Siem Reap was one of the places top on my list, due especially to the world famous Angkor Wat. You will not leave here disappointed by this iconic site. The structure and scale of the temples are inspiring. The area is so well maintained and easy to get around making the temples very accessible.
However, I found that staying in Siem Reap for too long left me wanting to leave. I haven’t been able to quite put my finger on what it was exactly, but part of Siem Reap is a giant tourist trap. By this, i mean that there is nothing authentic about that part of the city anymore. The area is solely for tourists and nothing else. This is similar in other places too, like Bali. However in Siem Reap, it was taken to the next level. The shops and restaurants are relatively up-market and prices are therefore marked up. The town has shaken all it’s charm off and replaced it with what it believes foreign tourists want. Perhaps it is, to an extent…
Several other travelers have mentioned a similar experience in Siem Reap.
I stayed in a couple of backpacker’s hostel and this was near to the night market and the appropriately named “Pub Street”. This street is hung up in large lights and cannot be missed. Anywhere in South East Asia with a place called Pub Street has got to ring alarm bells. Bars and Restaurants line the street, aimed at westerners who have brought money to spend. It’s completely opposite to what you would expect to of Siem Reap before you come to visit. For me, it resembles Ibiza more than a previous ancient city, run by Khmer warriors. If your intention was to come here and party, then you probably won’t be disappointed.
Pricey food and drinks
The overpriced food and drinks are a tourist trap. I ended up spending more money here than I imagined. I came back to the hostel area to relax when not seeing temples only to be stung by high prices and average food. Expensive restaurants are in abundance. Luckily, there are a few joints that sell food for the more budget conscious too. The countless ice cream parlors serving pricey desserts are the devils work to my wallet but I will admit to enjoying it in the blistering heat.
Siem Reap Night Market
Savvy sales women, try their best to sell gifts, Ali Baba elephant pants and other random trinkets at the Night Market near Pub Street. This appears to be a market purely created for tourists. You will not find many locals, if any, shopping here. Useful if you need to pick up some cheap clothes to add to your travel wardrobe. Remember though, negotiate hard. These sellers are professionals and can see you coming a mile away. I love bartering with them and enjoy the reactions they give. Some will laugh, some are rude and some will even pretend to cry.
Is Siem Reap worth it…?
Yes, absolutely! The tourist area around pub street is extremely concentrated, and this is why it is hard to bear. Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples though are further away and magnificent. It is a once in a lifetime experience.
If you get out of this area you can probably seek a more authentic experience of Siem Reap. Maybe on my second trip…
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