There’s more to Siem Reap than the Angkor temples. We were surprised by just how much there is to do in this vibrant city as well as some wonderful restaurants and cafes. Mixing up alternative activities with visits to Angkor helps avoid the temple burnout that’s so common at this huge complex. As hotels are affordable there’s no reason not to extend your stay.
When we travel we love observing the quirky details of daily life that make a country unique. During our month in Cambodia we noticed the similarities with its neighbour Thailand, many due to the shared Buddhist religion, but this less developed but beautiful country with a traumatic history also had many differences.
We’re sightseeing lightweights. It may seem like we do a lot each year but we spend as many days on our laptops or relaxing by the pool as we do out exploring, and one museum or temple a day tends to be our limit. Which is a problem at Cambodia’s Angkor temple complex, an archaeological site that stretches over 400km2 and contains hundreds of temples from the different capitals of the Khmer Empire from the 9th to 15th century. There are an overwhelming number of ruins to explore and many visitors complain of temple burnout.
Beng Mealea felt different from the other Angkor temples. We had to travel further to get there—40km east of the main temple complex—through the Cambodian countryside of orange dirt roads, endless rice paddies, whole pigs transported on the back of motorbikes, and stilted wooden bungalows, hammocks swinging below. The secluded location meant it was quieter than the other temples and we were alone when we entered the magical world.
The provincial town of Kampot in southern Cambodia doesn’t look like much on first sight. It’s small and sleepy with wide dusty streets and dilapidated buildings. Yet it’s the place we stayed the longest in Cambodia—a few days turned into a week which turned into 12 days and it was only our expiring visa that forced us to leave this town we’d fallen for.
What is it that we loved about this small town that most visitors bypass in favour of the Angkor temples at Siem Reap or the beaches in Sihanoukville?