The last time I visited Cambodia was in 2010 with my sister Kayla. My impression at the time was that although the food was great and the intricately carved temples of Ankor Wat were stunning, even more impressive was the genuine warmth and friendliness of the Cambodian people. When we left three years ago, I knew I'd be back.
After spending the last few days in Siem Reap, the second largest city in the country, my first impression remains largely unaltered. The crumbling temples are ridiculously beautiful, the food is delicious and the Khmer people are the friendliest locals I’ve met through our travels in Asia. Khmer friendliness seems authentic as opposed to other Asian countries where people often show interest only when they wish to help part you with your money. After a second visit, Siem Reap remains one of my favorite places on earth.
Dani and I spent three days exploring the weathered, 800-year-old temples via bicycle and tuk-tuk. We strategically explored smaller temples first, working our way up to the larger structures. The first two days we traveled by tuk-tuk, which, in Cambodia, is, just a trailer attached to a motorbike instead of a vehicle of its own right like Thailand. On day three we rented bicycles and slowly pedaled our way through idyllic rice paddies and explored random, un-touristed areas of the archeological park (yes they do exist!). The bikes were amazing except for the fact that the seats were so hard they screamed “HEMEROIDS!” when we sat on them. I’ll have a bike seat imprint on my bum for days!
Another awesome thing about Siem Reap was the food. Amok is the quintessential Cambodian dish and believe me, it is heavenly! Amok is basically a coconut cream steamed with veggies and either fish or chicken and it’s often served in a coconut shell (at least in the tourist places I frequented).
We also stopped at a Cambodian BBQ place where Dani and I ate Squid, Shark, Kangaroo, Crocodile, Frog, Chicken and Beef all in the same meal. I finished it off with a snake kebab for desert. The animal kingdom is delicious. I couldn’t try the fried tarantulas though, my gag reflex still kicks in when I think of them (insert shudder here.)
Dani and I also had a fish massage where you dunk your feet into a fish-tank and the carnivorous fish chow down on all of the callouses and dead skin. It tickles and takes a bit of time to get used to the idea of allowing a school of fish to eat your flesh… but it was awesome! Dani loved it and my feet came out smoother than they've been in a long time.
Cambodia was the undeniable highlight of our trip. We had oodles of fun, ate great food, drank great coffee and saw one of the most impressive archeological sites the world has to offer. Not too shabby!