Asia’s coolest neighbourhood is planting itself firmly on visitors’ maps with the launch of a pocket guide to the trendiest spots in Siem Reap’s historic yet hip Wat Bo village.
The guide, which comes in the form of a small brochure, features a map of the leafy district, which Time Out magazine crowned Asia’s coolest neighbourhood in early October, as well as details of the design-driven boutique hotels, ambient cocktail bars, and eclectic collection of cafes and restaurants.
“We’ve always loved this area of the city, with its intimate scale and the laid-back vibe,” said Joni Aker, general manager of neighbourhood landmark Treeline hotel in the area, in a press release. “The wonderful collection of cafés, restaurants, shops and boutique hotels almost feels as though it’s been curated, and yet everything came together organically."
“This guide serves a practical purpose, but it’s also really a celebration of that sense of community, of having helped each other through a long and extremely challenging period, from the pandemic to the citywide roading and infrastructure development, and having come out the other side with renewed energy and a shared sense of wanting to make this neighbourhood even better.”
In October, Wat Bo village hit international headlines when Time Out magazine crowned it the world’s third coolest neighbourhood and Asia’s first in its annual listing.
“Wat Bo has always had its own charms, and I’m very pleased that it’s getting more attention these days,” added Nguon Venchhay, a partner at Cuisine Wat Damnak, the first restaurant in Cambodia to make Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
“It’s always good for a city like Siem Reap, which relies heavily on tourism, to have more interesting districts. Having said that, we have work to do; we need to work harder to make our neighbourhood, and the whole city as a destination, an even better product.”
After enduring two years of pandemic-related travel restrictions that stalled global travel, heavily tourism-reliant Siem Reap is slowly seeing an uptick in tourists. Hopes are high that these figures will rise as the country heads into the traditional high season.
In recent years, players in Siem Reap have promoted the town as home to much more than the temples that attract scores of visitors. Today, people come to Siem Reap to experience its robust dining, shopping scene and other experiences.
Wat Bo Village is named after Wat Bo Pagoda, one of the town’s oldest places of worship and a functioning Buddhist temple and monastery. Recently, boutique hotels, stylish bars and music venues, and bars and restaurants have added to the area’s vibrancy.
“That’s part of Wat Bo’s appeal. It’s become a high-end spot that’s very cosmopolitan and yet is still distinctly Cambodian,” said Douglas Gordon, an artist, graphic designer and former co-owner of concept store trunkh. He now runs cambodiaiseeyou.com. Gordon and Aker helped to create the guide.
He added, “We came together as a group of former and present residents of the area and creative business owners who have always loved this district. This pocket guide is a labour of love for a neighbourhood that we’ve seen evolve, and continue to evolve. It’s really exciting to see.”
The free guide is now available at participating establishments around Wat Bo and elsewhere in the city.