When I arranged to housesit in Siem Reap, I had little idea of what to expect. Over the past month, however, I’ve familiarized myself a bit with this western Cambodian town. Here are some notes and observations.
- Mix of dollars and riel
Although the Cambodian riel is the official currency, the U.S. dollar is widely used and accepted. Only U.S. bills are used, not coins. Anything below $1 is calculated in riel, with an exchange rate of around 1 U.S. dollar to 4,000 Cambodian riel.
- Lack of street signs
Streets and addresses are often not marked. Google Maps works fine here but the lack of signs can make it difficult to locate some streets and buildings.
- Concentration of useful stores
Siem Reap is a pretty compact city, at least the central part of town that I’m familiar with. Because of the amount of tourists that come through the city, there are stores that supply just about anything a Westerner would want or need.
- It’s cheap
Like other countries in Southeast Asia, the cost of living here is generally low. You can rent a serviced studio apartment for as little $250 per month and you can buy a coconut for fifty cents.
- It’s hot
April is the hottest month of the year with high temperatures usually in the 90’s Farhenheit, sometimes reaching triple digits. When I first got to Siem Reap, I wasn’t sure if I could handle the heat. But after about a week I adjusted to the climate and now it feels “normal”.
- It’s dusty
There is often dirt in the air, which makes many people cover their mouths or wear masks.
- Plenty of geckos
You can spot these little brown creatures on walls around the city.
- Techno music
European-style dance music seems to be the popular choice of music here and can be heard in stores and on the streets.