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Why We Love Much-Maligned Siem Reap

1$ Tapas night at Ivy Guesthouse is hard to beat

1$ Tapas night at Ivy Guesthouse is hard to beat

Siem Reap gets no respect. It’s true, it’s a western enclave. There isn’t much to see in town, and it exists mostly as a basecamp for Angkor Wat. And if you’re looking for immersion in Cambodian culture, this isn’t where you want to be. But having said all of that, it’s wrong to conclude, as so many people do, that Siem Reap isn’t “real” or is somehow inauthentic. Siem Reap is very much a real city, albeit a heavily westernized one. I say that because there are plenty of places in the world where people live and work that are very much like Siem Reap. We know, because we used to live in, and still love, one such place.

To us Siem Reap felt like the Hoboken of South East Asia. Now that probably doesn’t mean anything to anyone who hasn’t lived in our former city, but suffice it to say, Siem Reap felt a bit like home to us.

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Lessons Learned: Tips for Touring Angkor Wat Like a Pro

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

We spent seven days in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and three days exploring the temples of Angkor Wat. Here are some of the things we wish we knew before arriving at the largest religious monument in the world.

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All’s Well that Ends Well in Battambang

Battambang Cambodia

When we arrive at a new destination, it’s not uncommon for us to quickly, easily step into rhythm with the place. But sometimes, we get off on the wrong foot. Which is exactly what happened in Battambang in western Cambodia.

Battambang was a late addition to the itinerary. We rolled into town tired and sweaty after a seven-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh, only to be given a mosquito-infested room at our not-inexpensive hotel. Dinner at a recommended restaurant was dismally mediocre, while a walk around town showed that the preserved colonial architecture the city is hyped as having really isn’t all that picturesque.

Our less-than-stellar start in Battambang had us wondering why we even bothered to detour there on route from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. If we hadn’t already booked a four-night stay, we might have hastily left town…and that would have been a shame. In Battambang, we ended up having some of our most memorable experiences in Southeast Asia so far.

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The Royal Palace, Phnom Penh

Royal Palace Throne Hall, Phnom Penh

We had begun to feel a little underwhelmed by the sightseeing at some of our last few stops in Asia. The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh cured us of that.

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh 1

Cambodia’s Independence Monument

Independence Monument  Phnom Penh

Erected in Phnom Penh to commemorate Cambodia’s 1953 independence from France.

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