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Siem Reap

Until recently Cambodia's one-horse town of Siem Reap was just a dusty track with a few shop fronts, but in a matter of years it has been transformed into a gleaming gateway to one of the world's archaeological marvels – the great Temples of Angkor. Built between the 7th and 11th centuries the temples were devoted to Buddhist and Hindu deities. Thirty-nine kings reigned during the Angkor era, and this uninterrupted period of peace and prosperity created the most powerful kingdom in Southeast Asia, until its fall in the 15th century, when the Siamese army finally succeeded in sacking it. Although the Khmers knew about the city of Angkor, it was only when the French botanist Henri Mouhot led an exploration to the area in 1861 that this 'lost city' aroused international interest.

The Temples of Angkor now attract more than two million visitors each year, making it the country’s most popular sightseeing spot. It is no wonder that this historic temple complex has been awarded with a UNESCO World Heritage site status as it is one of the most magical and other-worldly sites in Southeast Asia. Each morning at sunrise, hundreds come from far and wide to gather in front of the iconic Angkor Wat, before venturing on to Ta Prohm’s tree-entwined ruins and Bayon’s smiling Buddhas to soak in the atmosphere and find the perfect photograph.

The prospective tourist might be forgiven for thinking that this is the extent of what Siem Reap has to offer, when in fact it is but one of the many uniquely Cambodian treasures found in the town’s confines. One can spend an afternoon cruising over the Tonle Sap lake between the stilted residences of a floating village and witness snake-bearing children bobbing atop the water in silver wash basins; visit the Phare circus to see local talents outperform Cirque du Soleil; and take in the beautiful local textile traditions on display at Les Chantiers Écoles.

The influx of global tourism has also produced a thriving nightlife and restaurant scene. Younger revellers will enjoy the hedonism of Pub Street, whilst the more high-brow traveller will be impressed by the quantity and variety of acclaimed dining spots on offer.

CAMBODIA 2 Cambodia Siem Reap Monks CAMBODIA 2 Cambodia Siem Reap Monks
CAMBODIA Angkor Tree Roots CAMBODIA Angkor Tree Roots
CAMBODIA Angkor Temple CAMBODIA Angkor Temple
CAMBODIA Angkor Ruins CAMBODIA Angkor Ruins
CAMBODIA Angkor Cycling CAMBODIA Angkor Cycling
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I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.
Bill Bryson

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