Exploring Cambodia: Walking the Streets of Siem Reap
Siem Reap, a small city surrounded by ancient ruins, is located in northwest Cambodia. The name translates to “defeat of Siam”, referring to the victory of the Khmer Empire over the army of the Thailand hundreds of years ago. Because of the nearby world famous Angkor Wat, this city has been the major tourist hub of Cambodia, and is known for its many historical sites and rich local culture.
Thanks to the development of the Angkor Wat ruins, a large number of tourists have come from all over the world, making Siem Reap, a former small town, rapidly develop into a prosperous city. Siem Reap is becoming more and more popular and is one of the fastest growing regions in Southeast Asia. With the internationalization of Siem Reap, prices are rising, this has made life more difficult for a significant proportion of the local population, which is still engaged in agriculture and fishing. Despite the dramatic economic and social changes that have taken place in Siem Reap, it remains a safe and friendly travel destination for tourists. Whether it’s a leisurely stroll through the local market for a unique Bamboo Sticky Rice or exploring the stunning ancient architecture of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap offers a completely different travel experience for you.
Here, let me share some photos from my walk along the street of Siem Reap, and hopefully you’ll see something more valuable.
Siem Reap Central Area
The facilities around National Road 6 can basically meet the needs of tourists. On both sides of the road are restaurants, hotels, farmers’ markets and gas stations. In the alley next to National Road 6, it’s a local neighborhood. The sun is shining and the houses are surrounded by various flowers and plants, and two local children were walking leisurely on the dirt road. But leaving the main road, it is a completely different sight, not new beautiful buildings, but some old houses with local characteristics, and if you go a little further, it’s the poorer neighbourhoods, even the slums.
Cambodia is a developing country with a less developed economy, and even on the roadsides of urban centres, garbage, weeds and mud are everywhere.
Phsar Leu Market near the National Road 6
On the east side of National Road 6, about 3 km from the city centre, there is a local market called Phsar Leu, whose name means Khmer Market, which is said to be the largest market in the area. Here, locals buy everything from fish and fruit, vegetables to clothes and kitchenware. Most of the stuff here is cheap because it is aimed at locals, unlike the Old Market, which is mainly aimed at tourists, but the quality of the goods is likely to be less assured.
The aisles in this market are spacious and you can easily pass through if you ride a motorcycle or bicycle. In the evening, there will be more stalls selling fruit and vegetables, and durians will be around $5 or $6 a kilogram. Cambodia’s durian is big enough for three people to eat. However, note that the hawkerheres here basically do not understand English, so communication basically depends on body language.
Pub Street is the commercial centre of Siem Reap and the most visited place. There are a variety of shops, restaurants, massages, and so on, a wide variety. There are many bars with reasonable prices here, most famously the Red Piano Bar that Angelina Jolie once visited. The atmosphere here is nice, quite laid-back, not fanatical, and perhaps that’s what makes it even more attractive.
The massage sits here is very special and very cheap. Fish massage, in particular, is amazing.
Street Children are common on the streets of Siem Reap. You can often see teenagers, wearing slippers or barefoot, selling postcards or flowers to tourists. At an age like this, they should have gone to school, shouldn’t they? But they have to work to make money or beg directly to tourists. Many children still roam the streets at midnight because she hasn’t made any money today. What’s even more heartbreaking is that some children don’t even have decent clothes.
Education is the most important thing for these children, but economic backwardness prevents them from returning to school. Fortunately, there are many local NGOs that are trying to help them and their families in various ways. However, these organizations are generally underfunded. Some people say, “It’s wrong to give money to beggars”, and I don’t agree with that. But should you give the children money directly, or should you give it to NGOs that help them? This is a question.
Royal Residence in Siem Reap
Near National Road 6, there is a magnificent villa, the Royal Residence of Cambodia, the official residence of the King of Cambodia in Siem Reap. The king was quite concerned about Siem Reap, after all, there is Angkor Wat here, Cambodia’s main economic engine.
The Royal Residence not open to visitors, so you can’t go in and visit, but it’s okay to take a few photos outside. Some people call it the palace, but it’s just a residence. The real Cambodian palace in the capital Phnom Penh is much larger and more beautiful than Siem Reap’s Royal Residence.