Siem Reap is a city easy to travel because of its many tourist amenities. Delicious restaurants full of both Khmer and Western foods, Tuk Tuks ready to take us anywhere for a dollar or two, and English spoken everywhere. But the best example of Siem Reap’s tourist-friendly atmosphere is its Night Market. When I first think of a night market in Southeast Asia, a very specific image comes to mind with crowded stalls, dim lighting, a mixture of smells that individually would be nice but together don’t blend, and people trying to sell you anything and everything. This market was anything but that to the point of there being a night market map, a bar/restaurant in the middle, friendly salespeople, great lighting, and surprising cleanliness.
Pub Street, located in the middle of town, was full of inexpensive and great restaurants. For each dinner, Sangita, Nithya, and I would take turns reading about Khmer history from my Kindle’s Lonely Planet Cambodia so that we could start to understand the Indian, Hindu and French influences all around us. In addition, up and down the street were small pools of cleaner fish. For a small fee, we put our feet in one pool and let the fish, both big and small, nibble at our heels and our toes with the promise that afterwards our feet would be clean and “soft as a baby’s bottom” (their words, not mine). After I moved pass the tickling phase, the sensation wasn’t too unusual and almost nice.
Siem Reap is a great city, even if a bit touristy, that offers opportunities to try traditional food, appreciate Khmer Art, and see temples that were significant in ages past and are still places of pilgrimage for many today.