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A lot has happened in 20 years, the level of development has been unprecedented. On first arriving in 1993 the immediate impression was lack of services available to the tourist. Certainly there was still the tuk tuk drivers eager to drive you on a tour of the temples of Angkor for the day. Hotels were popping up but other services were limited. There were no ATMs and not much else to do if one wanted to take a break from visiting the temples. Fast forward 20 years and the situation has completely changed through a great deal of investment, knowledge and innovation. This has been possible through development aid. The tenacity of the local people who despite all the atrocities they have been through are keen to show off their wonderful country and take the opportunities they have. It has also been possible as many Khmers who escaped during the Khmer Rouge era are returning with the knowledge they have gained abroad bringing positive change to the local community.
With many local businesses getting ready for the new tourist season starting in October don’t just think about a tour to Siem Reap as just a quick temple visit. That a moment to have a look at what else is on offer and how it adds to the local economy.
Horse-riding in Siem Reap is one such tour, for those with a little adventure in mind why not take a horse riding tour for 1-3 hours through rural countryside passing streams, rice fields and local villages. The tours are suitable for beginners and children and are a fun way to break up visiting the temples or just for experiencing something different on a tour to Cambodia.
For those with a head for heights and wanting to catch some aerial views and photographs of the majestic Angkor Wat try a balloon ride over Angkor. The German made helium balloon doesn’t actually move as it is attached to a rope but ascends around 200 metres for a 10 minute trip which allows you to get some great photographs and an aerial view of the eighth wonder of the world!
If you find yourself in Siem Reap on a Sunday evening a great experience is a traditional Khmer dance show with live traditional music put on by the Cambodian Children’s House of Peace, an orphanage in Siem Reap. The show is held every Sunday during the school term without fail at 7pm. It is completely free but do make a donation to their worthy cause if visiting. If you are visiting during rainy season there is a rain cover so don’t let that put you off. It is well worth the visit.
There are of course many other attractions and activities to choose from on your short trip to Siem Reap and Cambodia. Keep your mind open and don’t forget how far Cambodia has come in the last 20 years!