Way too short a period!
Siem Reap is most famous as the launching pad for exploring the temples of Angkor Wat. I discovered that it has much more to offer. For one, and a big one at this point, it is a perfect place to simply relax.
I am staying at the Shadow of Angkor. It has the colonial charm and friendliness that I love in this part of the world.
It is located right on the banks of the Siem Reap River. A gently flowing muddy brown waterway that cuts through the heart of town. Banyan trees line each side and its under their expansive branches that tuk-tuk and cyclo drivers while away the day in sleepy expectation.
Hammocks are slung inside the tuk-tuk. It is from this horizontal semi-slumber position that drivers offer their transportation services to anyone who comes close.
Tuk-tuks are bigger here in Cambodia than I have seen elsewhere and can fit six at a squeeze.
A giant water wheel located directly in front of the hotel gradually displaces river water temporarily, then re-deposits it back in the river. I am not sure if there is a purpose to its efforts.
It may be just giving off the appearance of working while in actuality being another reminder of a by-gone era.
The hotel itself is a white washed two story building with a wrap around verandah common to all guests. The open area is adorned with heavy lacquered wood furniture. Potted palm trees grace the outer edges.
A perfect place to sip an early morning coffee while watching the river glide by. The whole experience of coffee drinking being taken to a new level as the river, banyans, waking tuk-tuk drivers, combine to make this a mesmerizing scene.
Downstairs there is an open air cafe which offers great food and an environment similar to the upper floor only without the elevation.
Street level is more hectic while overseeing the same from above is enticing and surreal.
With a fresh lime mint juice to wash it down. Refreshing!
Yes, I am officially confirming that US dollars is the currency of choice here in Cambodia. Trying to rid myself of Riels is a chore that requires some effort. When paying up in Riels you often receive in return a snort of disgust. They make no bones about the fact that they want dollars.
Siem Reap is a rich town in the poorest province of Cambodia. Those who live here make their money, for the most part, on the wave of tourists who flock here from all over the world to visit Angkor Wat.
Cafes, restaurants, bars, massage services for feet and shoulders, baguette vendors and markets selling all manner of things vie for the tourism dollars.
Outside fish tanks filled with tiny sucker fish are popular here as in many Asian cities. An aquatic foot massage and cleansing at the end of a long day of walking anyone?
The French Quarter of town is a buzz with foreigners and the scene is pretty electric. Unlike Khoa San Road in Bangkok this is more laid back and with an air of sophistication peeping out from under the covers.
Markets are another big draw here. Day markets, night markets, art markets, food markets. If you need anything from a t-shirt to a squirming fresh water eel to gold, silver, and precious gems; it’s all available here.
When I leave Siem Reap it will be by way of boat with destination Battambang. The journey across the Tonle Sap lake and down one of its tributaries take 7 hours and costs $22.
I will book that sometime soon.
For photos of Cambodia click here.