Siem Reap, Cambodia

Aww, Siem Reap...so many good memories, so many good times!  

Siem Reap is a relatively small town North of the Tonle Sap lake in Cambodia. It's primary attraction is Angkor Wat - lost kingdom of temples and the largest religious monument in the world. There is another side to Siem Reap besides the historical heritage - it's also a very lively and prominent expat hub in Cambodia. 

Expats come and go, some stay in Siem Reap for a couple of months, some - for a couple of years, some - never leave. The town is small enough to get to know most of the local crowd in a week or so - you meet each other at favorite cafes, bars, galleries, events, markets, stores and you get together pretty regularly. It's a community of people with many different stories, motives and goals. One of the most popular stories though is "I came for a couple of days and I stayed for months". Contributing to the fact that these stories are common is that obtaining visas is pretty simple - you can get visa extensions, you can do border runs to Thailand and you can get business visa for some special price which allows you to stay in Cambodia much longer. 

The locals are very friendly and are used to foreigners all around the town. You can make friends with the locals through people you know, through NGOs or volunteering. The food is excellent, and if you have a kitchen - the central and main markets offer everything you need to make your own meals at home. Specifically for expats there is an international supermarket on Sivatha road where you can get variety of international foods - this might seem like a stupid idea, but people who live there for a while miss their cheese, snacks, wine and other stuff that is not common in Cambodia. Cravings reach ridiculous levels - it sometimes happens that a cheeseburger from McDonalds in Bangkok travels 8hrs to Siem Reap just to satisfy someone's cravings :) 

Prices are probably as good as they get - food: $1-5 in restauraurants/cafes, food in the market: oh, you'll get a lot of food for about $3-5, drinks: $0.5-3, renting a room or an apartment: $100-300/400 a month. Make sure to join Expats in Siem Reap group on Facebook which is where you can get any possible info on anything you need or want in Siem Reap. 

We stayed in Siem Reap for about 3 months, rented a room in a house with some other expats and a local family. It was a great experience since you're always surrounded by friends and good acquaintances and anywhere you go - you'll have a good time. Our (and probably tons of others) favorite place to hang out is Under Construction - great creative interior, always fun crowd, amazing food! Its owners - Jacob and Carsten from Denmark - are really cool and friendly guys, and we had tons of good times all together. If you want to know Siem Reap better - go to Under Construction, meet the crowd and interesting things will follow :)

In Siem Reap pay attention to flyers and booklets all around the town, in cafes and bars - you'll find plenty of interesting things to do and try - yoga classes, cooking classes, volunteering, alternative eco tours, teaching English opportunities, photo sessions in traditional Cambodian dresses, gallery openings, quiz nights, cinema nights, parties and meetups, live music, art workshops, saunas & spas, pools, special offers, etc. Take a tuk-tuk or rent a bicycle and explore around central part, areas along the canal, highway 6, Wat Bo road, Sivatha road.

Spend a day or two or three at Angkor Wat complex which is about 20 minutes away from the town. Arrange a tuk-tuk to take you to Angkor Wat for sunrise - it's a great experience even though a bit too touristy. Get a tuk-tuk recommendation from locals, it should cost about $12-15 a day - the tuk-tuk driver will drive you around the complex which is huge, will let you explore on your own and will wait to pick you up afterwards. 

Angkor Wat is difficult to describe, it should be seen and experienced. It's majestic and wild at the same time, it feels like an abandoned kingdom lost in the jungle. My immediate associations about Angkor Wat were the lost city ruins from Adventures of Mowgli. Even though it's a very touristy spot, it still breathes mystery and there's still something magical about it.