Angkor, Part 2

The weather in Cambodia is terribly hot and humid even now, the coolest time of the year. We started our tomb raiding at daybreak and couldn’t tolerate the sun by¬†11 AM. Here are some more pictures.

Angkor, Part 1

Angkor, near Siem Reap, Cambodia was the capital city of the Khmer empire, which lasted from 802 AD to 1351. It is the number one tourist destination in southeast Asia.

Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom are the most well-known temples and it seems like a big deal to arrive early and watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. In our opinion it wasn’t worth it except to admire the tourist hordes of which we were a part. After the overrated sunrise we explored Angkors Wat and Thom along with the crowds. I think the majority was Chinese.

Angkor offers many more ruins to explore away from the groups of 1-day package tourists. Many sites have tumbled and crumbled and been reclaimed by the jungle giving them a very Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider feel.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Due to itinerary adjustments we might not get to see much of Cambodia, but because Angkor is the number 1 tourist destination in Southeast Asia we decided to take a side trip from Bangkok. The bus journey takes about 8 hours, including border crossing. It was rather uneventful except at the Cambodia visa office the officials tried to charge us the official $20 visa fee plus an extra 100 baht (about $3). Posted on window was a rather unprofessional handwritten sign stating: Visa USD $20 + 100 baht. Having done our research already we knew this was a scam, so Peter simply shoved our paperwork plus $20 at them and repeated “No, twenty dollars only!” about 3 times and they took it without issue.

A few observations on Siem Reap. It’s tourist land. Cambodia is a very poor country and you can see it from the bus. You can see farms and fields and people living rural lives. The roads are dirt and buildings utilitarian. There is more trash on the side of the road than in Thailand (though less than India.) But once you pull up in Siem Reap there are neon lights, paved roads, and beautiful hotels. Siem Reap offers everything you expect from over-touristed places: souvenir shops, cheap massages, fish pedicures, happy hour deals, and pizza restaurants. Overly friendly and aggressive people selling stuff to you on the street from tuk tuk rides to drugs. The locals speak English alarmingly well (and Mandarin too.) Rowdy tourists from all over the world spill into the streets: Australians, Europeans, Russians, the hordes of Chinese, and Koreans. It can be fun if you set your expectations accordingly. Don’t expect the authentic Cambodian experience in Siem Reap, just go have a $1.50 margarita and enjoy the ridiculous “spring break” atmosphere.

Cambodian Cooking Class

Although we usually don’t drop names in our blog, I am going to mention the cooking class I took in Siem Reap. Le Tigre de Papier is a restaurant and offers a wonderful cooking class for $14. You can pick any appetizer, main, and dessert FROM THEIR MENU and cook it yourself! I chose to make fresh spring rolls, shrimp amok, and mango and sticky rice. The class started with a tour of a local market introducing us to the different ingredients we would use. The instructor was very sweet and entertaining, and I was amazed how she could juggle 9 people cooking different things while maintaing a very personal level of instruction for each person. This was a great experience, extremely affordable, and I definitely recommend it!

Bangkok Night Market

Somehow we let a few days slip by on Koh Lanta, and spent a quiet new year on the beach. Then we finally got back in gear and headed to Bangkok.

We have heard it was crazy and noisy, but we don’t think so. Bangkok is quite easy to travel around. With a multitude of modern rail options and a go-with-the-flow bus system, we could always reach our destination. Yes it’s hot and humid, but there are so many malls and convenience stores everywhere where you can pop in and get a blast of AC.

There is always something tasty and cheap wherever you go, so you never have to worry about getting hungry. This is very important! Bangkok is all about food, and it’s delicious!

We visited some night markets crammed with goodies, edible and not. Don’t listen to people when they say Americans eat a lot and are too consumerist - in my experience Asians own these things. Night markets are all about teh gluttony and materialism! Grilled meat on a stick! Squid on a stick! Sausage on a stick! Fishballs on a stick! Noodles. Pancakes, waffles. Dumplings, steamed buns. Noodles. Fried chicken. FRIED PORK FAT! Fruit smoothies and supersweet ice tea galore. And noodles. And after you’re done stuffing your face you can shop for piles of cheap iPhone cases, blingy accessories, fake handbags, shoes, makeup, hippie pants and hipster shirts, knick-knacks, plastic things. Yes, you really do need an iPhone case with rubber bunny ears and a furry tail. And this doesn’t happen once a year at some special overpriced festival like in America, this happens EVERY every night. I love night markets!