Why I Keep Coming Back to Siem Reap

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.

angkor-wat
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.

river siem reap
near the river

siem reap tuktuk
Siem Reap

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.

biking siem reap
children on bikes

cambodia school
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.

siem reap cambodia
children sharing food to the monks

wedding siem reap
wedding photoshoot

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.

siem reap tuktuk
Tuk tuk drivers and their afternoon nap

life siem reap
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.

temple cambodia
tourist reading a book in one to the temples

landmine victims cambodia
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

kids siem reap
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.

cambodia siem reap
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.

cambodia siem reap tree
looking up

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Here’s a couple of comprehensive guides about Siem Reap:

Check out my other adventures here:


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soloflightEd.com is a travel blog by Edcel Suyo. He enjoys performing headstands and crazy stunts during his trips in the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Now based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and working to earn a living, he takes time to enjoy the city and travel during weekends.
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For questions, advertising, and other concerns, shoot an email to ed@soloflighted.com.


{ 34 comments… add one }

  • Nomadic Pinoy November 4, 2012, 10:35 pm

    So many travelers have voiced how friendly and down-to-earth the locals are in Siem Reap (or anywhere in Cambodia for that matter) and I would like to agree as well. If these are the people you meet everyday, I'm not surprised why you opted to return again and again to Siem Reap. After all, it's not just about ruins that make us travel – it's connecting with other people.

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:11 pm

      @Nomadic Pinoy: I am so grounded when I am here compared to other places. Thanks dennis! :)

      Reply
  • joewarywarywap November 5, 2012, 12:29 am

    Speechless! Very very nice :)

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:12 pm

      @joewarywarywap: thanks for reading this post! :)

      Reply
  • Micamyx|Senyorita November 5, 2012, 5:49 am

    Love the Khmer kids even if they can be very makulit lol. I love sharing information about Marimar and Dyesebel eh :))

    I miss Pub Street and the laidback feel of Siem Reap. Kelangan kong bumalik :D

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:12 pm

      @Micamyx: hahahaha, they had Mara Clara showing here when I ate at a small restaurant. hehe.

      Reply
  • Wends of Journeys and Travels November 5, 2012, 6:32 am

    i missed pub street where I met Plif and more so, Angkor Wat which until now, mesmerized me. :) 

    Reply
  • Jake November 5, 2012, 7:48 am

    Nindota sa imong mga photos Eds ooyy! Waaaahh muvisit nya mi Siem Reap puhon! Ganahan kaayo ko sa 3rd photo, pang postcard kaayo! Pastilaaann, maka suya! Hehehe

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:12 pm

      Jake: if ever you visit SR, you can check out my other posts, medyo daghan-daghan na sya. hehehe. thanks Jake! more photo-worthy places to shoot here!

      Reply
  • krb November 5, 2012, 9:20 am

    Nice one pare! Naexcite tuloy kami lalo sa siem reap trip namin ng utol ko this coming July!! First time namin to go overseas alone. Goodluck samin! haha!

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:12 pm

      @krb: thanks Kirk! you’ll be fine in Siem Reap. Enjoy your trip dito! :)

      Reply
  • Cille | Penfires! November 5, 2012, 1:15 pm

    Looking forward to experiencing some of what you experience in Siem Reap Eds =)
    p.s. Hopefully dili mausab ang Khmer people as time goes by and as their country becomes even more popular among travelers. More than the sceneries and tourists spots, it's the people, the locals you meet on your travels that makes the ultimate difference. 
    p.p.s. Mara Clara? Wow! hehehe

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:13 pm

      @Cille: Hi Cille, hope you do too! You may encounter the usual tourist activities and pushy touts, but overall, you can sense that these people are just making a living out of life. :) they had Marimar before, yep. Mara Clara. the dubbing was funny. but maybe I wasn’t used to it. haha.

      Reply
  • mistersandiman November 5, 2012, 3:17 pm

    It's such a pleasure reading your articles! I had a great time in Siem Reap last year, and your words and pictures pretty much captured the spirit of the place. I'd really love to go back!
    You lived there for a month?! Lalo na kong naiinggit sa iyo! Idol na talaga kita! Hahaha. 

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:13 pm

      @misersandiman: thanks for dropping by this blog and reading my articles! it’s a great place noh?

      Reply
  • Joann November 6, 2012, 3:53 am

    A good read :) I've always wanted to visit Cambodia and live there even just for a couple of weeks. This post ignites that idea even more ;)

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:11 pm

      @joann: thanks for visiting this blog! you should check it out! very laidback environment dito.

      Reply
  • Chriscie November 6, 2012, 11:42 pm

    that third pic with a tuk tuk = is like scene from a movie with spring season = priceless…

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:10 pm

      @Chriscie: i’m thinking of using it as a cover photo. thanks! :)

      Reply
  • Passersby November 7, 2012, 4:47 am

    Nice post Ed, ang galing din ng kuha mo sa tuktuk under the foliage.

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:10 pm

      @Passersby: thanks joven! salamat sa pagbasa! :)

      Reply
  • Blogie November 7, 2012, 11:24 am

    The Khmer people will love you for this article, Ed! 

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:10 pm

      @Blogie: Ey blogie! Say Hi to Davao for me. hehe. Thanks. Khmer and Pinoys have a lot of things in common. :)

      Reply
  • Mustachio November 10, 2012, 10:39 am

    Been to Siem Reap once and I love the place. I hope to visit again soon. You are lucky to have lived there and have had the chance to keep coming back. Great post.

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:09 pm

      @mustachio: thanks! you should try staying there long-term. :)

      Reply
  • Oleyography November 13, 2012, 9:52 pm

    One of the best blog entries i read to date. I will have my Bangkok-Siem Reap solo backpacking by next year. Reading your blog makes more excited that i want to grab my flight and make it tomorrow. Keep being inspired.  Keep ispiriring others. Cheers and more power!

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:09 pm

      @Olyeygraphy: Thanks sir! Hope you find my SR entries helpful. Good luck on your trip!

      Reply
  • pusangkalye December 5, 2012, 12:22 am

    totoo Ed? 1 dollar massage?I wanna go there!hahaha

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:09 pm

      @pusangkalye: yep, 1 dollar massages on the street, though foot massage lang. hehe

      Reply
  • kathleen January 13, 2013, 3:28 am

    i luv reading your blog over and over especially right now that i'm prepping for my first ever solo travel next month as my pre-birthday celebration..i choose Cambodia as my first stop because of the good things that you have written here and i want to experience the place and meet the locals as well.continue to share your stories.. thanks and more power to you.. :)

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:08 pm

      Good luck on your trip Kathleen! Happy travels! :)

      Reply
  • cynthia April 23, 2013, 10:14 am

    My family is going to Siem Reap/Pattaya and Bangkok next month. With our two daughters with us, I felt a sense of hesitation at first to include Siem Reap, as it will be our first time in Cambodia and they are not into backpacking and adventure trips. Your blog gave me the reason and confidence to pursue our trip ! Now, i am looking forward to more tan a bonding-time trip but to a soul-searching trip as a family ! thanks !

    Reply
    • soloflightEd August 1, 2013, 8:08 pm

      Siem Reap is a beautiful place, Cynthia. As always, do take the necessary safety precautions. Have a safe trip with your family! :)

      Reply

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