Siem Reap (Cambodia)

We arrived in Siem Reap which is our first stop in Cambodia.  Barbie and I immediately felt the difference in the attitude of the locals and the pace of life when compared to Thailand.  After spending a week in Cambodia, we really appreciated the slow and relaxed lifestyle as opposed to the frenetic pace that Thailand has evolved into.  Hmmmm…..Is Cambodia the new Thailand?

The town of Siem Reap in northern Cambodia is the primary gateway for the Angkor Archaeological Park.  Siem Reap is home to one of the world’s most spectacular human creations – the UNESCO World Heritage listed temples of Angkor.  It is also seemingly home to a lot of tourists with selfie sticks.  If temple ruins are your thing, the entire Siem Reap area is certainly for you.  The park temples are without a doubt one of the world’s most awe-inspiring historical sites.  The entire Angkor area is huge and consists of tons of temples all unique in their own way.  Their setting in the dense forest is super scenic even for a history simpleton / non-temple lover like myself.  I just found they put me in a real relaxed state of mind and I enjoyed them alot more than I thought I would.  The best thing about Angkor is the atmosphere, and the only way to truly feel its magical energy is by sitting still and taking in all the wildlife sounds and sights.  I’ve read that the temples of Angkor Wat are incredibly threatened due to mass tourism.  I do not find this surprising as there are no rules when exploring the temples and I found it odd that tourists are able to climb all over most of the ruins.

Getting around the amazing temples in a tuk tuk is the way to go.  The tuk tuks give you the feeling of being on a motorcycle with fresh air blowing in your face without the risk of mangling yourself.  We hired a tuk tuk driver whose name is Sokham.  A good dude and he drove us to all the temples over a full 2 days of temple exploration.  There are tons of temples to visit that are all unique in their own way.  One of my favorite temples was Ta Prohm which was real cool as the temple was taken over by the jungle trees.  Ta Prohm is unique for the ancient trees and their massive roots literally growing out of the ruins.  The movie Tomb Raider, which I never saw, with Angelina Jolie was filmed here.

The Angkor temples are located about 4 miles from the mellow town of Siem Reap.  Siem Reap is booming and is a key stop for travelers to Southeast Asia.  Siem Reap’s vibe is conducive to chilling.  The heat and humidity can really melt your brain and lay you out.  It’s hot, like really, really, really, hot.  After roaming the temples during the day, there are many good mid range and high end hotel options where you can kick back and hang in the pool or just get your obligatory $8 massage in town.  Siem Reap really comes alive at night with everyone flocking to Pub Street and the surrounding streets with its bars, cafes, street markets and other assorted high energy activities.  Just pure fun is on tap in this entire area.

What is really peculiar about Cambodia is the US dollar is their main form of currency.  Everything in stores, restaurants, hotels….etc. are priced in US dollars.  Even the ATM’s spit out US dollars.  Their own currency is called Riel and you do also have the option to utilize Riel but the US dollar is king.  When you purchase something, the change that you receive is mostly in US dollars and the small change comes back in Riel.  You get a mixture of both currencies to confuse you.  To make things a little more difficult, if any of your US Bills has even a slight tear in it or is creased too much, it will not be accepted by any merchant.  I have been trying to unload a slightly tattered $20 bill for the past week with no luck at all.  We have a few more weeks in Cambodia and my sole mission over this timeframe is to find a sucker to unload my ever so slightly torn $20 bill.  I will not rest in Cambodia until someone bites as it is driving me nuts schlepping this $20 bill around.  I am committed to win this war that I was dragged into.

Temples Visited-
Angkor Wat, Preah Khan, Ta Som, Bayon, Ta Prohm, Pre Rup, Prasat Bei, Ta Nei, Beng Mealea. (probably others but I lost track during the temple overload)

Restaurants –
Olives (triple header for my Foie Gras loving girlfriend), Haven Training Restaurant, Chanrey Tree, Sister Srey Cafe, Il Forno, Red Latern @ Rambutan, The Sugar Palm.

LOOSE STOOLS INDEX –  5  started off good but slowly went downhill and can be attributed to the intake of creamy French influenced food

THRU THE BINOCS –
I have only 2 words for you. FISH AMOK.
The national dish of Cambodia. Every restaurant has there own version and the winner hands down is at The Sugar Palm in Siem Reap.  No way can you get this dish prepared properly in soufflé style back home so don’t even try it.  If you need to buy a $1,500 R/T air tix and endure the 16 hr. flight to Siem Reap each way just to taste this Cambodian dish, I have 2 more words for you…..DO IT.

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