Angkor Wat, a common excursion for visitors to nearby Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Zoonar GmbH—Alamy

The lauded “temple town” of Siem Reap—a leafy riverside departure point to the majestic Angkor Wat—is in the midst of a metamorphosis as part of a grand modernization plan. New wider roads, cycle lanes, parking, car-free pavement and gardens will make for a more walkable city, while at Angkor, a forest network of shaded bike paths, pedestrian boulevards, landscaping and the removal of vendors have reduced the bustle, providing peace to a sacred experience. Bonus: the return of wildlife—otters frolicking in moats, gibbons swinging in the treetops—thanks to concerted reintroduction efforts at the Angkor Archaeological Park. Back in town, the hip Wat Bo quarter is the new address of atmospheric cocktail spot Miss Wong; boho Laundry Bar, a favorite of expats and locals alike known for its live gigs and DJ sets; vegetarian fusion at farm-to-table restaurant Banlle; along with new waterfront pop-up bars, beer gardens and vegan street-food stalls. —Lara Dunston

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at