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Siem Reap (Khmer: ក្រុងសៀមរាប, pronounced [siəm riəp] is the capital city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia, and a popular resort town as the gateway to Angkor region.

Siem Reap has colonial and Chinese-style architecture in the Old French Quarter, and around the Old Market. In the city, there are museums, traditional Apsara dance performances, a Cambodian cultural village, souvenir and handy-craft shops, silk farms, rice-paddies in the countryside, fishing villages and a bird sanctuary near the Tonle Sap Lake.

Siem Reap today—being a popular tourist destination—has a large number of hotels, resorts, restaurants and businesses closely related to tourism. This is much owed to its proximity to the Angkor temples, the most popular tourist attraction in Cambodia.


Re-discovery of Angkor

Siem Reap was little more than a village when French explorers such as Henri Mouhot “re-discovered” Angkor in the 19th century. Western visitors however have visited the temple much earlier, for example António da Madalena in 1586″. In 1901 the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO; French School of the Far East) began a long association with Angkor by funding an expedition into Siam to the Bayon. The EFEO took responsibility for clearing and restoring the whole site. In the same year, the first tourists arrived in Angkor – an unprecedented 200 of them in three months. Angkor had been ‘rescued’ from the jungle and was assuming its place in the modern world.

With the acquisition of Angkor by the French in 1907 due to the Franco-Siamese agreement, Siem Reap began to grow, absorbing the first wave of tourists. The Grand Hotel d’Angkor opened its doors in 1929 and the temples of Angkor remained one of Asia’s leading draws until the late 1960s, luring visitors like Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Kennedy. In 1975, the population of Siem Reap, along with that of the rest of the cities and towns in Cambodia, was evacuated by the communist Khmer Rouge and driven into the countryside.


As with the rest of the country, Siem Reap’s history (and the memories of its people) is coloured by the spectre of the brutal Khmer Rouge Regime, though since Pol Pot’s death in 1998, relative stability and a rejuvenated tourist industry have been important steps in an important, if tentative, journey forward to recovery. With the advent of war, Siem Reap entered a long slumber from which it only began to awake in the mid-1990s.

Today, Siem Reap serves as a small gateway town to the world famous heritage site of the Angkor temples. Thanks to those attractions, Siem Reap has transformed itself into a major tourist hub. Siem Reap nowadays is a vibrant town with modern hotels and architectural styles. Despite international influences, Siem Reap and its people have conserved much of the town’s image, culture and traditions.


 
 
It was our pleasure and honour to be hosts to Alena Vasilyeva - artist & painter from Russia.
Alena managed to make a number of paintings inspired by the temples of Angkor Wat and we are pleased to be able to present them to you with permission from the author.
Alena will be back to Siem Reap and River Queen Guesthouse in December 2015 and we cannot wait to see her again.