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  • Looking for a place to de-stress from mommy duties? Why not visit Siem Reap, a city in northwestern Cambodia, and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world because it’s home to the famous Angkor Wat and other ancient Khmer Empire temples. But ancient architectural marvels aren’t all that this place has to offer.

    Below are a few other reasons to make Siem Reap your next vacation stop:

    1. Proximity and convenience.
    Siem Reap is a mere three hours away from Manila by plane, far enough that it feels like you really went on vacation, but close enough that you can be back right away if there is a major emergency at home. Also, if you’re a Filipino passport holder, there’s no need to go through the inconveniences of securing a visa.

    2. No money exchanger, no problem.
    It is so tourist-friendly that US dollars are widely accepted; in most instances, even Philippine pesos! In major establishments, you can even pay for an item with a mix of currencies, i.e. tens in US dollars, and loose change in Cambodian riel. Which brings us to our next favourite thing about Siem Reap—


    3. It’s a shopper’s paradise.
    The city’s Night Market is chock-full of Cambodian souvenirs, from refrigerator magnets that you can buy at 10 pieces for USD1 to Angkor Wat-emblazoned shirts for just USD2. If you prefer shopping in air-conditioned comfort, there are also many outlet stores in the neighborhood that sell designer goods at discounted prices. 

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    4. Clean toilets everywhere.
    Don’t worry about staying outdoors the whole day. Siem Reap may be a city in a Third World country, but you wouldn’t believe it from the state of their public restrooms. Wherever you go, the toilets are clean and sparkling, there is no smell, the flush works, the water pressure strong, and toilet paper available. 

    5. You have to experience a Khmer massage.
    It’s not a mom-cation if you don’t experience some pampering, and the Cambodians provide that as well. Unlike other forms of massages that leave you feeling like you’ve been beaten to a pulp, the Khmer version makes use of light squeezes and rubbing motions to relax your muscles after a long day of temple-hopping. There are oil and non-oil versions available, and you can avail of a one-hour session in the comfort of your hotel room for as low as USD8. Just make sure you book through your concierge so you get licensed, certified masseuses. 

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    6. Be a part of history.
    There’s a reason millions of tourists from all over the world go to Siem Reap every year, and it’s not because taking a photo in front of centuries-old temples will generate many “likes” or double taps on social media; rather, Angkor Wat, et al, are proof of ancient man’s genius and skill. Imagine: during a time when there were no calculators, heavy machinery, or power drills, Khmer architects, engineers, craftsmen, and some 6,000 elephants were able to build structures so massive and grand. They have such painstaking attention to detail (there are a total of 3,000 apsaras, or “beautiful ladies” carved on the walls of Angkor Wat) that no two have the same hairstyles or pose. To see these up close is both a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. 

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    Planning to go?

    The best times to visit Siem Reap would be between January and March, when the weather is dry but not oppressively hot. 

    Bring your own reusable water container, fan, cap, umbrella, and sunblock.

    Visitors to temples are required to dress modestly—knees and shoulders must be covered, and this goes for both men and women.

    Be a responsible tourist—take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.

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