day 253 | june 18, 2009 | Siem Reap

It's not just about the temples. There are more -- so much more beyond the haunting beauty of its temples and reminders of the country's dark history. Siem Reap is bustling with the global vibe: expats are hanging out in pubs for quiz nights, the old market restaurants have increased in number and cuisine variety, unexpected boutique shops selling pretty kitsch are becoming trendy. Standing against the backdrop of a wide selection of backpacker inns, historical hotels like La Paix and new boutique all-suite hotels like the Sothea are catering to a luxury market of stylish travelers.

A cleansing balm to start and end your day, one is driven to be in the presence of the stunning wats during sunrise and sunsets. This is a place of serenity, of art, of fleeting ideas that need to be quickly put into words on a handy little notebook, to look back on once reality sets in.

Despite all these that one can indulge in, there is a keen awareness of income inequality. Once again, like I do for my own country, I ask: How can a land so blessed with natural resources be so achingly poor? There are dime-a-dozen children whose childhoods are spent in labor. Perhaps, I've become overly sensitive to this because I now have a child of my own. But I think there are too many working children. They smile and they wave and they speak with you in their best effort english seeking a few dollars here and there. They are beautiful, shrouded in youthful innocence, yet looking on to the world with grown-up eyes.

I have fallen in love. Siem Reap captivates you through its enduring people, most surviving on less than a dollar a day, but bearing multi-million dollar smiles.

1 comment:

Nicholas Leong said...

I want to visit Siem Reap too! Unfortunately, I always believe that modernisation and development which brings progress and income to the people will wipe out the cultural uniqueness of a particular location.

I have yet to see a place that has balanced both nicely.

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