I couldn’t leave Cambodia without writing a short post about Siem Reap. Angkor Wat tends to steal the thunder, but Siem Reap was a total blast on its own, too.
My hostel was pretty close to town, so it was a short walk into the main area with the majority of bars and restaurants. The centre of town is touristy but pulls it off in a way that other cities can’t; the entire place is packed with backpackers and expats but all integrating with the locals in a really unique way.
Psar Chaa is the name of a really big food and goods market in the middle of town, and it was my first stop. It was really fun to wander around and shop; I bought a few souvenirs for outrageously low prices. The prices in Cambodia were way cheaper than other places I’ve been in South-East Asia, which is probably in part to the more recent conflict in the country. You don’t see a lot of remnants of the conflict in Siem Reap, although there are many people out and about who have lost legs or arms which I’m told is from the war. I actually met a French man with a little flag shop who explained he had fought in the war and after getting injured never wanted to return home. It was fun to practice my french with him, and he had some pretty incredible stories from all his time in Cambodia.
For dinner I got Khmer Chicken Curry, or Samlaa khaeng phet, my favourite Cambodian dish. It’s hard to believe you can’t get Cambodian food back home; it’s so delicious. I’ll have to find a recipe somewhere. The whole spread with rice, curry, and beer was all for under $5, another lovable aspect of the city. Siem Reap seems to come alive after dark. It could definitely in part be due to the rowdy backpackers crowd, but all the little restaurants open up their patios and hundreds of bars open up. The most famous is Angkor What?, a staple in Siem Reap. It’s on the main strip, and the best place in town to drink booze out of a beach pail. If you order two, you get a free Angkor What shirt, which is also a nice bonus. I also ended up at an expat bar with a great round bar; I believe it was called Picasso Bar. I met a bunch of great backpackers as well as some expats who were working in development or other areas in Siem Reap. Cocktails were two for $2, too.