We started our Asian adventure in Cambodia, as visiting the wats in Siem Reap was one of the top of the list must dos on this trip.
We had our RTW plane ticket booked for an Auckland-Bangkok flight, but as we didn’t have a lot of time to research Thailand before getting there we decided to begin in Siem Reap and end our two months Indochina adventure in Thailand. The flight from Auckland was interesting in itself, given that for whatever reason both Ryan and I thought that it will be a 4 hours flight or so. Well…it’s in fact a 12 hours flight!! That we were not prepared for Thai airline was good though, they gave us two full meals and a snack in the middle and they had the latest movies available (I got to finally watch the second Hobbit!) so in the end it was a good flight.
The next morning we took a much shorter flight to Siem Reap, and then the amazement started. Amazing people, amazing sights, amazing weather, amazing wats, amazing food. Everything, just amazing.
The people are warm and welcoming. They might seem serious in the beginning but I ‘blame’ it on them being shy especially when they have to exercise their English. A smile on your face will brighten their face and they will smile and chat with you, greet you into their hotel or restaurant or food stall on the street. They will also try to sell you their food, a tuk tuk or a motorcycle ride, souvenirs and clothes, some durian or ice cream, fried spiders and snakes, but if you really don’t want any (although you should probably try some of these) you just say no, smile, say another no, thank you, and they will let you be. It’s part of the adventure and sometimes it makes it more fun.
We had a blast with these two girls advertising (or guarding) their families restaurants very close to our hotel. We were passing them every day on the way out and they were ‘fighting’ over getting us (and every other tourist) in. It was like a contest for them and their persistence got us into their game. We ate there 4 times, twice at each place. They were faking being mad on each other when loosing, but laughing and smiling in the same time. They got very sad when on the last night we told them we are leaving the next day. We also had a very good conversation with the owner of one of the restaurants, the cousin of one of the chatty girls. A young women, that decided she wants to have her own restaurant, got her husband and cousins to help, and got successful at what she is doing. She has no vacation, wants kids but doesn’t have time for that yet, and works all day without a break, but she is happy. And she would not change her life for anything else.
The sights around the city are bucolic (yeah, I really don’t like this word but it just fits here). Green rice paddies, cows and chickens everywhere, water buffalos eating lotus flowers while chilling in the water pools, locals fishing in their boats, stilt houses hiding in the lush vegetation, monkeys jumping in the trees, you name it.
Weather wise prepare for hot and humid if you are here in April like we were. Ride a tuk tuk and let the wind in your face cool you off, drink plenty of cold water (beer is another good option, but do not skip on the water though), walk and sit in the shade whenever possible, wear easy clothes (I have to tell you that a long sleeve loose shirt will do wonders, keeping the sun off you and giving you a much needed breeze to cool your skin) and you will be fine. Oh yes, do not forget a hat and sunglasses, they will also keep the dirt off you eyes and face when riding around.
The wats are what people come here for. We read afterwards that we should have left them for the end of our trip, as the Angkor Wat will spoil you and will make other temples and sites in South Asia feel small. But so far we have not had that feeling yet. Maybe I’ll remember to comment on that in two months, when we will have seen more of these countries. We will dedicate a special post to the wats experience but I had to mention them in this amazing list.
And last but not least on the list: the food! I don’t even have words to describe it. Delicious, tasty, hearty, spicy (not spicy hot, but from the multitude of spices and herbs they use to cook with). And so on. It was a regal just to scroll through menus and see how ingredients that you know can be used in such a different way than you are used to (add some mint to your shrimp and noodles and you will end up with a to die for fresh spring roll) and how things that you would not think of eating make for a delicious food. I am not talking about spiders and snakes here, but about simple things like morning glory. Stir fry it with some garlic and you will lick your fingers afterwards. Put some raw cane sugar cubes in rice flower balls and get a pretty tasty puffy desert.
Curries, hot soups and fried rice are listed under the breakfast section. And they work well, have some before a full day of visiting temples and you will not need anything to eat until you come back.
And the restaurant crawl can continue. Make sure you do not miss the Cambodian barbecue and the grilled seafood available at every corner of the street. More on our culinary experience in a separate post, about our Asian cooking classes adventures.
As I said, just amazing!