Travelblog: Touristy Temples of Siem Reap, Kampuchea(Cambodia)

While Myanmar is technically next, I'm going to draft this because it came to my mind and because I keep on forgetting Myanmar because it was such a dramatic shift than the rest of the countries on my trip. 

Siem Reap has one of the nicest airports in the world. The design is infused with the Angkor Temple designs (a replica is in the center too) throughout the airport. However, I would find out that was the only fancy place of the city outside of the hotels. As I hopped on a Tuk-Tuk (different than Thailand in that they are basically a caboose on a motorcycle), I would ride through a town of tan and kind people who knew I was foreign, but not too foreign. One lady gave me sound advice about the dry Tonle Sap and the costs so I avoided it. This turned out to be a solid choice as money issues would plague me in Kampuchea. 

Anyways, Siem Reap is a strange city as alluded to from a friend in Yangon. It's small size makes the tourism seem rampant as it does not have the space to spread out as in Bangkok. Instead, Pub Street is basically a block of American bars with little Khmer (Cambodian) food. Plus every local is on the hunt for your business (though I should have tried to taste one of this guy's crickets) as I was asked if I wanted women, to fuck, get high, and other drugs....There are also several people nearby asking you for a massage (it wouldn't be Southeast Asia if there weren't any). I said people because a couple of the transgender ladies fancied me. The strangest part is that in Kampuchea most of the women looked underage - far more than the other countries which was disturbing. 

The following day my main tour guide man, Jimmy, and his driver took me on what would be a 2-day tour of the temples of the Angkor Empire. They would also provide me with tons of ice cold towels - a Khmer towel style different from the hot towels of Thailand. I learned an overabundance of knowledge on not only the history of the Khmer people, but also of the history of Hinduism in the region. Many temples are in reverence to Shiva, Brahman or Vishnu. What is also amazing is the 800 year old Wats and their intricate carvings that have remained intact for centuries. The powerful Khmer kingdom ruled the mainland region of Southeast Asia (The Thai and Lao languages are branches from Khmer). Some of my favorite Wats outside of Angkor Wat were Bayon (the face temple), Banteay Srei (the pink temple) and a small one called Ta Som, which was so nice because Jimmy and I were literally the only people at the temple; a rarity. I also enjoyed one particular that had both Buddhist and Hindu influences. Beyond that, those temples were crowded with monks (big pilgrimage here), mainland Chinese tourists - who continued to step on the ancient temples, much to the chagrin of the temple monitors - and also a whole bunch of tourists from everywhere. Here is where I began to flex my language muscles in a variety of ways (I would ultimately speak at least one word in fifteen languages on the trip). Yes, these temples are extremely touristy, but honestly Angkor Wat is glorious and everyone needs to see the largest religious complex in the world.

Food wise, this is the weakest country which is why Kampuchea may have been my least favorite country. Many dishes were similar to the neighboring countries, but without all of the spices. The only exception would be Amok - the national tasty fish dish. I will say that frog legs are tasty here even though the dish requires several tiny frogs. Eel stew is also great but beware the spicy peppers, I was crying and the Khmer lady kept filling up my beers and ice to help me. Angkor and Cambodia beer is decent overall. 

Other cultural aspects of my time in Kampuchea including the KTVs on Khmer Pub Street, the locals bar block where you can have a Khmer lady to hang out with you for the night. I also met a cool couple while watching confusing Apsara dance....the Kecak dance in Bali would set this straight. The couple would invite me to Khmer Pub Street to the frog legs and eel stew. They were great and also some of the people to experience my email communication to hangout outside of social media and the phone. Lastly, Western Union had complications here (that angered me to no avail) and my cards were still in flux. As such, I had to hustle a bit to get deals on a couple of items as many people charged in US$ instead of the Cambodian Real....which made it an expensive country.

Ultimately, go for the Temples, don't stay for anything else. Though Phnom Penh may have more to discover - I do wish I saw that.