Siem Reap then and now

A reporter reflects on how much Siem Reap has changed after 11 years, comparing the then-sleepy town under the Khmer Rouge with the bustling tourist spot it is today.

Cambodia: Off the Beaten Track
The Telegraph, 03 December 2007

How things change. Siem Reap is now a boisterous hive of activity, while the marvels of Angkor are thoroughly on the tourist track. The temples are still one of the wonders of the world, no less stunning for the crowds, but I hankered after the glorious loneliness of my previous visit.

So I headed 50 miles north, past paddy fields and villages of wooden huts on stilts little changed by the rapid development that has swept Siem Reap. Eleven years ago, this would have been a suicidal journey into Khmer Rouge territory, but my return offered new possibilities: outlying temples, cut off back then by minefields, were now accessible.

You can read the full post here. I certainly would like to revisit the temples at Angkor – the first time round was definitely too short and I stuck to the simple tourist circuit of Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and Angkor Thom. I don’t see the crowds dissipating anytime soon, though – even during the off-peak period, one sees ten buses of tourists making their way towards Angkor Wat. And friends who have visited Angkor in the peak periods between November – December come back telling me that the crowds are crazy.

When I return – and it is a question of when rather than if – it is the other, less celebrated temples that will be on my itnerary: Beng Melea, Preah Kahn, Bantaey Srei… But I probably would want to take another closer look at Angkor Wat again!

Related Books:

Angkor Cities and Temples by C. Jaques
Ancient Angkor (River Book Guides) by C. Jaques
The Treasures of Angkor: Cultural Travel Guide (Rizzoli Art Guide) by M. Albanese
Angkor: Cambodia’s Wondrous Khmer Temples, Fifth Edition by D. Rooney and P. Danford
The Site of Angkor by J. Dumarcay
Angkor (New Horizons) by B. Dagens

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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