I finally escaped the madness of Bangkok and took a bus to Siem Reap in Cambodia which is the city near the temples of Angkor. I hadn’t booked ahead having realised that the online booking systems didn’t always show the cheapest room rates. Luckily the girl sitting next to me was also winging it so we decided to look for a guesthouse together. As we walked it began to bucket down so we sought refuge in a tuk tuk and asked the driver to take us somewhere nice and cheap. He picked the Garden Village which was great and super cheap (thank you Mr Tuk Tuk) he also got completely drenched on the ride but was happy to do it (I admire these people and their work ethic).
I spent the next few days wandering around the city, in and out of markets, doing some christmas shopping and sampling the yummy food (cambodian curry isn’t generally spicy). The city itself has a great vibe and at night they close off Pub Street to traffic and let everyone mill around enjoying all the lights and the cheap beer. I spent one night drinking Cambodia – National Beer, National Pride in the Mad Monkey bar which has sand for a floor and the infamous pub Angkor What?! I met some really neat people and we organised to visit the temples together.
We decided to really get the best out of our temple experience we would head out there for sunrise which meant getting up at 4:30 in the morning. Unfortunately for us it was quite cloudy and we didn’t get to see much of a sunrise but it was also a blessing because we did our templing before the heat of the day really set it. We started with Wat (the one everyone knows) and then moved onto Angkor Thom which is covered in the face of Buddah. Then we wandered through the bush coming across many other smaller temples and ruins. We finished with a visit to Ta Prong which was actually used to film Tomb Raider and has huge trees growing all throughout, this was my favourite. As someone who isn’t a big fan of temples I feel I have seen the best and am now content to never see another.
On my final evening there our big group (15) went out for a proper cambodian BBQ recommended by our tuk-tuk driver. We ordered enough beef to feed an army and set about learning how to eat it like a proper Cambodian. We had three bowls each – one with salt and pepper in, to which you add lime. One with ‘aromatic porridge’ as one of the boys called it, to which you add lemongrass, fresh chilli, lime and crushed nuts. And an empty bowl in which you mix your meat and vegetables together before dunking it in the aforementioned porridge. Well what a taste sensation. I did have to pick out the chilli after taking a bite and entering another dimension of spice but after that I set about enjoying this delicious and authentic meal. If anyone would like to go it is called the Cornerhouse on Wat Bo Street, you may need to ask a tuk tuk driver because it’s not a Lonely Planet haunt.
Sad to say goodbye I boarded a bus the next day headed for the capital Phnom Penh, on my journey I read the book everyone is reading here called ‘First They Killed my Father’ which is the true story of a girl who lived through the years of the Khmer Rouge. A very sad story which will become very real when I visit the killing fields and S-21 tomorrow. I think I will need to bring some tissues.