Our first major stop after crossing the border was Siem Reap, Cambodia’s cultural darling and the gateway city to the Angkor temples. After our mixed feelings on Luang Prabang, the closest parallel in Laos, we were a little wary of Siem Reap, but it didn’t take us long to fall in love with the quaint and beautiful town.
Stung Treng (the first town past the Cambodia-Laos border) and Siem Reap provided us with our first impressions of Cambodia and despite hearing tales of corruption and crime, the country felt like a breath of fresh air after Laos. Maybe it was the long, laborious days of travel that made the comforts of Siem Reap seem so refreshing. Maybe it was the transition into low season with its exodus of tourists and fall back in prices. Maybe we had just become better travelers. Whatever the reason, Cambodia greeted us with smiling faces, budget-friendly options and the right balance of old and new.
Without intending to, we ended up spending a week in Siem Reap. We didn’t amount to a whole lot, but we did spend those glorious few days lazing in our leafy neighborhood (conveniently located far away from the notorious backpacker enclave around Pub Street), wandering the narrow streets and wide boulevards, and taking in the artsy atmosphere. Book exchanges abounded, ATMs dispensed dollars (widely used as an alternate currency to the riel) and good food came at affordable prices. We loved it and had we not committed to a project in the south, we would have certainly stayed for longer 🙂