Before starting my trip to Asia, Siem Reap would not be my top destination itself, however it was the most convenient area to stay when visiting Angkor Wat temple, one of the most impressive temples of the planet.
So, I decided to give it a chance! I am glad I did! My expectations were not high, but eventually Siem Reap and Cambodian people won me over from the very first moment.
When staying in Siem Reap try to avoid big resorts and choose smaller hotels which will allow you to better feel the vibes of the city. My favourite one is Viroth’s hotel. It is one of the few hotels that combine modern and traditional, comfort and beauty in a very relaxed and colourful way.
Take a walk by the river and stop at the main local market. It is not a huge one but it combines a bit of everything; flower shops, butchers and hairdressers are all located next to each other. So, surprisingly enough, locals can choose the right piece of meat for their dinner while they are having a haircut!
Another place worth visiting is Kompong Phluk floating village, where you can have a closer look at rural khmer houses and even meet some local people. This short day trip is perfect for those that enjoy seeing the real life outside the centre of Siem Reap and discover the beauty that is hidden in the little things and of course in Cambodian people.
If you feel hungry on your way there stop at one of the street food stalls which sell ‘custard apples’ – a sub-tropical fruit and one of the most delicious fruits I have ever tasted!
On your way back to the city centre keep an eye out for the local motor bike drivers who can actually carry anything you can think of on their bike, from flowers and pots to a proper bed, or even animals. Impressive!
So Siem Reap might not be the cleanest city I have visited, it might not be the easiest to walk around or the most modern one however its people make it special. Locals definitely look gentle and genuinely polite. And at first glance they don’t look really wealthy but they have something even more important; they have a big smile on their face!
I can’t really recall the last time I found myself in a place like this, where people would not care much about owning the latest iPhone or about having shoes or clothes to wear. But indeed, in Siem Reap everyone somehow seemed to be happy, from the young children playing barefoot in mud to the old lonely men daydreaming by the lake. One day I will go back!