My son and I have recently returned from a few days in Cambodia. The prosperous town of Siem Reap, which is on the doorstep of Cambodia’s most famous attraction Angkor Wat, is only 2 hours away by direct flight from Kuala Lumpur and AirAsia were offering reasonably priced hotel and flight packages.
Siem Reap can be translated as ‘defeat of Siam (Thailand)’. That’s not very tactful – not surprising the two neighbours are at loggerheads over a disputed border. It would be like London naming its landmarks after victories over the French like Waterloo or Trafalgar.
Despite its war-filled history and more recent tragedies I found the Cambodians to be very friendly and hospitable and Siem Reap is well worth visiting for a few days.
It’s easy to walk around, the traffic is fairly light, there are colourful markets, interesting temples, a crocodile farm and a surprising number of quality restaurants, bars and spas (of the respectable sort). The town is heaving with foreign tourists from all over the world who come to see Angkor Wat. Many are well-heeled and there are plenty of upmarket hotels to accommodate them but there are also backpackers, gap-year students and more thrifty travellers.
Here are a few photos (I will include Angkor Wat in a separate post later):
This is where we didn’t stay – the Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor. Maybe next time.
We stayed here at the Steung Siem Reap Hotel. Very comfortable and excellent value at about USD30 per night including breakfast for two. And it is in the heart of the old town with the Old Market, Pub Street and stacks of restaurants on our doorstep.
The Old Market sells touristy stuff as well as being an active (and rather pongy) wet market for the locals.
Tuk-tuks are the most popular way of getting around. Their design is different from the Thai variety.
One of the many smart restaurants in Siem Reap. This one, Le Malraux, appeared to be owned or run by a Frenchman.
I found the Cambodian food to be very tasty and not as fiery as I expected.
Angkor beer is very drinkable and, at the happy hour price of 50 US cents, it is the cheapest thing on the drinks menu.
At the crocodile farm, the crocodile food was way more expensive but we did not fancy taking part in the barbaric spectacle of feeding them with live animals.
Having a UNESCO World Heritage site at nearby Angkor is helping to drag Siem Reap’s population out of poverty but not everyone has been able to share in the prosperity yet.
Cross the Old Market bridge and keep walking and you will soon be out in the countryside as we found out when I took my son for a 5km strollette.
This lesser visited temple looks like it has a thatched roof from this distance.
This business knows how to pull at the heart-strings of the passing tourist. Who could resist buying something?
I would certainly recommend visiting Siem Reap. By the way the airport is clean, modern, efficient and hassle-free and obtaining a Cambodian visa online is easy.