Siem Reap is a fun city to explore – it’s not big and the main road from the airport consists mainly of brand new big hotels to accommodate the millions visiting Angkor. The center of town itself is only a few roads, with the indoor market and the night market two of the big attractions. We love markets, and so we looked forward to visiting both.
We visited the night market on our second night in the city – an easy walk from the main drag of restaurants and pubs, the night market essentially caters to tourists but nevertheless was fun. Many stalls, with loads of handicrafts from across Cambodia. T Shirts for $2 seemed to be amongst the most popular. Fun, but hardly a quintessential experience.
The covered market was something else completely. This was Cambodian life in a microcosm – from meat stalls (with pig heads and other various body parts prominently displayed) to fruit, to rice, tea, clothes and everything else needed for daily life. We love markets, and this ranked way up there as one of the more interesting , eye-opening glimpses of local life. Not for everyone though – the meat displays especially were literally gut wrenchingly realistic. Still, the kids loved wandering between the stalls, watching daily life unfold. Later, we took a rickshaw (powered by a small motorbike in Cambodia) back to the hotel – it must have taken our driver at least twenty minutes, driving through dark backstreets of the city. We did feel a bit nervous but it was totally unwarranted – our driver got us back to the hotel safely and in good time.
Other than the market’s, Siem Reap offers little except for a hassle free view of Cambodian town life. Some boutiques catering to the tourists, a bookstore, many many rickshaw drivers looking for business, but no poverty-stricken beggars or homeless people in site. We felt very comfortable, and it must rank as one of the most family friendly towns that we have visited in South East Asia.
Although typically not an attraction in itself, we felt that Siem Reap warranted at least a day for wandering around in, before or after the tour of Angkor.
The following day, it was back to the airport. The security/customs personnel struggled to believe that gal was only 11 and therefore exempt from paying the exit tax. We probably had to show her passport to at least five officials before getting the ok to proceed. The fact is, at age 11 she was quiet a bit taller than many of the officials.
A short but fascinating visit completed, it was goodbye to Cambodia and back to Singapore to catch our onward flight home.
PS These days I’m designing great family trips to Cambodia. For more info on how I can help your family, visit here.