Only in Cambodia

About 4 days after I got back from Australia, I had to repack my luggage for my next trip to Cambodia. It was a company trip that was pretty packed with fun, food and colleagues – all in 3 days. We were located in Siem Reap, where most of the temples are located nearby and also a small, bustling town market; plenty to keep us busy.

If you’re ever going to Cambodia, here are some very useful tips:

  • Bring US Dollars with you, it is of more value than their local currency, Cambodian riel.
  • Make sure your USD are in small change, the locals will only give you riels for change.
  • Your US$ should be in good shape (no tears or folds) as the locals value clean, straight notes.
  • Beware of local children street beggars, DO NOT give them money. (true story, below)
  • Bring light cotton clothes that covers up your legs and arms if you’re visiting temples.
  • Always pay extra for a guide if you are going to visit any temple, otherwise you’d be lost and pretty much bored, as you don’t know the history.

 

 

 

 

The Red Piano is made famous by Angelina Jolie, who visited frequently during her stay here to shoot the movie Tomb Raider.

For our first night there, my boss was so very kind to rent us all a stretch limo for an hour drive to our dinner destination. A stretch limo can be rented for about US$60 per hour (prices vary at different hotels). We drove through nigh markets and rivers, and had a good load of champagne to start the night off.

We stayed at Sokha Angkor Resort by the way, and it’s beautiful!

 

 

 

Veuve Cliquot, all the way!

 

The music provided wasn’t that ‘happening’, so we used a combination of 5 phone jukeboxes.

We arrived at our dinner venue, Chanrey Tree, famous for their fine Khmer cuisine. The decor is really classy, and beautifully modern, with some traditional touches. We ordered a lot of food, way too many to count, but here are some of my favorites.

 

For some reason, I felt very fascinated with this huge painting of a cow. That and the ‘sea-urchin’ lamp above. I also love the unfinished cement walls and black frames. Tasteful!
 

 

This is the well-known see-through spring rolls that are stuffed full of goodness.

 

Our starter of crispy sticky rice with “natang” sauce.  The sauce consists of minced pork, shrimp, coconut milk and peanut. Served with crispy sticky rice, frangipani flower and vegetable tempura. The frangipani tempura was so yummy, very fragrant and crispy. I have a new love for fried flowers now!

 

This is the grilled stuffed frog, that I chose from the menu to try (each of us chose one). It’s really good! Doesn’t taste like frog actually, as it is stuffed with minced pork, Khmer spices, vermicelli, peanut and spicy tomato relish. Even if you don’t like frog as much as I do, you gotta try it!
 

 

I ended the night with a very yummy serving of coconut ice-cream. Best!

After dinner, we decided to hit Pub Street, where they have a lot of pubs along the street, selling pretty cheap drinks. One thing about Pub Street though, there are a few blocks along the entire stretch and some blocks have ‘bouncers’ around it, some don’t. Very important, stay within the guarded streets, if possible. Let me tell you why.

We actually ventured outside into the unguarded streets and both my colleagues were accosted by child beggars. One was a young girl of about twelve, carrying a baby and another was a small boy of about five. They were harassing two of my colleagues, begging for US$1 or some milk for the baby. We were already forewarned to not give them any money (as there are other child beggars lurking around as well). We, however, made the mistake of engaging in conversation with them – and that made them stick to us for about over 10 minutes. When they finally gave up, THIS WAS THE SHOCKER – the girl screamed at my colleague saying “you’re fucking bullshit!” and the 5-year old boy also told my other colleague to go fuck himself. It can be quite threatening if you’re alone, but there were 5 of us, so we weren’t that scared.

It was quite a culture shock for us though, hearing this from the mouths of young Cambodian kids. Clearly they were part of a syndicate, and they were taught to speak like that. It was sad, but it also taught us to not give or talk to child beggars in future.

That said, Pub Street was pretty happening because there were a lot of tourists around, and we see our colleagues everywhere we go. So yes, it’s pretty fun as long as you stay within the guarded areas where child beggars are not allowed in. It’s pretty harsh, as they are only children, but safety first.

The next morning, we left the hotel at 7am to visit the temples. All in all, we visited three of the more famous temples here in Cambodia. We had a very knowledgeable tour guide who brought us around and regaled us with tales of the temples. Most fascinating.

BYRON TEMPLE
This is one of the oldest temples in Cambodia, and it is almost in total ruins before the restorations on the temple were started. This temple is famous for the large heads of deities and Gods, where I took the infamous ‘kissing’ photo with one of the giant heads.

 

 

 

 

 

More like nose-to-nose rather than kissing. :p

TA PHROM TEMPLE
This is the temple made famous by Angelina Jolie, and also the Tomb Raider movie. Scenes like this, and others can be found on google image search. The place is really quite magnificent, because the trees here are freaking huge. Large trunks, tall trees and very large roots.

 

The same scene where Jolie was standing at.
I found this wall very fascinating. For one, there is a stegosaurus in the ancient carving! The top carving was identified by the guide to be a buffalo or cow, and the bottom to be a crocodile. They suspect the middle carving is a stegosaurus, because this temple has been around for many, many, many years. And perhaps then, dinosaurs are not yet extinct. So interesting! (I’m a dino fan)

 

 

An artist capturing the Cambodian lifestyle on paper.

ANGOR WAT
Then comes the famous Angkor Wat. The lost city that was found by the French when they colonized Siem Reap. It’s so hard to imagine that this vast expanse of ruins was a city that was once lost. I can tell it used to be quite extravagantly decorated once as well – although now all you see are washed out rocks. I like to think this city used to be colored in rich red and gold, with hints of natural greens and blues. Who knows?

Angkor Wat has a few entrances. We took one the the entrances around the back.
 

 

 

Walls after walls of bass relief carvings, that depicts the life on hell, earth and heaven. The walls of hell depicts very gruesome death and torture onto sinners. The walls of earth depicts hard labour (photo above) of human sacrifices, and the walls of heaven depicts peace and luxury.

 

These walls have mostly been destroyed by rain and moisture, but are now in the process of being restored to its original state so that tourists can still enjoy the marvelous work of the Cambodian ancestors.

 

 

Steep stairs like these leads us from hell (the lowest level) onto the earth level. And from there the steepest stairs leads us to heaven, on the highest level. I climbed all the way to heaven, and I nearly died. Coming down later on was hell, pun intended.

 

We finally exited the temple at its main entrance, with the huge lake and wide walkway.

If you love ruins and temples and ancient history, this is the place for you. As for me, I think I have reached my temple quota to last the next 5 years of my life.

Later on that night, we had our annual dinner in the hotel’s ballroom, with our Superhero theme – a good reason to dress up. I was being boring and unimaginative when I chose to be Supergirl. There aren’t much photos from that night as I was too busy partying and getting intoxicated with my fellow colleagues. :p

With Snow White and Super Mario.
 
The Queen of Hearts, Poison Ivy and The King of Hearts.
 

 

Fred Flinstone, BamBam, Wilma and Pebbles.

 

Our host was Maleficent. 

That sums up my first time in Cambodia. I’m sure there’s a lot more I didn’t manage to cover, but this was the best I could do in just three days. 🙂

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