports the locals and the fact that it gives a good understanding of silk processing I recommend visiting if you are in Siem Reap.

Cambodia - Siem Reap - Workshop
Cambodia – Siem Reap – Workshop

Siem Reap local life: Rolous Group

The Rolous Group Temple Complex is located just north of Siem Reap near the village of the same name. It’s made up of three locations: Bakong temple, Lolei temple and the Preah Ko temple. They are amongst the oldest structures of the Khmer Empire and date back to the 9th century. I suggest to include this group the day you will explore the local life around Siem Reap. The reason is the temples are more surrounded by local life compared to the bigger attractions like Angkor Wat. On the way to the Lolei temple I made a stop at a local workshop/orphanage where children make some money by selling art rather than sorting garbage at the local dump of Siem Reap.

Cambodia - Siem Reap - Workshop
Cambodia – Siem Reap – Workshop

All remains of the Rolous Group were part of Hariharalaya which was once the royal capital of the Khmer Empire. My first stop was at the Lolei complex. The Lolei temple was built on an island to symbolize the home of the gods which in Hindu mythology is located on an island too. This water is now long gone as are the wall and entrance, but four – beautiful decorated – towers remain which are a must see but won’t take up that much time to explore. I continued to the Preah Ko complex which has six towers of which one is dedicated to Jayavarman II, the founder of the Khmer Empire. I loved the artwork which depicted images of Shiva and warriors on horses and three-headed-snakes.

Cambodia - Siem Reap - Rolous Group
Cambodia – Siem Reap – Rolous Group

I finished my visit to the Rolous Group at the Bakong Temple which is the largest of the three. In the middle there is a step pyramid with several satellite temples around it surrounded by two moats. It made me think of the Borobudur on Java, Indonesia which I visited during sunrise. Here, however it was getting dark and the locals started to come back from their work and kids where playing around the temple complex waiting for bedtime. It was getting dark quick and I decided to go for dinner with my local guide and driver. I told him earlier I love to try local – strange – food and he said he knew the place to go.

He was right and it was a great place where I had turtle for dinner including raw turtle eggs. A balut egg was also on the menu which is a duck egg with a 2-3-week-old embryo inside. I had a great time with my guide and driver and learned how they spend the evening! It was my last day of my 9 day Siem Reap itinerary and the next day I would continue to Singapore. I visited most places around Siem Reap of which I remember the helicopter flight over Angkor Wat, the garbage dump near Siem Reap and this day the most. I hope to return to Cambodia one day to explore other parts of the country but first Laos which is even less developed for tourism.

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Did you visit the local life around Siem Reap too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Gallery Siem Reap local life

Check the gallery for more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.

GPS Track Siem Reap local life

During my trips I make GPS tracks (sometimes they do not show, click download to open in Google maps). Feel free to download them and see how we moved around and see the time frames at the various places. Hope these maps are of help for you when planning your trips.

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  1. Tijdens ons bezoek aan Siem Reap zijn we met een lokale tuktuk chauffeur naar zijn huis geweest, nadat hij ons de hele dag had rondgereden. Een treurige toestand aangezien we te horen kregen dat zijn huis met de grond plat gewalst zou worden en hij met zijn gezin 50 km van de stad zou worden herplaatst. Een onmogelijke situatie want dat zou betekenen dat zowel hij als zijn vrouw niet meer in Siem Reap konden werken… Ik ben wel benieuwd hoe het met hem gaat nu. Dat was dus onze lokale ervaring daar!

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