visitors, Cambodia equals Angkor Wat, the stunning memorial
to the golden age of the K'hmer Kingdom. Even now, its
magnificence exhausts superlatives. It is indeed the jewel
in the crown of world heritage.
Once a small backwater
town, Siem Reap has expanded to become the reception area
for its illustrious neighbour. Now city-sized with a population
well over half a million, it still feels like a provincial
it has the best tourism infrastructure in Cambodia: a large
modern international airport, good roads and a comprehensive
range of hotels and restaurants.
Although it depends
almost entirely upon the enormous number of visitors to
the Temple complex, it's worth more than a passing glance.
a pleasant place and, despite rumours to the contrary, safe.
There's plenty of space and greenery, and many wooden buildings,
mostly on stilts. Although the local Wats and the market
are nothing to write home about, there are several places
Cultural Village is a recent addition to Siem Reap's attractions
located near the airport, it's a cultural theme park style
museum aimed mainly at the domestic market.
there's standard museum exhibitions of wildlife and artifacts
as well as waxwork figures from Cambodia's past and present
(the tableau of a local 'fun girl' wrapped round a UN peacekeeper
has upset the UN!).
Outside are reproductions
of various Cambodian landmarks, such as Phnom Penh's Central
Market and the National Museum, and miniature versions of
a number of ethnic villages.
Farm just outside the town is quite fun at feeding time,
but muted by a persistent rumour that the Khmer Rouge used
it to dispose of some of their victims. A more wholesome
place is a local Butterfly Garden, where you can wander
around lush tropical fruit trees and flowers with several
species of butterflies fluttering around you.
Cambodia is a
poor country, further impoverished both economically and
culturally by the K'hmer Rouge. Siem Reap has an innovative
project addressing both elements known as Les Artisans d'Angkor
- Chantiers Ecoles. It's a French initiative to teach poverty-stricken
young men and women the skills necessary to recreate the
richly decorated stone and wood effigies and artifacts of
from Siem Reap, the school has a silk farm that encompasses
the entire process from tending the mulberry trees to tailoring
finished garments using designs redolent of the ancient
worth support is the Cambodia Land Mine Museum. It was founded
by Aki Ra, who was conscripted into the Khmer Rouge at the
age of five after his parents had been executed. It contains
exhibits of mines and other weapons and information about
from the museum, funds are being raised to build an extension
to include a school for 30 children who have lost limbs
from land mines, a prosthetic limb clinic and a unit for
educating people about land mines.
abound in Cambodia and particularly Siem Reap. Many are
run by foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs), but
many are local businesses and philanthropists.
A good example
is the Shinta Mani Hotel, established specifically to benefit
poor people. Not only does the hotel support several projects
in poor comminites in and arounf the city, but also runs
a caterint and hospitality school alongside the building.