Hunkering down in tourist-free Siem Reap

Cambodia's Siem Reap thrives and survives on its tourist industry, with millions flocking to the ancient Angkor Wat temple each year. But as Covid-19 halts global travel, writer Jonathan Evans describes life minus the tourists in this once-again sleepy little town.

I remember the day as clearly as if it were yesterday, even though it feels like years have since passed. It was the first day of February when my wife and I moved from a tiny apartment to a secluded boutique hotel in Siem Reap, intending to stay for two weeks before moving abroad, where she had landed a new role in travel publishing.

Two months later, we are still at the hotel. The incipient coronavirus scare had migrated across Asia and become an epidemic; airline magazines suffered an alarming shortfall in advertising; not just flights, but entire airlines were grounded; and by mid-February the work contract was cancelled.

Even the notion that so recently, we were merrily preparing to leave Siem Reap for the big city – not, in normal times, such a terribly far-fetched plan – now seems so antiquated as to be laughable.

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