In the last two years, I’ve been to Siem Reap five times. In that duration, I also lived in this quaint city for a month. The first time I stayed here, I spent three days visiting tourist spots with a couple of friends.
the famous Angkor Wat
I had no idea about this side of Cambodia except for the Angkor Wat. I was a tourist who only cared about getting as many photos posted on Facebook for other people to see that I’ve been to a world heritage site. But my perspective changed in a short span of time.
After that trip, I told myself that I’d come back once I quit my job and start my backpacking adventure. I did, after a year, and stayed longer.
near the river
When I lived here for a month, one of the activities that I frequently did was biking around town. I would greet Cambodians as I explored the streets and the outskirts of the city; the greeting was always returned. I would watch daily routine unfold before my eyes, and it made me realize that life is not as complicated as I used to think.
I feel safe in this city. I feel safe walking on its streets. If you want a simple and quiet life, you can expect that Siem Reap can give it to you.
children on bikes
students and teachers
I’ve read somewhere that this country is still picking itself up from a tragic war that spawned for decades. I could sense the struggle the same way I can feel the hope.
My country is like Siem Reap. Despite the strife, you can still see that genuine smile when you say “Hi”. A smile that brings hope that humanity is still present despite ever-changing times.
children sharing food to the monks
Living in Siem Reap for a month humbled me in a lot of ways and made me build a more positive perspective on things. It awakened me to stop complaining about what I don’t have and taught me to be thankful that I have enough. Normal situations like waking up late, or washing my clothes; buying fruits from the market, or just walking around town. These are routines I looked forward to doing as the days passed.
Life seems to stop when you’re here. After working for six years in my previous job, staying in this country was a terrific break from the office environment.
Tuk tuk drivers and their afternoon nap
fisherman and a child clutching to his mother on a bike
There’s something about this city which explains why I keep coming back even when I didn’t bother doing the touristy activities. I tried to analyze its charm.
I wondered if it was because of the famous temples where thousands of tourists flock everyday. I thought about the hotels, restaurants and other establishments; and how affordable they are even from a third world perspective. I also thought about a Tomb Raider movie and how that Angelina Jolie film highlighted the country among many others.
tourist reading a book in one to the temples
land mine victims playing musical instruments
So why do I keep coming back to this city? It’s because of the Khmer people.
It’s the barefoot kid playing by himself while his mother is selling fried noodles. It’s the next-door family eating together on the floor of their house. It’s the fish massage attendant who studies by day and works by night to send food home. Interacting with these Khmer people who make ends meet in order to live another day, they make me appreciate life even more.
this kid (on the right) I’d always play with while waiting for my fried noodles
children waving at us when out tuk tuk passed by
I will never hesitate to recommend Siem Reap to friends who want to experience travelling in a different place, and immersing themselves in another country’s culture and way of life.
Sure, other countries may have better infrastructure and more activities to offer; more food choices and natural attractions to show off. Having been to other places in Southeast Asia apart from my country, I can say that the people here makes Siem Reap stand out due to their kindness.
a kid on a floating house in Tonle Sap
When you get past the Angkor Complex and the other temples, the 50-cent draft beer in pub street, the night markets and one-dollar massage places; even kids selling trinkets and tuk tuk drivers who charge more for a short destination, you will see the city in a more profound light. That even if a chunk of the population lives on less than a dollar per day, I will still think that Siem Reap is rich because of the people who make the place worth visiting.
Here’s a couple of comprehensive guides about Siem Reap:
- Tips and Things to Know about Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Digital Nomad Life: One Month in Siem Reap, Cambodia
Check out my other adventures here:
- Quick Update from Bousavy Guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Siem Reap and Bangkok Chronicles
- Getting There: Cebu to Manila to Clark to Bangkok to Aranyaprathet to Siem Reap
- No Ordinary Train Ride From Bangkok to Aranyaprathet
- Bangkok to Siem Reap: Avoid Scammers from Aranyaprathet to Poipet Border
- Where to Stay: Bousavy Guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Where to Stay: Victory Guesthouse in Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Cambodia Trip: Angkor Thom Gate, Bayon Temple and Elephant Terrace
- Cambodia Trip: Trees in Ta Prohm Temple, Siem Reap
- Cambodia Trip: Walking Barefoot at Angkor Wat Temple
- Cambodia Trip: Pre Rup, Banteay Srei and East Mebon Temples
- Cambodia Trip: Haggling Prices in Angkor Night Market
- Cambodia Trip: Those Khmer Kids Selling Merchandise
- Cambodia Trip: Chill Out and Relax at Pub Street in Siem Reap
- Cambodia Trip: Insightful Conversations Over a Fish Massage
- Cambodia Trip: Land Mine Victims
- Cambodia Trip: A Guide to Eating Cheap Khmer Food in Siem Reap
- Cambodia Trip: Engrish and Random Sights in Siem Reap
- Cambodia Trip: Shuttle Bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok, Thailand
- Total Budget Expense in Siem Reap, Cambodia