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Joe and Sarah's Adventures

Siem Reap, Cambodia

CAMBODIA | Tuesday, 17 July 2012 | Views [527]

From Phnom Penh we took a bumpy bus ride northwest along Highway 6 (out of 7 total) around the north of the great Tonle Sap Lake to Siem Reap. It's a sleepy little town that, as the gateway to the temples of Angkor, turned into one of the biggest tourist draws in the world basically overnight. Yet it's still got a small town feel, just with countless bars, restaurants, clubs and hotels. There's an entire street aptly called "Pub Street" and several hidden alleyways splitting off here and there with great little restaurants and even better happy hours. We're talking $1 cocktails. Jackpot.

This little city has definitely been one of our favorites so far. Every bar has cute girls manning the front to beckon you in, every tuk-tuk driver wants to drive you out to the temples for a "discount", every street child smiles and pleasantly chats with you in 5 or 6 different languages before asking for money-- it's an incredibly friendly and tourist-oriented place. We stayed in a gorgeous old hotel with a pool (definitely necessary in the heat here) and a very helpful staff.

While we didn't spend much time in the city during the day (that is when everyone heads out of town to the surrounding area to see the temples), we did get a great taste for the nightlife here, and it is excellent. We were within walking distance to the Pub Street area plus a bunch of cool night markets selling everything from scarves to paintings to opium pots. Cambodians are fiercely proud of Angkor Wat- it is their national symbol- so pretty much anything you could possibly stamp an image of the temple on and sell, they do. We walked down aisles of cramped little stalls stuffed with knick knacks lit up by Christmas lights. Suddenly the stalls would stop and we'd find ourselves in a chique outdoor tiki bar area with fountains, lanterns and cocktail-shaking bartenders. Or we'd come out a different way and there'd be a makeshift outdoor movie theater playing the National Geographic Channel. (Sidenote- NatGeo is really popular here and every hotel with cable gets the NatGeo Channel... who knew!) On one street young women beckon you to lounge chairs where for $2 we got 30 minute foot massages that were just short of heaven. On another street tank after tank of fish sit out on the sidewalk and for $1 you can get a 20 minute "fish massage". This consists of you sticking your bare feet into these giant glass fish tanks and letting hundreds of not-so-little fish swarm all over you to take not-so-little bites out of your feet. Yes, we did this. Sarah almost cried and Joe loved it...

We also tasted some great local food while we were here. At one restaurant we had "Cambodian BBQ" which is basically cook-it-yourself meat at your table. We had beef, chicken, octopus, crocodile and python! Chewy but good! We also tried the national dish of Cambodia, Amok. It is basically a paste-like substance made of ground up fish that they then mix with veggies, herbs and spices, and your choice of meat (so you can get Fish Amok, Beef Amok, Pork Amok, etc.) Slightly reminiscent of curry, but not quite the same-- a perfect example of the ever-present Cambodian saying, "Same Same, But Different." Sarah got a little amoked-out but Joe enjoyed it. Overall this town was a great base to spend a week in exploring temples! Coming up next!

Tags: angkor wat, cambodia, khmer, pub street, siem reap, temples

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