Anyway, after we waved goodbye to the thriving metropolis of Bangkok, we set off for a quick couple of days to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Talk about a change of pace. Going from one of the largest, brightest, most bustling cities in the civilized world to a place that was…well….just downright peaceful and quiet.
Despite having been through multiple security checks at the Bangkok airport, we were still subjected to a cumbersome process checking into Cambodia. The very first thing I noticed once we left the airport? Mosquitos. They were everywhere, including inside our van. Clearly they snuck in there while our luggage was being loaded. Second thing I noticed? Dust. Cambodia is sooper dusty. Which means it must be sooper muddy during the rainy season.
However, ALL my weariness from travel melted away once we arrived at our hotel. Guys, it was so QUAINT. But we’ll save that for it’s own post. We were on a mission in Cambodia, and that was to see a slice of local life and the Angkor Wat temples. Since we arrived early, Kara took the liberty of booking a walking tour through Treak Village. And I am glad she did. We learned a LOT about local culture beyond the touristy streets, and about how real communities of Cambodia live. To sum it up in one word? POOR. A local organization called HUSK volunteers within the area to promote clean water, education, and health. Essentially, the very basic human needs that so many take for granted. Take clean water for example: 1 in 15 children will die before they reach their 5th birthday, with waterborne disease being a major culprit. There has never been a time in my life when I didn’t have access to clean water. I never even thought of it as a luxury. But I do now. So let’s take a walk through Treak Village shall we? Above is one of the water filtration systems. Not only does HUSK install them, they monitor them and provide continuing education about the importance of drinking clean water. Actually, for only $85 you can provide another family with their own filtration system. And the livestock like to hang around. This guy was NOT friendly. He charged at me after I snapped this picture, but thankfully he was tied to that tree behind him. Rice, of course, is a HUGE export in this part of the world. After it’s harvested, it’s laid out to dry. And the above picture is a great example of why you should always rinse your rice before you cook it 🙂 (Above) The school for the entire village (Above) A cemetery (Above) A field of Lotus flowers. Cambodians are not educated about proper waste disposal so you’ll find trash all over the streets. HUSK has a system in place that incentivizes the locals to clean up their community and they either re-use those materials for building, or properly dispose of them.(Above) A new medical center constructed out of rubbish stuffed into plastic bottles. And decorated by the kids of course. Towards the edge of the village, there was a little convenience store. (Above) Pictured is a NEW house. There are many, many families on the waiting list for new homes. The single room hut above will house an entire family. This gentleman has also found gainful employment as a Tuk-Tuk driver, which is another positive. Many locals will fall into panhandling. Even going so far as to yank their kids out of school and have them panhandle. It’s very difficult to say “No” to a begging child, but we were encouraged to do just that. Giving them money only enables the poor behavior. HUSK works hard to get children off the streets and back into school so they can get an education and have better hope for future generations.
After our village tour, we went back to our hotel for a quick dip in the pool. Cambodia is just as hot and humid as Thailand. Kara & I set off to catch a glimpse of sunset at Angkor Wat (saving that for the next blog) and then after dusk we met back up with our party to grab a bite in downtown Siem Reap. Which, despite half of downtown having it’s power knocked out from an earlier car wreck, it was downright charming. Lively, friendly, busy.
A few locals recommended Chanrey Tree so we went there. Trust the locals when it comes to restaurant ideas! Unfortunately, they were without power too. I think they were running the kitchen equipment on generators. It was of course, very hot, and without the ceiling fans they at least provided us with some cool towels. Like I said man, it was HOT. One thing we discovered about Cambodia was how delicious Khmer style cooking was. Khmer cuisine is big on bold flavors and fresh ingredients. Chanrey Tree pumped out some delicious food and the staff were very friendly. Also, the complete lack of light and dead camera batteries didn’t allow us very good pictures of the food, but we snapped a couple with the iPhone that turned out okay. We shared an app to start that we devoured before getting any pictures. Oops. But it was delicious. We had the Crispy Sticky Rice with “Natang” Sauce. Then we ordered the Roasted Khmer Chicken as a main dish to share (above). Free-range Khmer chicken roasted with honey and rice brandy, young jack fruit and lemongrass served with
prahok dipping sauce and fresh crudites. Yummy. So good. A little sweet, a little spicy and sour, a little brandy and just delicious. Khmer cuisine is so full of flavor. Finally for dessert, we shared the Khmer specialty dessert – Khmer white sticky rice with Jack fruit, ripe mango and longan. It was incredibly unique. They served the fried ball of sticky rice with fresh coconut ice cream that was out of this world. Definitely don’t skip this place or dessert if you are in Siem Reap. We totally had our socks knocked off by Khmer cuisine and Chanrey tree. The prices were also really affordable for such amazing food – another nice surprise.
A few minutes before we left, the power did finally come back on and we were able to get a shot of their lovely decorations.And no trip downtown would be complete without a trip to Pub Street and the night market. Here we are arriving:
The market was sprawling. There’s live music, bars, restaurants, more bars, shops, street food, friendly vendors, angry vendors, rude vendors, etc. One could easily get lost in this place at night because it was SO crowded and it’s not like there’s an information kiosk anywhere with a map. So…be careful wading into there. But DEFINTELY go, it’s totally fun and worth it! Did I mention that the hotel we stayed at gave us our own Tuk-tuk driver? Yeah. He drove us EVERYWHERE and just politely waited for us. I felt so bad. I’ve never experienced anything like that in my life. We gave him a big ol’ tip at the end of our stay. It’s not required, but we felt obligated since he happily shuttled us around without a peep. This was my view for most of my tuk-tuk rides. You will not hear me complain one bit.
Next up for Cambodia: The reason we’re all here….Angkor Wat