Siem Reap is the gateway to Cambodia's famous temples. Since 1993, the number of tourists visiting Siem Reap has risen from approximately 7000 to over 2.5 million. This has lead to an influx of hotels, guest houses, bars, restaurants and, of course, tuk tuk drivers, beggers and children selling all manner of photocopied books and souvenirs.
The area of Siem Reap known as Pub Street is where most tourists will end up at some point, and is a vibrant, noisy and somewhat westernised area of the city aptly named for it's string of pubs and eateries. The street is closed off to traffic at night, turning it into a promenade for wandering tourists looking for a cheap beer or cocktail or a bite to eat.
We decided to stay on the opposite side of the river this time in an attempt to get a different feel for the city, and we were not disappointed. Staying on Wat Bo Road, we were still within walking distance of the action, while being able to enjoy some relative peace and quiet. Although our arrival was less than auspicious (read about it here here), the following few days were full of pleasant surprises.
We started by going on a hunt for a good cup of coffee. Luckily for us, we headed down street 25 which ran down the side of our hotel towards the river, and as we turned the corner onto the aptly named River Road, we stumbled into Bon Cafe, a relatively new and not yet discovered by westerners restaurant, that, as it turned out, had a great barista. We visited Bon Cafe at least twice a day during our stay and although the cocktails were a little low on alcohol, the food, coffee and fresh juices were all to die for.
After we dragged ourselves from shop to shop in a vein attempt to find Tim Tams (!!!), we spent the rest of the day relaxing and recharging our batteries for the trip to Beng Mealea temple the following morning. We did, however pass by one of the many inappropriately named massage "parlours" that dot the streets. Signs like this appeal to the silly little giggly girl inside!
We also managed to pay a visit to the markets which always makes me happy. Always so chaotic and hot but so much fun.
Beng Mealea deserves a post all of it's own, so that will be coming up next....