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Abbreviated Cambodia

CAMBODIA | Saturday, 1 June 2013 | Views [772]

In sum, friendly people, tasty food (although not that spicy), humbling history and amazing sites.

We arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia via an international bus from Don Khon, Lao. About 5km outside of Kratie, Cambodia the bus got delayed---apparently the suspension of the bus was shot---we had to wait around 4hrs at a mechanic depot for the repair. We arrived in Phnom Penh around 4am. Fast forward to 10am, after check-in and a good rest, we ate breakfast across from our guesthouse at the morning market located near the riverfront between the Royal Palace and the Night Market (a very good market, full of ethnic Vietnamese and some Cambodians). 

After eating we headed to the Prison Museum, a.k.a. S-21. The Prison Museum was very interesting and was well worth the tuktuk ride. With only one full day in the City, we decided to skip the Killing Fields and the Royal Museum. 
The next morning we caught the bus to Siem Reap. Our guesthouse in Siem Reap was great (Tanei Guesthouse), located just off the main area, the place has a swimming pool, free breakfast, a/c, daily maid service, free water, free bike rentals, etc... Quite luxurious in comparison to what we've had over the last few months. 
Over the following week we explored the temples around Angkor via pedal bikes. I'm proud to say we didn't pay for any tuktuks all three days we visited the area, instead, we pedal biked the whole thing ourselves!  
The temples were amazing. Grand architecture, stone relief detailing, stone statues, landscaping, this place had it all. Before we got here, I was a bit skeptical of how cool it would be, but honestly, it was freakin awesome. My favorite site was Preah Khan. A fairly large wat complex, similar to the outlay of the Bayon complex, but smaller and more accessible. The place had the cool Indiana Jones feel of the more popular Ta Prohm (the Lara Croft temple complex), but with fewer people, more access to ruins, and cooler architecture and detailing over a larger area. 
As for Angkor Wat, I'd say it's interesting, but far from the best of the best. It has some real nice bas-relief carvings around the inner building's outer ring and it seems to be the largest complex in the area as well as being in the best condition. However, the entire structure itself is kinda bland. If you are headed to Angkor Wat, I'd suggest you hit that one up last. You'll appreciate the size and bas-relief work more after seeing the other temple complexes.
Lastly, Siem Reap: a very walkable town with plenty of low to high-end eateries. We ate at a few places worth mentioning: (1) Kerala Indian Retaurant, (2) AnnAdyA Restaurant, and (3) Chamkar Restaurant.  All are very good places and worth a trip. If you still haven't had your fill of t-shirts, ballon pants, silver bracelets and wood carvings, Siem Reap has the usual circus of souvenir shops and markets.  We did a cooking class with Beyond Unique Escapes, which is located at the lovely Sojourn Hotel (if on a honeymoon or special trip, this place is like a boutique version of a tropical Four Seasons Resort and only around $100-150/night). The cooking class was great, plenty up there with the other three cooking classes we've taken in Asia (Red Bridge Cooking School, full day, Hoi An; Tamarind Cooking School, full day, Luang Prabang; Sammie's Organic Cooking School, full day, Chaing Mai). We also went to the Angkor Hospital for Children, well worth a visit to either donate money or blood. The place is a not-for-profit that gives free healthcare including life threatening surgeries to Cambodian children. A very worthy cause. 
We wish we had more time in Cambodia, as we were only able to scratch the surface, and at that, only the well trodden tourist trail. We would recommend Cambodia to others as it is a beautiful place, full of amazing people who've lived through some pretty horrible stuff. The people here seem the most appreciative of your visit, and your dollar can go a long way to improving the lives of these wonderful people. For example, a donation of $23 can provide the healthcare needed for one child's visit to the Angkor Hospital for Children. In the States, it'd be more like $1200. A little bit goes a long way.
We are in transit to Bangkok for our last few days in South East Asia. From Bangkok we fly to Narita, Japan for a 9hr layover (my first significant time in the motherland; I'm Japanese-American, and at that, several generations so), where we plan to do a quick tour of Narita via Rainbow Tours (a well reviewed tour guide we found on Trip Advisor), before flying to Los Angeles.

Tags: angkor wat, annadya, cambodia, cooking school, don khon, food, laos, phnom penh, siem reap, tanei

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