Witnessing sunrise over Angkor Wat must have felt surreal when it was first spotted by French explorers in the mid-19th century. The Buddhist complex, the largest of its kind on the planet, rises from the jungle like a behemoth from another age – and yet today it is only 7km from the bustling heart of Cambodia’s second metropolis.
It is difficult to fathom how important this grand temple complex is to Siem Reap. It defines dozens of aspects of city life (everything from beer to cigarettes to souvenir T-shirts are emblazoned with this icon) and it is a veritable lifeblood for hotels, restaurants, bars and sumptuous spas. Naturally, it has more than its fair share of other treasures and lesser-known temple sites, but without the ever-increasing two million plus visitors that come to gawp each year, Siem Reap would face a very different future.