Siem Reap Part 2 – Beyond the Temples! Siem Reap’s attractions are obviously focused on the gigantic and not so gigantic yet still beautiful temples found all over the province, however, I realized that there’s really more to do in this place.
Our first tour ended surprisingly early – we arrived at our hotel around 4 pm! Guess that makes sense since we left the hotel at 5 am but still, we were all pretty shocked that we got to see so many places and even stop for food! Haha. For our second tour, we got back at around 6 pm? The floating village is a pretty long drive but no worries, it was still early for our natural body clocks that are used to sleeping quite late. So after taking our long showers, lying down on our soft beds and updating ourselves with the social media world, we headed out without plans to explore the place at night! Fun stuff. (Disclaimer: Sorry for the disturbingly different resolutions of the photos, I just grabbed photos from Bernice’s Instagram and the rare photos taken from Cha’s digicam. Guess we got tired of taking so many photos during the tour. Haha.)
#1 Khmer food! I felt that we ate a lot. The one on top is their specialty – Fish Amok. I’m not really a foodie so all I can say about it is that it had this distinctive taste from their spice plus it had coconut milk in it (I think). I really liked it, Cha didn’t. But yeah, aside from that their food is really tasty and sometimes, spicy. Lea was addicted to the fried rice she had but I think my favorite was the spicy chicken with basil leaves. Pretty good stuff (which apparently is in Thailand also as I will later find out). On our first night, though, I realized I was too adventurous with one meal that I ended up barely touching it. It was like ground beans coated in something like suman. Oh gosh, but I just had to try it. No regrets there. Haha. We tried to eat in restos that had trip advisor awards or accreditation or something as advised by Renan. Guess it was a good move, all the places we ate in were really pretty awesome. I think our best meal in Siem Reap was our first and our last. The first one was in this little eatery in front of the main temples in Angkor Wat. It was surprisingly good. The last one was this nice and fancy-looking place before we headed back to the airport. It was an ihaw-ihaw setup so you just pick the stuff you want to grill and watch them grill it. So yes, my only advice is that when you’re touring the temples and it’s scorching hot – do not hesitate to buy from that ice cream vendor! And second, when you decide to eat in the Butterfly Garden Restaurant, do not eat at night because the butterflies are apparently asleep according to the server. Haha. Meals were also relatively cheap, around USD 3-5. It really didn’t vary that much regardless if it was in a fancy looking resto or not.
#2 The streets at night! I couldn’t think of a better category. Haha. We shopped at night markets every night there. I bought myself more flowy pants (my friends used to call these Timmy pants because I used to be the only one with the appreciation for it!) and a white caftan just because. After walking around the market, we decided to get ourselves some foot massages outside a massage store. It will turn out that we had at least one massage a day for the duration of our stay there. Guess it helps that massages are offered just about anywhere. They also have the fish foot spa thing and all of them tried it except me. I have strange personal space issues that way. Haha.
So while Bernice and I were enjoying our 30-minute foot massage for just 1 dollar (or 2, I can’t remember now), Renan arrives with a paper bag full of insects. He has been looking for street vendors selling insects the entire night we were shopping. So due to immense peer pressure, I ended up trying one which was conveniently documented as seen from the picture above. And this was just night number one – things could only get more exciting than that.
# 3 Pub Street at midnight! This street is famous for its bars and I must admit I didn’t really expect this peaceful province to have a street like this. My friends and I were drinking in a table outside the bar as it was the only thing that was available. We were talking about hostel tour groups and a bunch of other things when suddenly a long rope appeared out of nowhere. Suddenly, I saw people were climbing over the rails of the bars, or simply rushing towards the street to play tug of war. Loved that moment.
People were removing their shoes before tugging on the rope, and those who didn’t had theirs removed as they played the game. Some people even got dragged at least a few meters across the street but no worries, they were fine. Just a bunch of people having a good time. This scene reminded me so much of LKF in Hong Kong. Good times, indeed. I realized that I really missed that feeling – that of having a good time with no frills, no judgments and no pretensions. I vowed to try the tug of war thing the next night, sadly, the rope didn’t appear which makes me think those crazy rope stuff were only for the weekends. But no worries, I’m glad I got to see that sight. Good job, Pub Street!
#4 The unexpected cycling On our third and final day in Siem Reap, we did not book any tours. We were supposed to ride this hot air balloon overlooking Angkor Wat at sunrise. Unfortunately, the winds were too strong and no one could ride the balloon. We tried again at sunset but the winds wouldn’t give in. So we spent the morning cycling around the place. It was just “chill” and calming and awesome. It was nice to see the place without our fancy van or detailed itinerary. I always look forward to the part of the trip where nothing is planned and this was that moment in this one. I feel it’s the best way to understand a place or at least try and get a hold of it. Those are the moments that stick with you.
I’m not the best biker in the world so I did hit a few cars and some motorcycles had to stop before me because I couldn’t turn just quite right. I thought they were going to get mad and I braced myself but everybody just smiled. I’m not kidding. They just smiled at me even though I was already touching the side of their cars or hit their motorcycles. Extraordinary warmth from this people, just unbelievable. Like what my friend said, “I’d come back even just for the people.” It’s really true.
And so, thank you, Siem Reap! I wish you all the best.
The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.