Trudi visits Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
A recent family visit to Cambodia was a fascinating insight into a country with a devastating history. For more than three years in the late 1970s, communist dictator Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge army implemented a brutal regime that resulted in the deaths of 1.7 million people. Despite this horrific recent past, Cambodians are warm and welcoming, and the economy is now relying heavily on tourism for its future. The ancient Angkor Wat temple complex near Siem Reap is a huge drawcard, attracting visitors from all over the globe; Angkor Wat means “city of temples” and is the largest religious monument in the world, and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Traditional Cambodian crafts are also increasingly in demand and two of hardtofind.’s sellers are based in Siem Reap: Smateria, which sells funky bags made from recycled fishing nets or leather motorbike seats, and Tendance Khmere, which specialises in gorgeous Cambodian silks.
Siem Reap is a lively town with good eating and drinking options including the buzzy Il Forno Italian restaurant, Miss Wong cocktail bar, and the Foreign Correspondents Club for a step back in time. We stayed at La Residence d’Angkor, a lovely hotel on the river that combines a low-rise traditional building with luxurious touches including a fab spa. Two of our favourite experiences on the trip were organised by La Residence: a meditation session with a local Buddhist monk, and a chance for our kids to meet children from the nearby orphanage, who come to the hotel twice a week for juice and fresh fruit and a chance to practise their English with tourists. Seeing them all together playing simple games that needed no translation (nor an iPod or headphones!) was a special moment that will stay with me for a long time.
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