Siem Reap

Other than exploring Angkor Wat and shopping around at the Night Market, there isn’t really much to do in Siem Reap. There are no “sights” other than the famous complex of Angkor. There are no beaches with dazzling sand. There are no breathtaking mountains to capture your interest. And yet, Siem Reap, and Cambodia, remains one of my favourite places on our trip. Why? The people. 

Everywhere we went in Cambodia, we were greeted with wide smiles and friendly faces. The locals were interested in helping us — not for money, but because they wanted to. We met an amazing street artist who painted the most beautiful pictures and was selling them for a ridiculously low price. We met the owner of a restaurant we were eating at and his adorable and precious little son who stole my heart away. Whoever we came in contact with was pleasant and kind. Despite the different culture and language, the people truly made it feel like home. 

Having briefly read about the history of Cambodia before travelling there, the kindness of its people surprised me even more. For a people who have gone through so much, to still have beautiful and hopeful hearts, was beyond inspiring (If you don’t know much about what happened in Cambodia, read up on the Khmer Rouge).

We stayed at the Mad Monkey Hostel in Siem Reap, which was one of the best hostels (in my opinion) on this trip. There was a swimming pool, a bar near the pool, as well as a bar on the rooftop that had sand for flooring, a ping pong table, and delicious food. The rooms were clean, spacious, and comfortable. 

On our first day in Siem Reap, we walked around the small city, bought a few items, and went to see a traditional Apsara Dance Show at The Temple Club. If you order some food, you can watch the dance show for free. The four of us were a little rattled at their traditional dance — it was much more like elegant and slow moving into positions than dancing. The costumes were beautiful, but the food was kind of just meh.

The next day, our only full day in Siem Reap, was spent touring around Angkor. Many guidebooks and blogs recommend spending a full three days there, but seriously, I have no idea what one could do for those three full days. We bought a one-day pass and saw five of the main sights in 6 hours — and this was with a lot of walking around. I suppose if you had a guide that explained every single detail to you, it would take 3 days, but seeing as we were exploring on our own, one day was more than enough.

To be fair, you probably wouldn’t want a guide anyway. We couldn’t stand still for more than a single second in the temple complex because of the immense and debilitating heat. Each moment in the tuk-tuk was heavenly — the breeze from the open air vehicle was exactly what we needed to keep us from passing out. 

The ruins were truly beautiful and magical. Tah Prohm, the Tomb Raider Temple, was incredibly interesting… the ginormous trees sinking into the grey stone temples was literally like something out of a movie. 

Highs: The people, Angkor Wat, the shopping at the Night Market, Temple Club dance show, preciously adorable children around every corner 

Lows: Intense, intense heat, crazy thunderstorms, raindrops that feel like hail