Siem Reap, Cambodia...it's just not a place for temples anymore. Great place, great people and great fun!
30.06.2010 - 08.07.2010 87 °F
Siem Reap, Cambodia here I come! The home of the Angkor Archaeological Park and some amazing, and extremely old, temples. Is that all I came here to do though? Heck no! It’s time to relax and see what this place is all about. As I arrived at the bus station I was greeted, or attacked, by many tuk tuk drivers wanting to assist me. I took some guy that was free of charge and proceeded to find a nice accommodation at a reasonable rate. Who knows how long I will stay here and I want to be centrally located. In route to the main area, I found a girl walking down the street appearing to be a westerner of some sort and I asked for her help. Good thing I did. Her name was Shirley from Tasmania and she was a big help in finding an accommodation for me. The driver wasn’t too happy as he wanted some kick back from a hotel he sent me to but I had to watch out for me, right? Shirley remembered a cute place on a side street named Eden but didn’t know how to direct me there so I just had her jump in the tuk tuk with me. Who knew this would be the start to a great next couple of days. Once we made it to Eden, the manager Justin informed me the only room with wifi was the #1. Sold. Little did I know what it looked like but that was okay, the location was great. Who needs windows or sufficient lighting? Eden was run by Americans so I felt super safe. Plus, the sign was green which is my favorite no doubt.
It was nearly 5pm when I got the room and made plans to meet Shirley for happy hour at 6pm. I don’t usually go out but figured a new place, new ways and besides I am on holiday and just finished doing a good deed in Battambang teaching some English. It is quite humorous actually how even in a third world country you will see cell phones galore and wifi signs everywhere. It just proves how easily accessible you are no matter where you travel and it does make you feel a bit more closer to home. I mean, you can skype someone back in the states no problem. Maybe I should make use of such a service more often though. I do like that you have the ability to get in touch with family and friends if you need to but that you can also distance yourself for anything and everything American. I mean, I don’t even know anything about the last season of LOST and I am still alive. Can you believe it? I assume Obama is still the President as people make note of it constantly to me as I make my way through South East Asia.
Today marks the first of many happy hour ventures as Shirley and I discovered the perfect bar. Who can beat 2 drinks for $2 and free popcorn? This is where I started my baileys/vodka concoction craze again. It‘s like a dessert that must be sipped and is best when the ice melts a bit to water it down. Shirley had been in town for a bit just relaxing and had a 3 day temple pass that she wished she only got a 1 day pass. We chatted with some people on volunteering and I was a bit annoyed that in a discussion of adoption that I was told it is selfish to bring a Cambodian kid back to the US. He said I need to give up my life in the states and move to Cambodia to give children a better life and keep them in their culture. It made me upset because I really considered adopting in the next 5 years. I will not let that one guy discourage me though because we all know if I want to do something, I will find a way to do it (still going for SURVIVOR after 10 years). Shirley and I chatted a bit before I decided to find some corn on the cob and street veggies where I met a local couple. Their food stand became a nightly ritual for me. After a long day of travel, it was back to the closet room in Eden with only one plan for the next day, meeting Shirley at 5pm for our routine happy hour. It’s a rough life.
I woke up and it was July 1st, 2010. I didn’t sleep very well and decided that I needed to move hotels. I felt bad because the people here were really nice at Eden but the daughter understood. I saw her the day before but it wasn’t until today that we chatted. Her name is Courtney and she was helping her dad get the business going as he was in the Middle East getting surgery. She had been here for 4 months now and lived in Arizona. Looks like I was meant to stay at Eden if just for one night because now I found another new friend and one that I will most likely see again back in the states. She is waiting to get into nursing school in Phoenix. We chatted for hours on how we are unsure as to what we want to do but that we both had a mutual interest in fitness. She was going to do the take the course to be an instructor and I told her that I was doing online courses (or was until I left one year ago) for fitness and then planned for the instructor course also. It was at that moment I decided when I return to the states that it will become my priority to get it done, well, maybe after a find a place to call home first. In our discussions Courtney said one of her guy friends saw me the night before and wanted me to meet him. It never happened but I was flattered none the less. Apparently he saw me walk up to my closet room the night prior as they were having cocktails in the lounge.
Today Shirley was doing her second day at the Temples so I just relaxed.. I didn’t join her as the main ones I wanted to see were already done by her on her first day. My goal now, find a great place to call home for a week as I think I may just chill here for a bit. It’s got great energy and people, not to mention bbq bananas. After sweating heaps in my search for a new place, well, I settled on the Heart of Angkor very near Eden. They had free bikes , however, I failed to see they were next to a night club. I settled in and then hit the streets for a local run around town where again the kids watched me and thought I was funny for running around for no other reason than for exercise. Massage time was next then my nightly routine with Shirley. You just can’t beat free popcorn. As I waited for her, Courtney and I had a few drinks at Eden. Shirley and I walked the streets for a bit and I got some corn on the cob and checked out her digs before we hit the free popcorn. Later, I showed her my favorite food stand and got some veggies then back to the room.
Tomorrow I would take part in a cooking class. I know, me?? It’s part of the changing process. I love to cook and be so creative. I didn’t sleep very well as it was interrupted by loud club music all night, however, I was able to get to class by 10am. The class consisted of about 7 of us and we began by going to the local markets to see where they do their daily shopping. I learned about herbs and some local dishes. I chose to make my favorite fresh spring rolls with prawn and an amok fish main dish. It was a creative blast and I even got a certificate stating I finished the course. I did learn some disturbing information about my mango sticky rice fetish. The girls from Singapore said that sticky rice is called “glutinous rice” in their country. That explains so much. I once lived without it so I can do it again.
After cooking class, I showed a fellow student the cheap drinks place before heading back to my hotel for, you guessed it, a move once more. I just couldn’t sleep with the bar next door. I had eyed up Jim’s Place next to the Mexican joint but they didn’t have a fridge. Have no fear, I was able to go back there and get hooked up in a large window room with a bath tub (I know, I never took one). I stored my fridge food in the restaurant fridge. This would become my home for the next 6 nights. I was greeted everyday with a smile by the staff. I was set to hit the temples for sunset with Shirley’s pass but feared I wouldn’t get allowed in and decided to wait until the following day for a dawn to dusk visit. I found my personal tuk tuk driver that would pick me up at 5am to start the very long, tiring day. We will call him Spiderman as that is what he had on the tuk tuk.
Shirley stopped over and loved my new room. Her place was right next door but she would be leaving soon and traveling onward. It’s sad as you meet people and they leave but that is all part of the journey. Seeing I had a very early wake up call, we only had 2 drinks at the cheap place and then we both headed back. She would be leaving in the morning and I would be taking on a long day at Angkor. Great thing for facebook as we exchanged emails to keep in touch. We took a few photos by a random jeep near Jim’s Place (my new digs) and the people thought we were crazy but no worries, we are on holiday.
It’s 430am on July 3rd and my sleep was very short as the so-called “morning“ came too soon. Spiderman was waiting for me outside the hotel. We had the day all planned out already as it would be full of temples, temples and more temples, a break back in town then back for more temples. To be honest, I didn’t really know much about Angkor Wat other than Angelina Jolie filmed the Tomb Raider movie there. Having Spiderman as my tuk tuk driver was great because he knew that I wanted to check out the most popular “must sees.“ As we headed into the sacred grounds we noticed a fellow tuk tuk driver rain out of petrol. Being the nice guy “spidy” was he picked up the 4 French tourists and we gave them a lift. I still say they caused me to miss the sunrise but what can you do? Nothing really. It was very cloudy and by the time we arrived at Angkor Wat, the centerpiece of any visit to the temples, the so-called sunrise was nearly over. I was able to get one quick photos of the pink sky with massive amounts of clouds. It was impossible to get a photo with no one else in it as this place was swarming with tourists already at 5am. It was as if Angelina Jolie was still there and people were searching for her to get an autograph. Not me though, I’m team Aniston all the way! It was pretty cool to see something that what was constructed back in the early mid 12th century C.E. (current era). I couldn’t help but think of all the people that have come through the place over that time.
God said let there be light and their sure was within 10 minutes of my arrival. Light and no chance of getting a moment alone…ANYWHERE! People are all around like flies on a pile of shit. Spiderman would drop me off and I would roam the famous temples and then get a lift again to another spot. It was amazing to see and hear the history behind so many temples and to find out when they were built. The religion behind all that I saw was either Buddhism or Hinduism. Some temples had so much detail work that it must have taken ages to chisel away and that was before all the fancy tools we now have at our fingertips. One of my favorites Bayon. If you only see two temples, Angkor Wat and Bayon are the one they recommend. The giant stone faces of Bayon have become one of the most recognizable images connected to classic Khmer art and architecture. It was there that I met 2 fellow Americans and had a long chat. They were from Texas and moving to Austin. Is this a sign? We had a big Whole Foods discussion and on food while in Asia. They were headed to India soon. Hmmm, should I go too? We were all doing the long day trip around Angkor Wat so I ran into them a few more times and made plans to meet up at the Viva Mexican joint next to my hotel the following day for some 4th of July celebratory Margaritas.
OMG! How could I forget to tell you about the little kids asking you repeatedly every 2 seconds if you wanted to buy a book. Talk about driving one insane. I should have bought one for a dollar from the first kid then just used that to hold up any time I was asked again because my response of “I can’t read” wasn’t accepted too much. Guess it is all part of the experience.
After a few of the larger temples we hit some smaller ones and some crazy climbs were involved. I can’t really remember them all but the Terrace of the Elephants, Ta Keo and Phimeanakas were among the many. I met 2 guys from Vietnam that were in town for the weekend and they became photographers. I believe 3 hours had gone by and now all the temples appear the same but different. We couldn’t forget Ta Prohm and the jungle atmosphere. Not to mention, famous for the Tomb Raider movie. It had the trees in the temple. Quite a walk to see the whole thing and my driver never told me to turn around and meet him back at the start, not the finish. Turns out I had 3km to walk to get back to him and it was very hot. After 1km of hitting the road I spotted a schoolgirl riding her bicycle. She appeared to be around 12 years old and a strong little thing. I asked her for a lift and hoped on the back where one would strap down their school books. I told her that I would pedal but she either didn’t understand or wanted to do it herself. Of course I had to give her a tip and get a photo with her as she was too cute in her little school uniform.
Communication is key and I let Spiderman know that he must tell me where to meet him so that I don’t have to bum a ride from a school girl again. To be honest, I feel I’ve seen enough but he insisted I check out a few more before heading back to town and grabbing a nap and a run then back to see the sunset. It was nearly 1pm the heat and lack of sleep was getting to me. I nearly fell asleep on the bumpy journey back to the hotel but woke up suddenly as I said “Stop Spidy, I see bananas!” You know it, I had to buy a few sticks of my favorite treat and shared a few with my driver. As I type this I crave those little buggers. Seriously, any of you reading this just ask me to try and make them back in the states at the next bbq.
Back to room #205 at Jim’s Place for a 45 minute nap. Although I was completely wrecked and didn’t want to run, I made myself because sometimes we have to do things we just don’t feel like doing, right? Before I knew it, Spiderman was back to get me for round 2 of temple time. I had him circle around the market for the banana cart but no luck so I settled on corn on the cob instead. Another great choice but just not the same. Back to the temples to see a sunset, hopefully! As I passed by the hospital I noticed a free music session later that evening by a volunteer doctor. My intention was to head there afterwards. I arrived at Phnom Bakheng temple just in time to climb up for a sunset viewing. The hilltop location of this late 9th-early 10th temple makes it the most popular sunset location in the area and that would make sense why it was swarming with fellow tourists. Due to the massive coverage of clouds, no sunset was spotted for this girl. I did run into my Vietnamese photographer again and they told he about an English catholic mass going down at 630pm at St. John’s none the less so I just had to go there instead. I let them tag along in my tuk tuk and Spiderman waited for mass to finish. After that, he drove me to the hospital to see the rest show but I froze as the air con was too low. What was advertised as free music was a few songs and a video on how our money donation will help the children. It was sad to see all the pain they go through but amazing to see how the doctors built this treatment facilities to help those less fortunate.
This very tired girl got back at 830pm and went to find Courtney but she was out. I got my usual veggies and corn and hit up a 30 minute massage or shall I saw spine rub. You can’t win them all I guess. I was tired beyond belief but watched a movie and lights out at 1am. What a long day and tomorrow’s plans, NOTHING but margaritas around 4pm with fellow Americans. Life is rough.
Happy 4th of July 2010! I couldn’t help but think last 4th I was in the Gold Coast about to run a ½ marathon. Time sure flies when you are a backpacker with no plans. I allowed myself to sleep in today after the temple adventure yesterday. I had a quick chat with my dad, an even quicker run around and then happy hour with Chris and Diane from Texas. Cheers to America! This place reminded me of Mexicali back in Studio City and makes me feel a bit closer to home. The three of us joked how American this place felt even though it is a Mexican joint. You can’t beat $1 margaritas!! It was nice to meet Chris and Diane and hear stories on their travels. They gave me another idea, Nepal and Mt. Everest. I am not prepared physically or clothes wise for that at this time, or am I? They sure gave me something to think about and now I have their emails if I decide to go to India or catch up with them in Austin.
Can’t beat the travel life and meeting fellow travelers, sharing adventure stories and having great conversations on life, love, commitment, marriage and family. Happiness and communication is key in life and in a relationship. Don’t change for anyone but grow as a person through life experiences. in the middle of conversation I just got up and ran in the street. Why you ask? The banana lady was rolling her cart around and I wanted to share my new addiction with my new friends. Just as I suspected, they loved them. Diane didn’t tell me until after that she is somewhat allergic to bananas but they were little and she ate them anyway. I heard some bad stories from their China visit and maybe should hold off. It is very hard to get a visa from Siem Reap anyway. I was in shock when they informed me of people taking craps in the streets and found nothing wrong with it. Hey, maybe they felt they were being some sort of fertilizer.
Our 4th of July celebration came to an end at 9pm with a massive down pour. Chris and Diane went their way and I went to visit Courtney at Eden for a bit of a chat before my corn on the cob and back to the hotel to watch The Proposal. I woke the next day to do a whole lot of nothing. I love this life as I can step out my door to the local market and now I have it timed as to when and where to find my banana carts. It’s just as the locals say here “same same but different.” It’s another day but the same stuff and I don’t’ mind it one bit. It nice to get a bit of normalcy if you could say that for a week as I traveled so much in the past few months. So much that some days I felt that I was on the run from the law. I love how the hotel staff finds it fascinating that I do a daily run, as do the young kids laughing at me doing cardio moves. Humor is key and if I can bring laughter to their lives then I feel I did my job.
Who would have thought that my 4th of July at the Viva would turn into a nightly event. Courtney and I would meet every night for margaritas and then head to the cheap bar with free popcorn for the bailey’s concoction. Good times. We would chat about life in the US and how lucky we are to be where we are and seeing the world. We have heaps in common and it’s good to know that I can use my bar skills if I choose to go and live in Phoenix. She’s got a hook up for me and will do a bit of bar work while she goes back to school and can get me a job for the time being also.
Over the course of the next few days I would do my usual chilling, roaming the markets, jogging, happy hour and just a whole lot of “chill-laxing.“ However, I couldn’t help but have a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach from being helpless as Jameson needed a place to go and very soon. I put on my thinking cap and called where he was last serviced to check on the mileage. Long story short, thanks to help from the Cali dealership, my dad and amazing friend Amanda, all was good. He was set for a tune up and then would be spending some time in Redondo Beach with the Parsons until my return. I am so appreciative to all involved in allowing me to keep on trekking in South East Asia.
One of my last nights in Siem Reap began at a local orphanage where I toured their digs and saw an amazing dance show put on by the children. I am one for the Arts but couldn’t help but think of the money they used on the exquisite costumes and how it could have been used for a better cause. There were only 5 of us travelers there and if I knew of it earlier in the week I would have came sooner and volunteered my English skills. After the show and my tuk tuk driver, yes Spiderman was at it again, picked me up I went to meet my fellow American friend for the usual night out.
What is next for the Dish Traveler? It all depends on the flight prices. In emailing friends I met along the way, it was a toss up. Either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. I know I would do KL later so why not see this spotless expensive city I heard so much about. I slept on the idea and got up early to book a flight as it had to be booked 24hrs in advance. Singapore here I come! I’m a bit nervous to leave my comfort zone that I’ve built here in Siem Reap and to leave my fellow American friend and Happy Hour buddy but the show must go on. I say it over and over again but the hardest part about meeting people is leaving them. It’s hard to explain unless you experience yourself but you tend to connect very fast while traveling because you have no one else and you so far from home. I hate goodbyes and I was super sad when I had to say bye to Shirley (the first girl I met here) and then to Courtney. However, with her, I know we will be good friends in the US and hang out again. We will always have Siem Reap, Cambodia. We had to spend my last night at our usual place, Viva Mexican regardless of my stomach condition. Would you believe that the margarita made me feel a bit better. I guess it numbed the stomach lining or something. I will never admit to being sick from the bananas but it could be from some other street food. After Viva we headed back to the restaurant at Jim’s Place where I resided and had one last cocktail as we lounged outside saying how great we had it. Never in my life will I regret the decision to continue my travels and see more of the world.
The night was coming to an end as I had to pack and Spiderman was set to bring me to the airport around 6am. Courtney would stay another 3 weeks before meeting her dad in the Middle East. I didn’t do too bad with leaving things behind, other than my camera charger in the wall that I didn’t notice for 4 days. As I headed to the airport I couldn’t help but be sad and thought how bananas could make me feel better. No luck though as it was too early for the cart to be out.
I must admit, I never thought of visiting Cambodia EVER but I am so glad I did. I was able to experience a lot and see much of their culture. I enjoyed every moment of it and will cherish my time as I taught English and met so many great children, great people and just an overall amazing journey. There is so much history to be learned here, sad but you can’t sugar-coat everything in life. I am fortunate for all that I have seen and learned while in Cambodia. Life isn’t too bad at the moment.
The day is July 8th, 2010 and I am at the Siem Reap airport waiting for my flight for Singapore. USA Country Music is playing at the coffee shop and it is making me homesick. However, I am realizing that the world is not that big of a place as you are just a flight away. The unknown can be scary but I am ready for the challenge…I think.
The dish is out