After a long day travelling and then a long wait at Immigration in Siem Reap we collected our luggage and walked out into the arrivals hall where our hotel transfer man was there to meet us. He asked us to wait just outside the terminal building while he went to get his tuktuk! There was a look of disbelief and horror on Alan’s face as it registered that our hotel transfer was to be in a tuktuk.
Sure enough he pulled up in his tuktuk – I took a photo – I couldn’t resist – a fabulous start to our time in Cambodia!
Surprisingly the ride was cold; and the air was smoky, dusty and polluted and so unfortunately the ride was quite unpleasant, although Interesting to be so close to the action on the road. I felt unsteady when he took the corners – it was a motor cycle tuktuk after all – our suitcase was placed precariously between us and the driver and we kept expecting it to fall off - miraculously it didn’t!
The Town of Siem Reap
Siem Reap is located in the north-west of Cambodia and is a small, busy and colourful city with both Khmer and French influences. The region was the site of successive capitals of the Khmer Empire from the ninth to the 15th centuries. The ruins, collectively known as the Angkor Archaeological Park, are located about four miles north of the city centre.
In 1863, Cambodia became a protectorate of France. The French colonial rule lasted for 90 years and during that time there was a rediscovery of the Angkor temples which lead to historical interest of the area, and its potential for development. The popularity of Angkor Wat and the opening of the first hotel, The Grand Hotel d’Angkor in 1929, stimulated tourism in the area. The Franco influence is still evident in the in the colonial architecture in the city centre, the high degree of French business investment and a sizeable expatriate community.
We began exploring Siem Reap early in the day to miss some of the heat. We crossed the Siem Reap River on a bridge with an ornate gateway at each end and immediately came to the Wat Preah Prom Rath where we could see colourfully decorated statues and stuppas. There was a gardener already at work shaping the trees.
After we left the Wat we made our way toward the Royal Crusade for Independence Gardens. We walked along the road that followed the Siem Reap River taking in the morning activity as people made their way to work and school. This side of the river was dotted with benches under the shade of trees and beautiful ornate lampposts.
The Royal Crusade for Independence Gardens also known as The Royal Gardens is the only green space open to the public in the city centre. The shade of the trees was welcome as the day was starting to heat up. Also taking advantage of the shade was a group of hawkers peddling their wares to the tourists.
On the north side of the gardens was the nearly 90 year old Raffles Grand Hotel d'Angkor. This hotel is a French-colonial design with aspects of Khmer architecture, art, and Art-Deco influences furniture throughout.
The Royal Residence is located on the South side of the gardens. It’s the King’s official residence when he is in town. It is also where King Sihanouk and General Lon Nol plotted Cambodia’s independence from their French colonial overlords in the 1950s.
Located across the road is another beautiful example of colonial French architecture, the Foreign Correspondents Club or FCC. It was formerly the French Governor's residence during the waning days of colonial rule.
Pictured below are a couple of five star hotel tuktuks and a car that we thought might also be used for hotel transfers. I think we had tuktuk envy comparing these beautiful versions of the classic tuktuk with the ones that we travelled in.
The Siem Reap Old Market is where the locals head to in the early mornings to shop for fresh vegetables, seafood, and meat as well as household items. Locally known as Psar Chas, it’s the oldest Khmer market in Siem Reap.
So so many sausages!
Rice and Eggs and Fruit and Vegetables
Lots of noodles
Chilli crabs and lots of fish
A fabric seller and dressmaker
Dry section selling tropical fruits, household appliances, pre-packaged snacks, as well as local condiments such as prahok (fermented fish paste).
There is a wet section where there are stalls with live seafood in fish tanks and butchered poultry on ice trays.