Monday, 17 October 2011

Siem Reap

Siem Reap is a modest sized provincial town whose main source of income is from servicing visitors to Angkor Wat. But what a joy to be away from the big cities & be able to walk the streets again without constantly swivelling in search of ever-present approaching traffic.
Of course the tuk-tuk drivers still hassle every European, the big come-on here is 'I know a place' - what the hell is that supposed to mean? I don't think its a veiled sleezy offer because that usually comes with a gentle touch on the arm & a conspiritorial whisper of 'want a girl?' or 'want to smoke marijuana?' So they cater for everyone, not just the culture vultures visiting Angkor Wat

The area around the Old Market & Pub Street, with its associated alleyways, is not as grim as it might sound; its the lively bar, restaurant, cafe, guest house & general touristy area in the heart of Siem Reap. The really cheap & the really expensive places to eat & sleep are mostly further out from the town centre.
The town is surrounded by rice paddies & buildings ramble along the Siem Reap River which has regularly overflowed into the town during the past few weeks. I've been lucky with missing much of the heavy rain, which has been deluging the region, but its caught up with me now in Siem Reap. Its been pouring on & off for days & water is lapping the steps of the place I'm staying at.
According to locals Siem Reap is totally unrecognisable from 10 years ago when the first tourist styled pub (Angkor What? - probably funny after a few beers) opened in 1998.

The tourism crash of 2008 has hit them hard as its the main business in town. Molly Malone's Irish pub used to have streams of travellers passing through, often on-route to Australia, but now its just a steady trickle. There's quite a bit of construction going on in the French Quarter & many of the old French colonial building are being torn down & replaced by the locally popular modern glass & concrete. But the place has a laid back style all of its own.

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