My 5: Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Water Festival Bon Om Touk Siem Reap

1. Water Festival, November 2015. Siem Reap is a very comfortable city for visitors, whether you find yourself passing through to see Angkor Wat, or even thinking about starting a new life in South East Asia. The weather is great, there’s a vibrant expat community, nearly everyone speaks English and the place is awash with cafes, bars and restaurants offering a wide variety of international cuisine. Better still, life there is as cheap as chips, from accommodation and fine dining to scuttling around town by tuk-tuk. One of the best times to visit is in November for the annual Water Festival (Bon Om Touk). There are festive markets to explore, an abundance of street food and of course the main spectacle itself: a series of colorful, hotly contested boat races.

2. Bed Delivery, October 2015. Moving into an unfurnished apartment wasn’t the smartest move I made during my two and a half months in Siem Reap. Still, this hand-carved Cambodian bed was a gorgeous piece snapped up during a tour of the city’s woodshops. The tricky part was getting it delivered to my second floor apartment. Clearly desperate for a sale, the woodshop owner rounded up a group of nearby locals to pitch in and carry the thing up a steep flight of stairs. They did a fantastic job and the bed made it up and inside without so much as a scratch.

3. Neighbourhood Children, October 2015. These little guys belonged to a local tradesman who came to fix the faulty electrics and install some wall fans. They spent an hour jumping around my front room, playing with whatever they could get their hands on and using my sofa as a bouncy castle. But when I asked them to sit for a photo they dutifully complied, patiently posing for me while I made a mess of the first few attempts. Is it just me or are Asian kids infinitely cuter than their western counterparts?

4. Phsar Leu Market, October 2015. I’ve seen more than my fair share of Asian markets over the years, but few can compare to the uncompromising rawness of Phsar Leu. This is a proper Cambodian market, one that couldn’t care less about the custom of tourists or expats. Dive into its murky depths and you’ll see mountains of impossibly cheap footwear and determined women chopping up pigs’ heads. By the time you’ve reached the fruit and veg, the interconnecting pathways have become so muddy and filthy it feels like trudging through marshland. There are no rules in Phsar Leu, so be ready to move out of the way for motorbikes or wandering farmyard animals. On the flip side you can take all the pictures you want, the locals really don’t care. And you can go about your business without the relentless hassle associated with The Old Market in the centre of town.

5. Future Bright International School, November 2015. I’ve been teaching English on and off for the better part of fourteen years. I thought I’d seen it all, but this place taught me otherwise with bells on top. Nevertheless, I will never forget my fantastic students! This photo was taken after the triumph of our end of term oral presentations. They’d worked so hard and made me so proud that I cycled out to a nearby bakery to buy a congratulatory cake. “Teacher, is last lesson, what will we do?” asked Norinth, an impish Jack-the-lad type with a gangster grin. Tired from the exertions of the week and more than ready for the Cambodian road trip that awaited me, I treated them all to a viewing of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. With Cake.

Like this? Then why not check out my other 5s from all around Cambodia.

Leighton Literature travel reports short stories travel blogger


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Freelance travel writer, voice over and English teacher from London. Former music and film journalist, interviewer of the stars. Passionate about travel, film, music, football, Indian food.

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