This once-sleepy colonial town has woken up, thanks to Angkor Wat
Siem Reap has always been known as the base from which to explore the ancient temples of Angkor, hosting a steady stream of luminaries like Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Kennedy until the mid-1970s, when Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge plunged the country into a reign of terror, killing some 1.7million Cambodians in a span of 3 - 4 years. But things have changed since then, and today Siem Reap has blossomed into a tourist mecca with options to suit every taste and budget - luxurious hotels to cheap guesthouses, roadside eateries to bistros serving French cuisine, English or Irish style pubs to discotheques, and for those seeking convenience, ATMs dispensing US dollars at virtually every other street corner. The Old Market remains the prime destination for shoppers looking for silk and silver, artifacts and handicrafts, trinkets and souvenirs, but there are now other places to visit such as the Central Market and Night Market. There are even a couple of modern malls, though these are visited primarily for their supermarkets (shops and stores have yet to fill the mostly empty halls). And while Siem Reap's transition into modern life may seem like an endless cacophony of traffic and construction, there are still a couple of gems that evoke its increasingly distant past. Take a pleasant stroll on the tree-lined streets along the river, or wander around the Old French Quarter, now converted into a lively tourist town of souvenir shops, bookstores, restaurants, bars, Internet cafes and the ubiquitous massage parlors.