Siem Reap, Cambodia

By John Reality, Cambodia, December 2011

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The gateway to Angkor Wat, or Siem Reap as we know it, is a pocket-sized well-groomed town, filled with tons of restaurants, bars, shops and modern hotels. Though it's a popular tourist destination, it is seen as a relaxed place with tons of activities to keep you busy.

With most of the accessible accommodations located in the Old Market area, one of the more popular things to do is grab a cheap massage at any one of its many parlors. For $1 per 20 minutes, how could you not? Otherwise, shopping is always a great option. With some great souvenir shops at the famous night market, you can haggle your way to owning some local art, garments or jewelry.

If you are looking for a more solitary experience, you can take a walk along the Siem Reap river and explore some typical Cambodian day life that often goes overlooked given the drawing power of Angkor Wat

When looking for places to grab eats and enjoy the towns happening nightlife, look no further than Siem Reap's pub street. Located in between the night market and the centralized Thnou Street, there is an array of restaurants to accommodate any taste, while keeping you close to where all the action is. A terrific option for good local food would be to walk along Sivatha Blvd that intersects with pub street, where you can go a la carte on various kinds of traditional Khmer (Cambodian cuisine) barbeque. Though the traditional plastic seating arrangements is not quite elegant, Khmer beer gardens, as they are known, are often spry with unwinding Khmers, delicious meat dishes, and are extremely cost effective.

However, don't feel obligated to eat local if you don't want to. Siem Reap has a variety of different styles that can be easily found just roaming through the backstreets in the area. If you get lost, simply ask around, as many Khmers speak a healthy amount of English.

An added bonus is that despite being a tourist hub, competition between the establishments in town keeps beer prices down at $0.50 a glass for Cambodia's nationally leading Angkor and Anchor brands--both very light and decent quality. It makes for a nice transition into Siem Reap's crawling bar scene, where you can mingle with fellow travelers from all over the world.

Photo courtesy of Bruno Ideriha via Flickr

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