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Angkor’s gateway: Siem Reap, Cambodia

Siem Reap-3We got to Siem Reap by night time, tired, after a long 28 hour trip between boats, buses, trains, tuk-tuks and taxis. It was already dark, but after finding a place to stay, we went out to visit a nearby night market on the opposite side of the river, a place with lots of movement that sells a bit of everything from food to clothes and is very tourist oriented.

Siem Reap is one of Cambodia’s most populated cities and owes its fame to the proximity to the Angkor Temples. Only after being re-discovered by French explorers in the nineteenth century, the temples were uncovered from the jungle surrounding it and all the touristic infrastructure started developing. It is vibrant and full of life. It is crowded with restaurants, bars, modern hotels, but at the same time keeping it’s Cambodian identity, culture and traditions. There you can find a few colorful and interesting temples more or less well preserved, but everybody’s minds are always set on Angkor.

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The touristic and old center of Siem Reap is focused on the riverside. There are two night markets, one on each side of the river, the Old Market selling really everything and a bunch of crowded and cheerful streets with bars, massage stores and lots of street food sellers. One of these streets is even called Pub Street.

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There are bicycles, motobikes and tuk-tuks everywhere and it’s impossible to walk more than 20 seconds without being called by some tuk-tuk driver asking if we need their services for that moment or even for the day after. One of the nights, after coming from Angkor, we decided to have a foot massage. It’s very cheap and popular. The massages are done right on the street sidewalks. When we chose one of the many “spas”, two young guys they pick for us were friendly discussing and exchanging naughty smiles between them. I realized they both preferred to massage Magda instead of me. Who wouldn’t? When they were already sited ready to start, the one who got me wasn’t very happy. The other guy had to stand for a brief moment and I told him:” Go on. Change seats. When he gets here there’s nothing he can do”. And so it was. The other didn’t enjoy the change very much, but it was ok.

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Besides Angkor Wat, another very common trip people take from Siem Reap is to one of the floating villages nearby. We visited Kampong Phluk. It’s a half day trip but it’s a unique experience due to the difference of realities you can live and see. This trip includes  the boat rides through the floating village and forest and to the Tonle Sap lake.

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If it wasn’t for the temples, Siem Reap would probably be to this date an average undeveloped city with no interest for visitors, but truth is that it’s a very pleasant place where we ended up spending 7 nights.


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